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Carol Heimer

Professor of Sociology Emerita

Area(s) of Interest

Medical Sociology, Sociological Theory

Relevant Links

American Bar Foundation

Law School


Carol A. Heimer is Professor of Sociology at Northwestern University and Research Professor at the American Bar Foundation. She received her BA from Reed College and her PhD from the University of Chicago. Heimer has written on risk and insurance (Reactive Risk and Rational Action), organization theory (Organization Theory and Project Management, co-authored with Stinchcombe), the sociology of law and the sociology of medicine (For the Sake of the Children, co-authored with Staffen, winner of both the theory and medical sociology prizes of the American Sociological Association). A recipient of the Ver Steeg Award for graduate teaching, she usually teaches courses on law, medicine, and qualitative methods, with occasional forays in to topics such as the sociology of moral experience. She spent 2007-08 as a Visiting Fellow in the Program in Law and Public Affairs at Princeton. Heimer is currently writing a book from her NSF-funded comparative study of the role of law in medicine. In recent years, American medicine has been "legalized" as relatively informal regulation by professional peers has been supplanted by an increasingly rule-based system. By no means confined to the US, this rule-based regulation has diffused widely, sometimes freely adopted by medical workers eager for the legitimacy conferred by American medical science, at other times imposed on foreign scientific colleagues by American funding agencies and research organizations. The Legal Transformation of Medicine will be grounded in ethnographic work and interviews on the use of rules (broadly conceived) in HIV/AIDS clinics in the US, Uganda, South Africa, and Thailand.

Courses Taught

Soc 355: Medical Sociology Syllabus

Soc 403: Field Methods Syllabus

Soc 476: Special Topics: Sociology of Moral Experience Syllabus


Extending the Rails: How Research Reshapes Clinics
(with JuLeigh Petty), Social Studies of Science, 2011

The Unstable Alliance of Law and Morality
Springer, 2010

Thinking About How to Avoid Thought: Deep Norms, Shallow Rules, and the Structure of Attention
Regulation & Governance 2 (1), 2008

Old Inequalities, New Disease: HIV/AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa
Annual Review of Sociology, 2007

Cases and Biographies: An Essay on Routinization and the Nature of Comparison
Annual Review of Sociology, 2001

For the Sake of the Children: The Social Organization of Responsibility in the Hospital and the Home
(with Lisa R. Staffen), University of Chicago Press, 1998