Timothy Elder
Timothy Elder BA, Philosophy and Sociology, Kent State University
MA, Sociology, University of Chicago
Office: Phone: Email Interests:

Comparative/Historical/ Macro Sociology, Health and Medicine, Social Studies of Knowledge, Social Theory, Death and Dying

Doctoral Candidate (2016)

Dissertation Title: Winning at a Losing Game: Divergent Ontologies and Shared Practices in Medicine

Committee: John Levi Martin (Chair), Jenny Trinitapoli, David Meltzer (UChicago, Hospital Medicine), Stefan Timmermans (UCLA)

Growing specialization within professions leads to social differentiation and the development of specialty specific evaluation and knowledge. Using ethnographic and interview methods, my dissertation investigates how different medical specialties manage the care of terminally ill patients. Despite the growing number of different specialties in medicine with different ideas of what constitutes success and a good case, care for the terminally ill depends upon a tight coupling between clinicians from disparate areas. Focusing on the case of Hospice and Palliative Medicine, I find new specialties springing up that work to transform the work styles of other specialties to allow for the production of a working consensus and success in the face of impending death.


My research explores how knowledge is organized and used to inform expert work, particularly in the medical and scientific fields. My dissertation is a qualitative study that investigates how physicians and nurses working in Hospice and Palliative Medicine relate to their patients and interdigitate with medical experts from different specialties. In particular, I study how clinicians aid patients with chronic and life-limiting illnesses in making decisions about what kind and how much care they will receive. I am also very interested in supporting the endeavor for a more open science by creating reproducible documents with plain text software.

Beyond these social scientific interests I have an enduring interest in philosophy, particularly the philosophy of science and metaethics.