Barbara Herr Harthorn

Barbara Herr Harthorn

Contact Phone

(805) 893-3350

Office Location

HSSB 2074 (Anthropology)
Girvetz 2314 (CNS-UCSB)


Sociocultural Anthropology (medical and psychological anthropology, culture, risk and perception, health and environmental inequality, gender, race and new technologies, mixed methods research; US & UK, California farmworkers, primary care physicians, Fiji, S. Pacific)


BA, Anthropology, Bryn Mawr College, Bryn Mawr, PA

PhD, Anthropology, UCLA

NIMH Postdoctoral training, Social Psychology, UCSB


I am a medical and psychological anthropologist, and also hold affiliated faculty appointments in the departments of Feminist Studies and Sociology as well as serving as a participating faculty member in the Interdepartmental PhD Emphasis in Environment & Society. My current research broadly examines culture and health, technological risk and perception, and responsible development and innovation. I have served since 2005 as Director and lead Principal Investigator of a NSF national center, the Nanoscale Science and Engineering Center: Center for Nanotechnology in Society at UCSB (CNS-UCSB), and since 2008 as a researcher and executive committee member in the NSF and EPA-funded national center, the UC Center for Environmental Implications of Nanotechnology (UC CEIN) at UCLA. I received my B.A. with Honors in Anthropology from Bryn Mawr College, and my M.A. and Ph.D. in Anthropology, training primarily in the SocioBehavioral Group, now Center for Culture and Health, in the School of Medicine at UCLA. Following completion of the PhD, I completed 3 years of postdoctoral training in Social Psychology at UCSB with NIMH support.


Since 2005, I have led an international, interdisciplinary team of researchers using mixed quantitative and qualitative social science research methods to study risk and benefit perceptions regarding new technologies among diverse expert, industry and public stakeholders in the US and abroad. My publications include The Social Life of Nanotechnology (2012, Routledge, with John Mohr) and Risk, Culture & Health Inequality: Shifting Perceptions of Danger and Blame (2003, Greenwood/Praeger, with Laury Oaks) and a long list of chapters, reports, and articles in risk analysis, social science, science and technology studies, science policy, environmental science, and nanoscience journals. I have provided expert testimony on science and society issues to the US Congressional National Nanotechnology Caucus, the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST), the National Academies of Science (NAS), and to the leaders of the US National Nanotechnology Initiative, as well as serving as a US delegate to US-EC meetings on responsible development of converging technologies. I was a founding board member of the international Society for the Study of Nanoscience and Emerging Technologies (S.NET) and was elected to Fellowship in the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2008.

In particular, my nanotechnology in society research in the past 10 years has focused on diverse people's ideas about perceived environmental and health risk, as they attach to new technologies, with an emphasis on understanding how social location and past experiences of inequality affect the way people make sense of both the promises and potential pitfalls of new technologies. My past work has focused on the social production of health inequality among California farmworkers, on the preparedness of primary care physicians in the US to serve as gatekeepers to mental health services, and on gender and illness in rural Fiji.



My projects in the past 10 years (2005-2015) have included (see for more detail):

  • Public deliberation and engagement on issues concerning responsible development and innovation of new nanotechnologies, and also unconventional oil and gas technologies:  in this work we have conducted a series of deliberative workshops (that are focus-group like in format, although far more intensive, lasting 1/2 to a full day) about nanotechnologies for health and energy (US & UK 2007), gender and risk perception about nanotechnologies for health and energy (US 2009), and unconventional oil and gas (US & UK 2014). This research is primarily qualitative, based on depth narrative analysis of dialogue from the workshops.

  • Public perceptions of the risks and benefits of new nanotechnologies being developed across an array of applications and industries--in this work we have conducted a series of surveys of large representative samples of US publics, focusing on trust, affect, and vulnerability as factors in risk perception, exploring benefit perception in a number of novel ways enabled by a long period of very low public awareness about nanotechnologies, and examining particular applications and their interactions with emergent perceptions.
  • Industry leaders' risk perceptions and workplace safety--we've conducted 2 surveys of the international nanomaterials industry (2006, 2009-10) based on extensive phone interview
  • Expert perceptions--we've also conducted an extensive set of interviews of nanoscientists and engineers, and a large-scale survey of scientists, toxicologists and regulators about potential and known risks of manufactured nanomaterials and the US regulatory system's capacities to provide adequate oversight.
  • NGOs--we've surveyed the global activities of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and civil society organizations (CSOs) in response to perceived risks posed by engineered nanomaterials and their nano-enabled products to health, environment, consumer product safety, and society more broadly.

