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Bob Bolin
Ph.D., University of Colorado, Boulder, 1976

SHESC Themes: Societies and Their Natural Environments, Urban Societies

Field specializations: geography, political ecology, risks and hazards, social theory, urban geography

Regional focus: North America (Southwest)


About Research
My research program, prior to coming to ASU, was focused on environmental hazards and issues affecting the long term recovery of households and communities after large scale 'natural' disasters. A series of NSF grants from 1979 through the mid-1990s supported that research program. My research emphasized the importance of social inequalities in shaping the severity of disasters and their long-term consequences on disadvantaged populations. While my work in the 1980s was more or less conventional 'disaster sociology', in the 1990s I broke with that tradition and began to fully employ critical geographical theory to analyze environmental hazards and issues of race, class and political economy in processes of social marginalization. My move to critical geography was developed in several studies on California earthquakes in the 1990s and I continue to employ that general theoretical approach on my most recent research projects.

Once at ASU my research shifted from natural hazards to the political ecology of technological hazards and questions of social vulnerability and environmental justice. Much of my work at ASU has been supported by the Central Arizona Phoenix Long-term Ecological Research project at the International Institute for Sustainability. A group of us formed the interdisciplinary Environmental Risk Group as part of the CAP-LTER. We have been pursuing a series of studies looking at various aspects of technological hazards, toxic industrial emissions, environmental pollutants, and population distributions in Phoenix. My particular interests in this area include on both the historical geography of racism as well as current issues in environmental justice in Phoenix.

In Fall 2004, a research team I am part of received multi-year funding from the National Science Foundation to conduct research on water resources and decision making under conditions of long term climatic uncertainty and drought in central Arizona. That project, the Decision Center for a Desert City, will expand my research agenda to include vulnerability to drought and related environmental hazards in Phoenix and the rapidly growing peri-urban areas on the Mogollon Rim. As with my other environmental research my interest here will be on interdisciplinary sociospatial analysis of people's access to resources, environmental change, and processes of social marginalization in a rapidly urbanizing region.

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About Teaching
My academic background is interdisciplinary in sociology and geography with a focus on socioenvironmental transformations. I received both my undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Colorado, Boulder (Ph.D., 1976). My primary graduate training was in environmental sociology, hazards geography, urban geography, and social theory. Most of my funded research since graduate school has focused on environmental issues, including hazards, disasters, and the dynamics of social inequality and marginalization in the production of environmental inequality. I spent the bulk of my career, prior to coming to Arizona State University, at New Mexico State University, where I progressed through the ranks in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology. I served as chair of that department for four years in the 1990s. I moved to Arizona State University in January 1998, joining the Department of Sociology. In fall 2004 I transferred to the Department of Anthropology to better pursue my environmental research and teaching agenda in a more supportive and congenial departmental setting.

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Select Publications


Bolin, R. (with L. Stanford) (1998)
The Northridge Earthquake: Vulnerability and Disaster. Routledge: London.

Bolin, R. (1994)
Household and Community Recovery from Earthquakes. Institute of Behavioral Science. Monograph #56. University of Colorado, Boulder.

Bolin, R. (1990) The Loma Prieta Earthquake: Studies of Short-term Im¬pacts. Institute of Behavioral Science. Monograph #50. University of Colorado: Boulder.

Articles and Chapters:

Bolin, B. and T. Collins (In Press)
“Earthquakes, Vulnerability and Disaster.” In Rodriques and Rovai (eds). Earthquakes. New York: Routledge.

Bolin, B., A. Nelson, E. Hackett, D. Pijawka, S. Smith, E. Sadalla D. Sicotte, M. O'Donnell (2002)
“The Ecology of Technological Risk in a Sunbelt City”, Environment and Planning A. 34: 317-339.

Bolin, B., Matranga, E., Hackett, E., Sadalla, E., Pijawka, D., Brewer, D., Sicotte, D. (2000)
Environmental Equity in a Sunbelt City: The Spatial Distribution of Toxic Hazards in Phoenix, Arizona. Global Environmental Change B: Environmental Hazards. Vol 2 (1): 11-24.

Bolin, R. and L. Stanford (1999)
“Constructing Vulnerability in the First World: The Northridge Earthquake in Southern California,” (pp. 89-112) in A. Oliver-Smith and S. Hoffman (eds.) The Angry Earth: The Anthropology of Disaster. London: Routledge.

Bolin, R., T. Jackson, and A. Crist (1998)
“Gender Inequality, Vulnerability and Disasters: Issues in Theory and Research,” pp. 27-44 in Enarson and Morrow (eds.) Through Women's Eyes: The Gendered Terrain of Natural Disaster. Westport, CT: Praeger.

Bolin, R. and L. Stanford (1998)
“The Northridge California Earthquake: Community-based Approaches to Unmet Recovery Needs,” Disasters, 22 (1):21-38.

Bolin, R. (1993)
“Natural and Technological Disasters: Evidence of Psychopathology,” in A. Ghadirian and H. Lehmann (eds.), Environment and Psychopathology, pp. 121-140. Springer Press: New York.

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Contact: Bob Bolin