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Dr. Lauren Eastwood

Associate Professor of Sociology

While I think of myself as an environmental sociologist, what this means to me is that I approach “the environment” with an eye to analyzing the social institutions that intersect with the natural world (broadly defined). In my own scholarship, I look at the ways in which human institutions and organizations frame particular environmental issues.

My primary research areas include civil society participation in policy making through the United Nations, the shifting politics of “fracking” and other forms of energy extraction, and activism in opposition to fossil fuel-based infrastructure.

The research I do through the United Nations is ethnographic and participatory, in the sense that I attend meetings associated with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, and the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (among others) in order to investigate how it is that policy is actually negotiated within the context of UN-based deliberations. In these arenas, I pay particular attention to the ways in which non-governmental and indigenous peoples attempt to influence policy processes.

My research on energy extraction began in Wyoming and Montana (the Powder River Basin) with interviews of landowners who were experiencing (proposed or actual) coalbed methane or uranium extraction on their land. I have subsequently expanded the project to take into account a range of dynamics that are truly global in nature related to an increased emphasis on “natural gas” extraction as many nation states and corporations are positing natural gas as a “bridge fuel” to a transition to renewables. In this sense, this research project has become aligned with my UN climate research in ways I had not originally anticipated.

Lastly, I have recently begun to investigate social movements in opposition to fossil fuel-based infrastructure. Increasingly, pipeline, fracking, tar sands extraction, and other projects are met with resistance from both climate activists and those who are concerned about the impacts on their local environment. In addition, this activism is being criminalized as the sanctions for engaging in anti-fossil fuel-based infrastructure are becoming greater as corporations influence policy decisions.

Dr. Eastwood was an Abe Fellow with the Social Science Research Council from 2009–2011. She was the 2011–2012 President of the Association of Third World Studies (now the Association of Global South Studies), an organization for which she serves as the United Nations Representative. Dr. Eastwood was the 2013–2015 Institutional Ethnography Division Chair for the Society for the Study of Social Problems.


  • Ph.D. in Sociology, Syracuse University, 2002
  • M.A. in Sociology, Syracuse University, 1996
  • B.A. in Environmental Studies, Rollins College, 1991

Teaching Areas

  • Sociological Theory
  • Sociology of the Environment
  • Sociology of Development
  • Qualitative Research Methods

Research Areas

  • Civil society participation in UN-based environmental policy-making: Global environmental governance.
  • Community responses to natural gas and uranium extraction in the Western U.S., particularly in the Powder River Basin Area of Wyoming and Montana.
  • Activism in response to fossil fuel-based infrastructure, and the increasing criminalization of that activism.

Recent and Forthcoming Publications

  • Eastwood, Lauren E. (2019) Negotiating the Environment: Civil Society, Globalisation, and the UN. London: Routledge Press.
  • Sarker, Cadman, Maraseni, Michaelis, Pittock, and Eastwood (Eds). (Under contract for release in 2015). The Political Economy of Sustainable Development: Policy and Market Mechanisms. Gloucestershire, England: Edward Elgar Publishing Ltd.
  • Eastwood, Lauren E. (2013) “Gender and Climate Change: Conceptual Currency in the Climate Negotiations Regime” in Cadman, Timothy (Ed.) Climate Governance: Institutions, Issues and Interests in Global Policy Regimes. UK: Palgrave.
  • Eastwood, Lauren E. (2013) “Negotiating UN Policy: Activating Texts in Setting-specific Policy Deliberations” in Smith, Dorothy E. and Susan M. Turner (Eds). Texts in Action: Exploring ruling relations ethnographically" (forthcoming) University of Toronto Press.
  • Eastwood, Lauren E. (2011) “Resisting Dispossession: Indigenous Peoples, the World Bank and the Contested Terrain of Policy” in New Global Studies.
  • Eastwood, Lauren E. (2011) “Climate Change Negotiations and Civil Society Participation: Shifting and Contested Terrain” in Theory in Action—Journal of the Transformative Studies Institute. Vol. 4, No. 1 January 2011.
  • Eastwood, Lauren E. (2006) Making the Institution Ethnographically Accessible: UN Document Production and the Transformation of Experience in Institutional Ethnography as Practice by Dorothy E. Smith (Ed). Alta Mira Press.
  • Eastwood, Lauren E. (2006) Contesting the Economic Order: Resisting the Media Construction of Reality in Igniting a Revolution by Best, Stephen and Anthony J. Nocella (Eds), AK Press.
  • Eastwood, Lauren E. (2005) The Social Organization of Policy: An Institutional Ethnography of UN Forest Deliberations. New York: Routledge Press.
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