Prior research projects include:

  • Farmworker health--from 1994-2005 I conducted a series of studies of Latina/o farmworker health in California looking in particular at historical and contemporary treatment of immigrants with TB, maternal health, and exposure to agricultural chemicals
  • Primary care physicians as gatekeepers to mental health care--this project (1984-1988) studied California physicians in a range of treatment settings to assess and intervene with their knowledge and diagnostic practices about patients presenting with mental health problems
  • Gender and affective disorder--my dissertation research in a small rural in the South Pacific island nation of Fiji (1979-1983) examined gendered patterns of health, illness and treatment, particularly focused on anxiety and depression


Recent and selected past publications:


Barbara Herr Harthorn and John W. Mohr, editors. (2012) The Social Life of Nanotechnology, foreword by John Seely Brown. New York: Routledge.

Barbara Herr Harthorn and L. Oaks, editors. (2003) Risk, Culture, and Health Inequality: Shifting Perceptions of Danger and Blame, foreword by Dorothy Nelkin. New York: Greenwood/Praeger.

Articles and chapters:

Beaudrie, Christian, Terre Satterfield, Milind Kandlikar, and Barbara H Harthorn. (2014) Scientists vs. regulators: Precaution, novelty & regulatory oversight as predictors of perceived risks of engineered nanomaterials. PLoS One 9(9): e106365. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0106365.

Beaudrie, Christian, Terre Satterfield, Milind Kandlikar & Barbara Herr Harthorn. (2013) Expert views on regulatory preparedness for managing the risks of nanotechnologies. PLoS One 8(11): 380250. Nov 11, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0080250

Harthorn, Barbara Herr, & Mohr, John. (2012) Introduction: The social scientific view of nanotechnologies. In Barbara Herr Harthorn and John Mohr (Ed.), The Social Life of Nanotechnology, pp. 1-15. New York: Routledge.

Rogers-Brown, Jennifer, Shearer, Christine, Harthorn, Barbara Herr, & Martin,Tyronne. (2012) Different uses, different responses: Exploring emergent cultural values through public deliberation. In Barbara Herr Harthorn & John Mohr (Eds.), The Social Life of Nanotechnology, pp. 195-222. New York: Routledge

Harthorn, Barbara, Rogers, Jennifer, Shearer, Christine, & Martin, Tyronne. (2012) Debating nanoethics: U.S. public perceptions of nanotechnology applications for energy and the environment. In Dane Scott & Blake Francis (Eds.), Debating Science: Deliberation, Values, and the Common Good (2nd ed., pp. 227-249). New York: Prometheus Books.

Harthorn, Barbara, Shearer, Christine, & Rogers, Jennifer. (2012) Risk perception, public participation, and sustainable global development of nanotechnologies. In Rachel Parker & Richard Appelbaum (Eds.), Emerging Economies, Emerging Technologies: Can Emerging Technologies Make a Difference in Development? pp. 188-197. New York: Routledge.

Terre Satterfield, Joseph Conti, Barbara Herr Harthorn, Nick Pidgeon & Anton Pitts. (2012) Understanding shifting perceptions of nanotechnologies and their implications for policy dialogues about emerging technologies. Science and Public Policy. First published online November 18, 2012 doi:10.1093/scipol/scs084

Tian Xia, Davin Malasarn, Sijie Lin, Zhaoxia Ji, Haiyuan Zhang, Robert J. Miller, Arturo A. Keller, Roger M. Nisbet, Barbara H. Harthorn, Hilary A. Godwin, Hunter S. Lenihan, Rong Liu, Jorge Gardea-Torresdey, Yoram Cohen, Lutz Mädler, Patricia A. Holden, Jeffrey I. Zink, & Andre E. Nel. (2012) Implementation of a multidisciplinary approach to solve complex nano EHS problems by the UC Center for the Environmental Implications of Nanotechnology. Small First published online: 2 Oct. DOI: 10.1002/smll.201201700

