Skip to main content

About Brian A. Hoey, Ph.D., Administrator, Professor and Ethnographer

I am the Dean of the Honors College and a Professor of Anthropology at Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia. My 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, my 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. My 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, my 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. 
My 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, I 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.


December 2022 - Present Dean, Marshall University ‐ Honors College
August 2012 - Present Faculty Affiliate, Marshall University ‐ International Health Track, Department of Family and Community Health
August 2007 - Present Faculty in Anthropology, Marshall University ‐ Department of Sociology & Anthropology
September 2021 - November 2022 Interim Dean, Marshall University ‐ Honors College
July 2018 - August 2021 Associate Dean, Marshall University ‐ Honors College

Curriculum Vitae

Research Interests

Bio-cultural approaches to health, culture and environment, economic restructuring and community development, collaborative ethnography, ethnographic methods, migration

Enter a valid date range.

Enter a valid date range.

Honors and Awards

  • Emerging Crises Oral History Research Fund Grant
  • Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Early Career Work and Family Scholar
  • Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Center for the Study of Working Families Fellowship
  • Fulbright Fellowship to the Republic of Indonesia
  • United States Department of Education Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowship
  • Distinguished Artists and Scholars Award


  • US Culture and the Changing Family
  • Disease in Evolutionary and Cultural History
  • Human Ecology
  • Health, Culture and Society
  • Ethnographic Research
  • Disaster, Culture & Health
  • Design Planning & Health
  • Culture and Environment
  • Cultural Anthropology


1994 - 2002 PhD, University of Michigan ‐ Anthropology
September 1993 - June 1994 Certificate in Indonesian Language, Fellow, Cornell University ‐ Southeast Asia Program, FALCON
1986 - 1990 BA, College of the Atlantic ‐ Human Ecology

Contact Information

The Honors College
Marshall University
One John Marshall Drive
Huntington, West Virginia


Books (3)

Report (1)

Contributions to Books (10)

Articles (9)

Paper Presentations (as submitted through the Marshall Digital Scholar system only) (6)