MacKendrick 2016Norah MacKendrick
PhD, University of Toronto. 2011

Department of Sociology
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
26 Nichol Avenue
New Brunswick, New Jersey 08901

Office: Davison Hall, 107
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Norah MacKendrick’s research falls within the fields of environmental sociology, consumer studies, medical sociology, and gender. She studies the social, cultural and political processes surrounding chemical ‘body burdens.’

She is the author of Better Safe than Sorry: How Consumers Navigate Exposure to Everyday Toxics (May 2018), 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 in particular, who feel responsible for protecting their children from exposure to chemicals, and do so through foodwork, shopping, and management of the household. Precautionary consumption has become entangled with potent discourses of maternal responsibility and consumer empowerment that circulate within the public outreach efforts of environmental health advocacy groups, as well as the marketplace for certified organic foods and ‘green’ products.

In her other work, MacKendrick explores how people conceptualize everyday contamination of the human body, and how they evaluate their ability to avoid chemical exposures. She has two ongoing projects. The first examines how middle-class mothers respond to cultural criticism of intensive or total motherhood, and the second looks at the marketing of eco-friendly goods in relation to cultural ideas of the purity of children’s bodies.