Christopher Rea

Assistant Professor of Sociology and International and Public Affairs
Areas of Expertise Bureaucracy, Energy & Environment, Environmental Justice, Political Economy, Social Movements
Areas of Interest Environmental Sociology, Political Sociology, Economic Sociology, Organizations, Bureaucracy, Public Policy


Dr. Chris Rea (said “ray”), is Assistant Professor of Sociology and International and Public Affairs at Brown University.  His research focuses on ways that large-scale institutions and organizations shape environmental governance, politics, and regulation, with the aim of understanding and informing interventions into some of the most important issues of our time: climate change, species extinction, and environmental justice.

Dr. Rea was formerly a member of the John Glenn College of Public Affairs and Department of Sociology (by courtesy) at The Ohio State University and, before that, a postdoctoral fellow at the Institute at Brown for Environment and Society (IBES) at Brown. Dr. Rea earned his doctorate in sociology at the University of California, Los Angeles, has been a visiting researcher at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies in Cologne, Germany, and was among the last cohort of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Science to Achieve Results (STAR) fellowship awardees. He remains an active alumnus of the Summer Institute on Organizational Effectiveness at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University. With Drs. Jeff Colgan and Jennifer Hadden, he is a core faculty member of the Climate Solutions Lab at Brown.


One major strand of Chris’s research focuses on the environmental state, bringing the insights of political sociology, environmental sociology, historical institutionalism, and environmental history to bear on questions of the state’s capacity to provide environmental welfare and address critical environmental problems like climate change.

A second major strand aims to develop a sociology of “internalization” and the commodification of nature to better reveal how broader social structures, like culturally distinctive understandings of ecosystems and the organizational architecture of the state, shape the process of valuing nature and accounting for ecological costs.

A third strand focuses on the structure, character, and ends of environmental politics, especially in the United States, spanning everything from opposition to clean energy development to the complex links between guns and conservation to environmental justice and the strategies and outcomes of environmental litigation.

Students at all levels, from undergraduate to doctoral, should reach out if they are interested in these and related areas of research!


2023 - Romero-Lanko, Patricia; Nicole Rosner, Christof Brandtner, Christopher M. Rea, Adolfo Mejia-Montero, Francesca Pilo, Fedor Dokshin, Vanesa Castán-Broto, Sarah Burch, Scott Schnur. “A Framework to Center Justice in Energy Transition Innovations.” Nature Energy 8, 1192-1198. DOI: 10.1038/s41560-023-01351-3

2023 - Rea, Christopher M. and Scott Frickel “The Environmental State: Nature and the Politics of Environmental Protection.” Sociological Theory 41(3), 255-281. DOI: 10.1177/07352751231184462

2023 - Casellas Connors, John P., Elizabeth A. Carlino, and Christopher M. Rea. “The Eco-munitionary Subject: Conservation with and of firearms.” Environment and Planning E: Nature and Space 6(4), 2318-2339. DOI: 10.1177/25148486231157272

2022 - Casellas Connors, John P. and Christopher M. Rea. “Violent Entanglements: The Pittman-Robertson Act, Firearms, and the Funding of Conservation.” Conservation and Society 20(1), 24-35. DOI: 10.4103/cs.cs_82_21

2020 - Frickel, Scott and Christopher M. Rea. “Drought, Hurricane, or Tornado? Assessing the Trump Administration’s Anti-Science Disaster.” Engaging Science, Technology, and Society 6, 66-75. DOI: 10.17351/ests2020.297


Policy Problems of the Twenty-First Century - Climate and Environmental Justice