Joseph Harris

Faculty Associate
Assistant Professor of Sociology

Faculty Research Fellowship (2015-2018): First Symposium on Global Health and the Social Sciences

The project convened the First Symposium on Global Health and the Social Sciences, bringing together anthropologists, sociologists, and political scientists working on global health from around the nation and world. The two-day gathering took place November 9-10, 2017 and was intended to expose participants to colleagues from other disciplines, to new ideas, and to provide the opportunity for scholars to create new research pathways and chart new agendas in conference sessions with both disciplinary and interdisciplinary themes.


MPA Princeton University; PhD University of Wisconsin-Madison


Prof. Joseph Harris joined the sociology department at Boston University in July 2013. His current book project – On Behalf of the People: Professional Movements, Politics, and the Struggle for Access to Healthcare — explores the puzzle of how and why developing countries are making expensive commitments to universal healthcare and costly treatment for HIV/AIDS at a time when industrialized countries are struggling to do so. His manuscript explores these dynamics in the cases of Thailand, Brazil, and South Africa – three major emerging economies engaged in processes of democratic deepening amid historic levels of inequality. Through comparative historical analysis, the book illustrates the way in which well-organized “professional movements” use positions in the state and legal expertise to advance reforms following democratic transition. The relative success of professional movements in Thailand and Brazil and failure in South Africa highlights critical differences in the character of democratic transition and offers lessons for the United States and other nations.

Harris is the founder of the ASA’s fast-growing Global Health and Development interest group. He has served as a consultant to the United Nations Development Programme and the World Bank, most recently as Specialist on the Political Economy of Healthcare Reform for the Japan-World Bank Project on Universal Coverage. He has a background in international development and has worked for Grameen Foundation and with a couple different NGOs in Thailand. He is a past recipient of a Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Award and the Henry Luce Scholarship and holds a Master’s in Public Affairs from Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. He received his doctorate in Sociology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and served as Lecturer at the University of Chicago’s School of Public Policy Studies before joining the faculty at BU. At BU, he teaches courses on globalization, global health, statebuilding and development, and medical sociology.