Joseph Harris

Assistant Professor, Sociology

PhD, University of Wisconsin-Madison (2012)

Sociology 247 |

Curriculum Vitae




Dr. Joseph Harris conducts comparative and historical research that lies at the intersection of sociology, public policy, and global health. He is the author of Achieving Access: Professional Movements and the Politics of Health Universalism (Cornell University Press, 2017). At a time when the world’s wealthiest nations struggle to make healthcare and medicine available to everyone, his book examines how and why resource-constrained countries make costly commitments to universal health coverage and AIDS treatment after transitioning to democracy. While conventional wisdom suggests that democratization empowers the masses, Harris draws attention to an underappreciated dynamic: that democratization empowers elites from esteemed professions – frequently doctors and lawyers – who forge progressive change on behalf of those in need in the face of broader opposition. The book explores dynamics that made landmark policies possible in Thailand and Brazil but which have led to prolonged struggle and contestation in South Africa.

Dr. Harris 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 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. In 2017, Dr.  Harris received the Gitner Award for Distinguished Teaching and a Fulbright Scholarship for a project that explores the diffusion of Thailand’s model public health policies abroad. He serves as Associate Editor at Social Science and Medicine.

His current research agenda centers on the politics of social policy in the industrializing world; comparative understanding of state capacity, bureaucratic autonomy, and the developmental state; the emergent sociology of global health; and policy diffusion from the global periphery.


2017. Achieving Access: Professional Movements and the Politics of Health Universalism. Cornell University Press.

  1. “Moving Towards Universal Health Coverage: Lessons from 11 Country Studies.” The Lancet. (multiple co-authors, second author).
  1. ”Political Repression, Civil Society, and the Politics of Responding to HIV/AIDS in the BRICS Nations.” Health Policy and Planning. (with Ed Gomez)
  1. “’Developmental Capture’ of the State: Explaining Thailand’s Universal Coverage Policy.” Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law. 40(1)
  1. “Who Governs? Autonomous Political Networks as a Challenge to Power in Thailand.” Journal of Contemporary Asia.
  1. “Uneven Inclusion: Consequences of Universal Healthcare in Thailand.” Citizenship Studies. Vol. 17(1): 111-27.