Norah MacKendrick’s research falls within the fields of medical sociology, environmental sociology, gender, science and technology studies, and consumer studies. In 2020 she became Chair-Elect of the Environmental Sociology section of the American Sociological Association.
She is the author of Better Safe Than Sorry: How Consumers Navigate Exposure to Everyday Toxics, which identifies the rise of “precautionary consumption” in the United States. She finds that chemical body burdens are the consequence of decades of regulatory failure to properly assess the health consequences of environmental chemicals. The burden of addressing this failure has fallen to women and mothers who feel responsible for protecting their children from exposure to chemicals, and do so through cooking, grocery shopping, and management of the household. The book reveals how discourses of maternal responsibility and consumer empowerment circulate within the campaigns of environmental health advocacy groups, and as well as through the retail landscape for organic foods and ‘green’ products, particularly Whole Foods Market.
In 2019, Better Safe Than Sorry won the Best First Book Award from the Association for the Study of Food & Society. In 2020, it won the Allan Schnaiberg Outstanding Publication Award from the Environmental Sociology section of the American Sociological Association.
In her other research, MacKendrick has examined the intersections of risk, individualization and modern motherhood, as well as the dynamics of non-toxic consumption, “foodscapes” and science activism. Her research has been published in Gender & Society, Signs: the Journal of Women in Culture and Society, Sociological Forum, Journal of Consumer Culture, Food, Culture and Society and Contexts.
MacKendrick is working on three new projects. The first examines the diffusion of endocrine disruptor theory into reproductive medicine. The second looks at the role of doctors in the wellness and self-help industries. And the third is a collaboration with Endia Louise Hayes on Black foodways and the alternative food movement.