Cassandra D. Engeman, Lynn Baumgartner, Benjamin M. Carr, Allison M. Fish, John D. Meyerhofer, Theresa A. Satterfield, Patricia A. Holden, & Barbara Herr Harthorn* (corresponding author). (2012) Governance implications of nanomaterials companies’ inconsistent risk perceptions and safety practices. Journal of Nanoparticle Research, 14(749), 1-12. doi: 10.1007/s11051-012-0749-0

Jennifer Rogers, Christine Shearer & Barbara Herr Harthorn. (2011) Debating Nano/Bio technological alteration of food: Public deliberation and cultural logics. Special issue on food, Environment and Society: Advances in Research 2(1): 149-169. doi:10.3167/ares.2011.020109

Nick Pidgeon, Barbara Harthorn, & Theresa Satterfield, Eds. (2011) Nanotechnology Risk Perceptions and Communication: Emerging Technologies, Emerging Challenges. Risk Analysis (special issue on Nanotechnology Risk Perception), 31(11), 1694–1783. doi: 10.1111/j.1539-6924.2011.01738.x

Nick Pidgeon, Barbara Harthorn, & Theresa Satterfield.  (2011) Nanotechnology risk perceptions and communication: Emerging technologies, emerging challenges. Risk Analysis, 31(11), 1694–1700. doi: 10.1111/j.1539-6924.2011.01738.x

Mihail C. Roco, Barbara Harthorn, David Guston, & Phillip Shapira. (2011) Innovative and responsible governance of nanotechnology for societal development. Journal of Nanoparticle Research 13(9), 3557-3590. doi: 10.1007/s11051-011-0454-4

Conti, Joseph, Satterfield, Terre & Harthorn, Barbara Herr. (2011) Vulnerability and social justice as factors in emergent US nanotechnology risk perceptions. Risk Analysis [published online March 2011 DOI: 10.1111/j.1539-6924.2011.01608.x]

Harthorn, Barbara Herr, Shearer, Christine, Rogers, Jennifer. (2011) Exploring ambivalence: Techno-enthusiasm and skepticism in US nanotech deliberations.  In Quantum Engagements: Social Reflections of Nanoscience and Emerging Technologies, Eds. Torben B. Zülsdorf, Christopher Coenen, Arianna Ferrari, Ulrich Fiedeler, Colin Milburn, & Matthias Wienroth, pp. 75-89.  Amsterdam: IOS Press.

Harthorn, Barbara Herr. (2011) Methodological challenges posed by emergent nanotechnologies and cultural values. In The Handbook of Emergent Technologies and Social Research, Ed. Sharlene Nagy Hesse-Biber, pp. 65-88. New York: Oxford University Press.

Roco, Mihail, Harthorn, Barbara Herr, Guston, David, & Shapira, Philip. (2011) Innovative and responsible governance of nanotechnology for societal development. In Mihail Roco & Mark C. Hersam (Eds.), Nanotechnology Research Directions for Societal Needs in 2020 (pp. 561-618). Boston and Berlin: Springer.

Harthorn, Barbara Herr. Gender and nanotechnology. (2010) In Encyclopedia of Nanotechnology and Society, eds. David Guston and J. Geoffrey Golson, pp. 269-271.  Thousand Oaks: Sage Publishers.

Harthorn, Barbara Herr. (2010) Amplification of risk. In Encyclopedia of Nanotechnology and Society, eds. David Guston and J. Geoffrey Golson, pp 669-670.  Thousand Oaks: Sage Publishers.

Harthorn, Barbara Herr. (2010) Attenuation of risk. In Encyclopedia of Nanotechnology and Society, eds. David Guston and J. Geoffrey Golson, pp 671-672.  Thousand Oaks: Sage Publishers.

Barbara Herr Harthorn. 2010. Public participation in nanotechnology – should we care?  Op ed on 2020 Science, 5/4/2010. Available for download at:

Nick Pidgeon, Nick, Harthorn, Barbara Herr, and Terre Satterfield.  (2010) Nanotech: Good or bad? The Chemical Engineer Today (Dec 2009/Jan 2010): 37-39.

