Kristin Barker


Photo: Kristin Barker
SSCI 1072

Curriculum vitae


PhD, Sociology, University of Wisconsin-Madison (1993)

Research Interests

Sociology of Health and Medicine, Gender, Science and Knowledge

Qualitative Methods



The Fibromyalgia Story Medical Authority and Women's Worlds of Pain

Kristin Barker

More than six million Americans—most of them women—have been diagnosed with fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS), a disorder that produces muscular-skeletal pain and fatigue. In the absence of visible evidence, a well-understood cause, or effective treatment, many have questioned whether FMS is a "real" illness. Amidst the controversy, millions of women live with their very real symptoms.

Rather than taking sides in the heated debate, Kristin Barker explains how FMS represents an awkward union between the practices of modern medicine and the complexity of women's pain. Using interviews with sufferers, Barker focuses on how the idea of FMS gives meaning and order to women beset by troubling symptoms, self-doubt, and public skepticism.

The Fibromyalgia Story offers a fresh look at a controversial diagnosis; Barker avoids overly simplistic explanations and empathizes with sufferers without losing sight of the social construction of disease and its relation to modern medical practice.

Available for purchase here.

Recent/Select Publications:

Barker, Kristin, Owen Whooley, Erin F. Madden, Emily Ahrend and R. Neil Greene.  2022.  “The Long Tail of COVID and the Tale of Long COVID: Diagnostic Construction and the Management of Ignorance”.  Sociology of Health & Illness.

Whooley, Owen and Kristin Barker. 2021. “Uncertain and Under Quarantine: Toward Sociology of Medical Ignorance.” Journal of Health and Social Behavior, forthcoming.

Barker, Kristin, Alexis M. Kenney and R. Neil Greene. 2021. “Wrong versus Right(eous): Online Reader Comments as Scientific Boundary-Work.” Sociological Forum 36(N3).

 Barker, Kristin Kay. 2019. “Lay Pharmacovigilance and the Dramatization of Risk: Fluoroquinolone Harm on YouTube.” Journal of Health and Social Behavior 60(4): 509–524.

Barker, Kristin and Cirila Estela Vasquez Guzman. 2016 "Pharmaceutical Direct-To-Consumer Advertising and U.S. Hispanic Patient-Consumers." Sociology of Health and Illness 38(1): 1337-1351.


Sociological Theory

Sociology of Madness

Classical Sociological Theory (graduate)

Theories in Medical Sociology (graduate)