Britt Dahlberg (PhD, Anthropology) is director of the Center for Applied History, where she leads a multidisciplinary public research program exploring the social practice and impact of science, health care, and technology. She and her team explore and develop new modes of public engagement that grow out of methods and materials from history and anthropology, in order to foster inquiry and dialogue on science in society.

Dahlberg’s research and writing center on the anthropology of science and health care, with a focus on environmental risk, race, class, and the making of public space in the contemporary United States. In previous projects she has also explored diagnosis, categorization, mental health, and aging.

Her current book project and articles explore the role of environmental risk assessment in shifting understandings of people, places, and the relationships between them. The project is based on ethnographic research and oral histories from 2009 to 2014, when residents, developers, and government scientists converged around a Pennsylvania community park built atop asbestos waste to assess potential risks and plan future designs of the town. The book explores intersections of community memory, attachments to place, health, and risk assessment, and shows how different ways of seeing and measuring place alter ways of imagining neighborhoods and the people who live there, with broader stakes for social and spatial exclusion.

Dahlberg’s interests inform both her research and reflections on method, through which she explores terms of participation in research, community engagement, and citizen science. She leads discussions and training on research praxis, and teaches research methods and grant design as an associated faculty member at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health.

Dahlberg’s work has been supported by grants from the National Science Foundation, ACLS/Mellon Foundation, Wenner Gren Foundation, American Philosophical Society, Environmental Protection Agency, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and National Institutes of Environmental Health, among others.

Selected Publications

  •  “Studying Unformed Objects: Reflections on how an ethnography of science takes shape”; Britt Dahlberg. Society for Cultural Anthropology’s FieldNotes series online, hosted written dialogue with Kathleen Stewart (U Texas), Amy Moran-Thomas (Princeton), and Michelle Murphy (U Toronto), July 2013.
  •  “Finding & Forming ‘The Community’ of a Contaminated Site: Reflections for the EPA Community Involvement Process”.  Britt Dahlberg. NNEMS Report Written for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). August 2013.
  •  “Mapping disaster: Contesting boundaries of a hazardous space, and of “the problem” itself.” Britt Dahlberg. Special Issue of Anthropology News : 53(2). February 2012.
  •  “Funding and publishing integrated studies: Writing effective mixed methods manuscripts and grant proposals.” Britt Dahlberg, Marsha N. Wittink, Joseph J. Gallo. (2010)  In Handbook on Mixed Methods Research, Second Edition. Sage Publications. p 775-802.
  •  “Bridging psychiatric and anthropological approaches to the study of lay notions of distress: The case of “nerves” in the United States.”  Britt Dahlberg, Frances K. Barg, Joseph J. Gallo, Marsha N. Wittink. (2009)  Ethos 37(3):282-313.
  •  “How older adults combine medical and experiential notions of depression.” Marsha N. Wittink, Britt Dahlberg, Crystal Biruk, Frances K. Barg. (2008). Qualitative Health Research 18(9): 1174-1183.

Selected Invited Talks

  • Columbia University, Anthropology Department - “Envisioned Futures & Forms of Ethnography” – Fall 2015
  • Science History Institute, Brown Bag Lunch Series - Nov 18, 2014 - “Aesthetics of Risk & Hope: Reading a Landscape Through the Lenses of Environmental Risk Research & Community Activism”
  • Pennsylvania Brownfields Program – Invited Panelist, Winter 2013 –  Dec 11, 2013, “Reaching Community Consensus for Adaptive Reuse of Contaminated Sites”
  • Drexel University, STS Program, Department of History & Politics – Nov 13, 2013, “The Making of Place and Community through Environmental Risk Research: Government-Citizen Collaboration in Ambler, Pennsylvania"
  • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Arlington Headquarters, and Philadelphia Region 3 Offices: “Forming ‘The Community’ of a contaminated site: Reflections for the EPA Community Involvement Process” – Presentation of Research Findings to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Headquarters and Region 3 Divisions-  Nov 7 2013
  • Brown University, Superfund Research Program and STS Program – Oct 4, 2013, “Defining ‘the Community’ of a Contaminated Site: Implications for Involving Communities in Environmental Health Risk Assessment & Reuse Planning”
  • Johns Hopkins University, School of Public Health, Mental Hygiene Department, School of Public Health, Community, Culture, and Mental Health Seminar Series: “What does anthropology have to contribute to interventions in mental health?” – December 14, 2011
  • Pennsylvania Hospital, Joan Karnell Cancer Center -  “Caring for Older Adults with Depression: An Anthropological Lens for Reframing the Challenges” – April 17, 2010
  • University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Cultural Psychiatry Program - "Cultural Psychiatry from an Anthropological Perspective: Why Study Culture?" – May 5, 2010

Selected Conference Presentations

  • “Collaborating Around Future Visions: Asbestos, Risk, and Hope in a Pennsylvania Landscape,” Society for Cultural Anthropology Annual Meeting, Ithaca NY, May 13-14, 2016; discussant: Kim Fortun
  •  “Making a Space of Uncertainty,” IUAES - the International Union of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences, May 4-9, 2016, Dubrovnik, Croatia
  •  “Considering Social Experiences & Consequences of Research: Implications for Community Engagement in Environmental Risk Research,” SRP Annual Meeting, November 18-20, 2016, San Juan Puerto Rico
  •  “Politics of the Possible: Underground Waste and Future Trajectories”, American Anthropological Association (AAA) Annual Meeting, Dec 2-6, 2014
  •  “Studying Boundary-Making around Environmental Risk: Geographic & Temporal Boundaries”, 4S Meeting, Discussant: Kim Fortun, Oct 9-12, 2013
  •  “From Occupational to Environmental Health Science: Redrawing Scientific Etiology, Who is At Risk, and Whose Concerns Matter”; Invited Paper; American Anthropological Association Meeting; Discussant: Merrill Singer, Nov 2012
  •  “Asbestos as problem of the past, or present emergency?: Transforming gradual contamination into an urgent and current disaster”, Society for Cultural Anthropology (SCA) Meeting, Discussant: Lundy Braun, May 2012
  • “Locating and seeing ‘risk’: Emergent modes of seeing and belonging through an EPA investigation of environmental risk”; American Anthropological Association Meeting, Nov 2010
  • “Depression Interviews as Performative: How the Act of Answering Can Create Social Facts”; Gerontological Society of America Annual Scientific Meeting, New Orleans, LA, Nov 2010
  •  “Bridging Psychiatric and Anthropological Approaches: Analyzing ‘nerves’ and ‘depression’ among older adults in the United States”; Invited Poster Presentation; Cultural and Biological Contexts of Psychiatric Disorder: Implications for Diagnosis and Treatment Conference, UCLA, Los Angeles, CAG, Jan 2010
  •  “Subjectivity in question: Negotiating personhood in the face of depression and aging in the U.S.” Society for Psychological Anthropology Conference, Asilomar, CA Mar 27-29, 2009