Brian A. Hoey

Portrait of Brian HoeyDr. Brian A. Hoey received his Ph.D. in Anthropology from the University of Michigan and a B.A in Human Ecology from the College of the Atlantic. He was also a three-year postdoctoral research fellow at the Alfred P. Sloan Center for Ethnography of Everyday Life at the Institute for Social Research. Hoey is now the Interim Dean of the Honors College and a Professor of Anthropology at Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia. His administrative work focuses on encouraging and supporting both faculty and students to help make the college an incubator of innovative pedagogy, inspirational leadership, and meaningful service to the communities of which we are apart. As faculty, his ethnographic research encompasses a number of themes including personhood and place, migration, narrative identity and life-transition, community building, and negotiations between work, family, and self in different social, historical, and environmental contexts. Hoey’s research has focused increasingly on health outcomes (both physical and psychological) shaped by a different abiotic, biotic, and cultural factors at the individual and collective levels.

As evidence of this shift, his most recent research entails extended oral history and collaborative ethnographic work in the context of a jointly conceptualized and researched study with more than fifty different people across various positions in academia and local communities. This study has lead to an innovative book titled “I’m Afraid of That Water.” It foregrounds the ongoing concerns of West Virginians and people in comparable situations in places such as Flint, Michigan who are confronted by the problem of toxic contamination, where thresholds for official safety may be crossed, but a genuine return to normality is elusive.

Other local research has been concerned with migration, community development, and economic restructuring here in the Appalachian region of the United States. Despite a recent history of often bleak economic conditions and an continued mixed prospects, the communities like Huntington, West Virginia (the hometown of  Marshall University) are perfect places to conduct research on new forms of work, entrepreneurship, community building, and the marketing of place according to emerging cultural and economic models that may stand in sharp contrast to the dominant order of the Industrial Era. In an area where plant closings and grim economic forecasts became commonplace over the past several decades, innovation which challenges conventional wisdom should not surprise us.

Hoey’s long-term project in Northwest Lower Michigan has explored non-economic or “lifestyle” migration where downsized and downshifting  workers relocate as a means of starting over. Other research considered how therapeutic ideals are attached to particular physical settings–including purposive communities that range from 19th century moral treatment asylums to today’s new urbanist developments. As a Fulbright Scholar in Indonesia in the late 1990s, he studied the contested nature of constructing personally and culturally meaningful space within the process of creating imagined and intentional community in far-flung agrarian settlements within a government migration program.

Hoey’s active research agenda is an integral part of teaching.  His goal is to work with students to find personally meaningful ways to apply anthropological knowledge and practice to real world problems.  You may learn more about his work at

Curriculum Vitae

Selected Publications


2020       I’m Afraid of that Water: A Collaborative Ethnography on a West Virginia Water Crisis. L.E. Lassiter, B. Hoey, and E. Campbell, eds. Morgantown, WV: West Virginia University Press [1]

2020       Reinventing and Reinvesting in the Local for Our Common Good. Knoxville, TN: Universality of Tennessee, Newfound Press [2]

2014       Opting for Elsewhere: Lifestyle Migration in the American Middle Class. Nashville, TN:  Vanderbilt University Press [3]


2016       “Negotiating Work and Family:  Lifestyle Migration, Potential Selves, and the Role of Second Homes as Potential Spaces,” Leisure Studies Vol. 35(1): 64-77

2015       “Capitalizing on Distinctiveness: Creating WV for a New Economy,” Journal of Appalachian Studies Vol. 21(2): 64-85.

2010      “Locating Personhood and Place in the Commodity Landscape,” City and Society Vol. 22(2): 207-210.

2010      “Personhood in Place: Personal and Local Character for Sustainable Narrative of Self” City and Society Vol. 22(2): 237-261.

2007       “From Sweet Potatoes to God Almighty: Roy Rappaport on Being a Hedgehog” [with Tom Fricke] American Ethnologist Vol. 34(3):581-599.

