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Neil M. Gong

Assistant Professor of Sociology, University of California, San Diego
Chapter Member: San Diego SSN
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About Neil

Gong's research focuses on inequality, with particular interest in mental health care and social services in urban settings. Overarching themes in Gong's writings include how resources shape treatment provision, how cultural ideals of freedom operate in American institutions, and methodologically, how to best link rigorous qualitative research to other research methods. In a previous project, Gong researched a variety of "underground" combat sport and fighting subcultures.


In the News

Opinion: "Housing First Can Work—If Done Right," Neil M. Gong (with Katherine Beckett), The American Prospect, February 27, 2024.
Interviewed in "Why Treatment for Severe Mental Illness Looks Radically Different for Rich and Poor People," (with Rachel M. Cohen) Vox, December 29, 2023.
Opinion: "California Gave People the ‘Right’ To Be Homeless — But Little Help Finding Homes," Neil M. Gong, The Washington Post, May 20, 2021.
Opinion: "Can Abolition Work in an Age of Right-Wing Extremism?," Neil M. Gong (with Heath Pearson), The Atlantic, January 22, 2021.
Opinion: "How Defunding Abusive Institutions Goes Wrong, and How We Can Do It Right," Neil M. Gong, Los Angeles Review of Books, August 24, 2020.
Opinion: "How Andrew Yang Can and Should Advance Racial Understanding," Neil M. Gong (with Xiaohong Xu), San Francisco Chronicle, December 12, 2019.
Opinion: "Open Forum: Save San Francisco’s Board-And-Care Homes — and Then Fix Them," Neil M. Gong (with Alex Vosick Barnard), San Francisco Chronicle, September 17, 2019.


Beyond the Case: The Logics and Practices of Comparative Ethnography (edited with Corey Abramson) (Oxford University Press, 2020).

Considers how to best draw comparisons between sites, groups, or cases in ethnographic research. Advances a pluralistic vision of when and how different field research approaches can be most useful for different types of mixed-methods research.

"Between Tolerant Containment and Concerted Constraint: Managing Madness for the City and the Privileged Family" American Sociological Review 84, no. 4 (August 2019): 664-689.

Finds public safety net psychiatric providers may tolerate potentially negative client behaviors like drug use if contained in the right locations, as the goal is keeping people in housing and out of jail. Finds elite private care providers, on the other hand, engage in tighter surveillance and control of behavior because they have a contrasting goal of recovery and rehabilitation.

"“That Proves You Mad, Because You Know It Not”: Impaired Insight and the Dilemma of Governing Psychiatric Patients as Legal Subjects" Theory and Society 46 (2017): 201-228.

Notes recent mental health policy has argued that "impaired insight," or the idea that mental illness renders some people unaware of mental illness, is grounds to restrict psychiatric patient's rights for their own good. Examines the history and science behind the concept and finds it scientifically dubious, and argues that it must be heavily scrutinized before it is used in policy or legal debates.