Claire Laurier Decoteau

Associate Professor
Director of Graduate Studies

Research Interests:  Social Theory, Cultural Sociology, Sociology of Health and Medicine, Sociology of Knowledge, Sociology of the Body, Globalization, Gender/Sexuality, Race/Ethnicity, and Ethnography

Recent Graduate Courses:
Classical Theory (Soc 585)
Contemporary Theory (Soc 587)
Sociology of the Body (Soc 520)
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Recent Publication


Claire Laurier Decoteau received her PhD in Sociology from the University of Michigan (2008).  Broadly, her research focuses on the social construction of health and disease, the politics of knowledge production, and peoples’ grounded experiences with healing and health care systems.  Decoteau was awarded the 2009 American Sociological Association’s Dissertation Award.  Her book, Ancestors and Antiretrovirals: The Biopolitics of HIV/AIDS in Post-Apartheid South Africa (2013, University of Chicago Press) argues that it is through HIV/AIDS policy that the South African government has attempted to balance the contradictory demands of postcolonial nation-building – forced to satisfy the requirements of neoliberal global capital and meet the needs of its most impoverished population.  Drawing on 30 months of ethnographic, discursive and historical research, the book traces the politics of AIDS in South Africa from 1994 through 2010 analyzing: the political economy of the post-apartheid health system, the shifting symbolic struggles over the signification of HIV/AIDS, and the ways in which communities profoundly affected by the epidemic incorporate culturally hybrid subjectivities, informed by both indigenous and biomedical healing paradigms. 

Decoteau has begun two new research projects.  The first focuses on epistemic contestations over definitions of autism spectrum disorder (ASD).  She has engaged in archival research on the US federal vaccine court proceedings on autism where the controversial link between childhood vaccinations and autism development was forced to stand trial.  And she has begun to collect qualitative research with Somali refugee parents of children with autism in Minneapolis and Toronto.  She is interested in understanding what makes a group of people forge a knowledge community around a particular theory of causation.  The second project focuses on women working in South Africa’s informal economy and explores the relationship between ‘transactional’ sexual practices and sex work in contemporary Johannesburg. 

As an Associate Professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, Decoteau teaches undergraduate and graduate sociological theory as well as courses in the sociology of health and medicine.


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Contact Information

Office:  4112D BSB 
Phone:  (312) 413-3755