2006       “Grey Suit or Brown Carhartt: Narrative Transition, Relocation and Reorientation in the Lives of Corporate Refugees,” Journal of Anthropological Research Vol. 62(3):347-371

2006       “Striving for Unity: A Conversation with Roy Rappaport” [with Tom Fricke], Michigan Discussions in Anthropology Vol. 16(1): 33-65; 330-331

2005       “From Pi to Pie: Moral Narratives of Non-economic Migration and Starting Over in the Post-industrial Midwest,” Journal of Contemporary Ethnography Vol. 34(5):587-623 

2003       “Nationalism in Indonesia: Building Imagined Community and Intentional Communities through Transmigration,” Ethnology Vol. 42(2):109-125

2002       “Integrating Work in Academe and Advocacy,” Sloan Research Network Vol. 4(2):6-7

Book and Encyclopedia Chapters 

2020       “The (Human) Nature of Disaster – Context and Meaning” in I’m Afraid of that Water: A Collaborative Ethnography on a West Virginia Water Crisis, L.E. Lassiter, B.A. Hoey, and E Campbell, eds. Morgantown, WV: West Virginia University Press, pp. 49-75

2020       “The (Human) Nature of Disaster – Impact and Responses” in I’m Afraid of that Water: A Collaborative Ethnography on a West Virginia Water Crisis, L.E. Lassiter, B.A. Hoey, and E Campbell, eds. Morgantown, WV: West Virginia University Press, pp. 159-184

2019       “A Simple Introduction to the Practice of Ethnography” in Introduction to Conflict Resolution Discourses and Dynamics, S. Cobb, S. Federman, and A. Castel, eds., pp. 523-532

2018       “Roy Rappaport” in International Encyclopedia of Anthropology, H. Callan, Ed.  John Wiley & Sons [Forthcoming]

2015       “Creating Healthy Community in the Postindustrial City” in Recovery, Renewal, Reclaiming Anthropological Research Towards Healing, L. King, ed. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Newfound Press, pp. 6-44.

2015       “Post-Industrial Societies” in International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences (2nd edition, Vol. 18), James Wright, Ed. Oxford: Elsevier, pp. 663-669.

2014       “Theorizing the ‘Fifth Migration’ in the United States:  Understanding Lifestyle Migration from an Integrated Approach” in Understanding Lifestyle Migration:  Theorizing Approaches to Migration and the Quest for a Better Way of Life, Benson and Osbaldiston, Eds.  Hampshire: Palgrave, pp. 781-91.

2013       “Roy Rappaport” in Theory in Social and Cultural Anthropology, J. McGee and R. Warms, Eds.  Sage, pp. 685-688.

2009      “Pursuing the Good Life: American Narratives of Travel and a Search for Refuge” in Lifestyle Migration: Expectations, Aspirations and Experiences, K. O’Reilly and M. Benson, eds.  London: Ashgate, pp. 31-50.

2008       “American Dreaming:  Refugees from Corporate Work Seek the Good Life” in The Changing Landscape of Work and Family in the American Middle Class, E. Rudd and L. Descartes, eds.  Lanham, MD: Lexington, pp. 117-139.

2007      “Therapeutic Uses of Place in the Intentional Space of Purposive Community” in Therapeutic Landscapes: Advances and Applications, A. Williams, ed.  London: Ashgate, pp. 297-314.


Find copies and links to my work at

[1] For more information on I’m Afraid of that Water and details for ordering, see You can also find the book on Amazon.

[2] For more information on Reinventing and Reinvesting in the Local, see

[3] For more information on Opting for Elsewhere and details for ordering, see You can also find the book on Amazon.

Liberal Arts & Sciences

Taking an intellectual risk, that is, a willingness to challenge oneself to think differently about the world, is at the root of a Liberal Arts & Science Education.  Learn more about the case for the necessity of such an education for a prosperous future in the American Association of Colleges and Universities report titled Making the Case for Liberal Education: Responding to Challenges.

Practically Applied Academics

Selected Courses

Cultural Anthropology

Culture and Environment

Design Planning & Health

Disaster, Culture & Health

Ethnographic Methods

Ethnological Theory

Health, Culture and Society

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Department of Sociology and Anthropology
Smith Hall 727
One John Marshall Drive
Huntington, WV 25755-2678
Tel: 304-696-6700
Fax: 304-696-2803