Research and teaching about inequality and justice.


Joan H. Robinson, JD, PhD, is a Postdoctoral Research Scholar at Columbia Law School under the Eric H. Holder, Jr. Initiative for Civil and Political Rights at Columbia University.  In May 2018 she was awarded the Robert Merton Award for Best Dissertation in the Department of Sociology at Columbia for her dissertation, In Whose Hands: The Pregnancy Test in American Life.  The dissertation examines how power is mediated through one type of surveillance technology, the pregnancy test.  The subjects of that surveillance are women's sexual and reproductive bodies, watched by everyone, including women themselves. 

Robinson's research has been supported by Columbia University, the National Science Foundation, the Center for Science and Society, and the Center for Organizational Innovation.  Her scholarship has been published in Social Studies of Science, the Journal of Family Issues, Contexts, the Routledge Handbook of Science, Technology and Society, Wisconsin Women's Law Journal, and Spontaneous Generations.  She has received numerous awards for teaching, writing, academic achievement, and pro bono legal service.  Previously, she practiced law full time as a Staff Attorney at The Legal Aid Society.




Robinson's research examines how the inequalities of everyday life are mediated through law and technology.  Her expertise spans law, science and technology studies, medical sociology, and women's and gender studies.  She has worked on topics ranging from gender and racial justice to urban poverty and immigration.  Her research is primarily qualitative social science and legal, but she has published quantitative work as well.




As the inaugural Associate Director at the Holder Initiative, Robinson oversaw and coordinated the Initiative's first year of programming, curriculum, and internships, and wrote a wide variety of content ranging from multi-million dollar grant reports to web teasers.  As a Postdoctoral Research Scholar, she will continue to pursue the Initiative's mission by supporting and creating new programming and content.

© Tirachard Kumtanom-CC0 License via Pexels-modified by JHR
 © Kiamesha Wilson


For the past 15 years, Robinson has been teaching and mentoring students pursuing a variety of careers.  Her democratic approach to classroom space, interest in reaching students from underrepresented groups, and creative teaching approaches have served her students well in a variety of courses.  For her outstanding teaching in the Department of Sociology at Columbia, she received the Tilly Award for excellence in teaching.

Social movements

Since her early years in Western Pennsylvania (the Appalachian -Rust Belt - Midwest), Robinson has been deeply committed to both classical freedoms and American racial justice.  She continues to be a participant-observer and occasional organizer of craftivism, die-ins, walk-outs, letter writing campaigns, and protest marches.  "We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim." - Elie Wiesel