Satterfield, Theresa, Milind Kandlikar, Christian Beaudrie, Joseph Conti, and Barbara Herr Harthorn. (2009) Anticipating the perceived risk of nanotechnologies. Nature Nanotechnology 4:752-758.

Godwin, H., K, Chopra, K. Bradley, Y. Cohen, B. Harthorn, E. Hoek, P. Holden, A. Keller, H. Lenihan, R. Nisbet, A. Nel . (2009) The University of California Center for the Environmental Implications of Nanotechnology. Environmental Science & Technology 43(17): 6453-6457.

Alexis D. Ostrowski, Tyronne Martin, Joseph Conti, Indy Hurt, & Barbara Herr Harthorn. (2009) Nanotoxicology: Characterizing the scientific literature, 2000-2007. Journal of Nanoparticle Research 11:251-257.

Pidgeon, Nick, Harthorn, Barbara, Bryant, Karl, & Rogers-Hayden, Tee. (2009) Deliberating the risks of nanotechnologies for Energy and Health applications in the United States and United Kingdom. Nature Nanotechnology 4 (2): 95-98.

Conti, J. A., K., Killpack, G. Gerritzen, L.Huang, M. Mircheva, M. Delmas, B. H. Harthorn, R.  P. Appelbaum, and P.A. Holden. (2008) Health and safety practices in the nanomaterials workplace: Results from an international survey. Environmental Science & Technology 42(9): 3155-3162

Harthorn, B.H., P.M. McCray, and T. Satterfield. (2006) Anthropological research at the UCSB Center for Nanotechnology in Society, Practicing Anthropology 28(2): 38-40.

Harthorn, Barbara Herr. (2006) “Nano-Buzz: Societal dimensions of emerging technologies.” Anthropology News (October 2006): 26.

B. Herr Harthorn. (2003) Safe exposure? Perceptions of risks from agricultural chemicals among California farmworkers. In Risk, Culture, and Health Inequality: Shifting Perceptions of Danger and Blame, B. Herr Harthorn and L. Oaks, editors, pp.143-164. New York: Greenwood/Praeger.

L. Oaks and B. Herr Harthorn. (2003) Health and the social and cultural construction of risk, In Risk, Culture, and Health Inequality: Shifting Perceptions of Danger and Blame, B. Herr Harthorn and L. Oaks, editors, pp. 3-12. New York: Greenwood/Praeger.

S. Guendelman, C. Malin, B. Herr-Harthorn, P. Vargas. (2001) Orientations to motherhood among pregnant Mexican and Mexican-origin women: A bi-national study. Social Science and Medicine 52: 1805-1813.

M. Goodchild, L. Anselin, R. Appelbaum, & B. Herr Harthorn. (2000). Toward spatially integrated social science. International Regional Science Review 23(2): 139-159.

B. Herr Harthorn. (1998) California farmworkers: Dilemmas in developing interventions for health and medical care concerns, Human Organization 57 (3): 369-378.

S. Andersen & B. Herr Harthorn. (1990) Changing the psychiatric knowledge of primary care physicians: The effects of a brief intervention on clinical diagnosis and treatment. General Hospital Psychiatry 12: 1-14.

S. Andersen and B. Herr Harthorn. (1989) The Diagnostic Knowledge Inventory:  A measure about psychiatric diagnosis. Journal of Clinical Psychology 45 (6): 999-1013. 

S. Andersen and B. Herr Harthorn. (1989) The recognition, diagnosis, and treatment of mental disorders by primary care physicians. Medical Care 27(9): 869-886.

R. B. Edgerton, M. Bollinger, and B. Herr. (1984) The cloak of competence: After two decades. American Journal of Mental Deficiency 88: 345-351.

B. Herr. (1981) The expressive character of Fijian dreams and nightmares. Ethos 9: 331-352.



Since joining the Department of Anthropology in 2013, I have offered the following courses:

ANTH 104: Risk & Inequality (Spring 2014, Fall 2015)

ANTH 157L: Medical Anthropology (Winter 2015)

ANTH 219: Anthropology of Risk (Spring 2015)

ANTH 240B: Research Design & Writing in Sociocultural Anthropology (Winter 2014, Winter 2016)