Karen Coen Flynn, PhD

Senior Research Associate
Begun Center for Violence Prevention Research and Education
Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences

Dr. Flynn’s work is firmly grounded on a public/private mix of stakeholder partners, which brings together people whose shared goals and synergistic means of preventing violence and fostering community health may otherwise have gone unrecognized and unrealized. She serves as principal investigator for Woodruff Foundation research into drug treatment perspectives of individuals who have experienced an opioid overdose in Cleveland, Ohio. Dr. Flynn also is program director/qualitative data specialist for several federally funded (DOJ, CDC, SAMHSA) research and evaluation projects awarded Cuyahoga County (Ohio) government agencies or the Begun Center designed to explore ways to ameliorate the effects of the opioid overdose epidemic, as well as improve outcomes for people experiencing behavioral health challenges.

Dr. Flynn is a cultural anthropologist. For over 25 years she has been using mixed-methods research to engage with, learn from, and support people experiencing difficulties accessing basic needs to sustain their physical and behavioral health in the United States, Tanzania, and Indonesia. Through her applied, often street-based, work she has witnessed first-hand and developed a deep understanding of the burdensome intersections of gender, identity, poverty, hunger, survival sex work, homelessness, violence, chronic illness (e.g., drug addiction, mental illness), and infectious disease (e.g., Tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS).

Karen was awarded her Ph.D. in cultural anthropology from Harvard University. Her doctoral research explored contemporary food-provisioning processes in urban Mwanza, Tanzania. She earned her master’s degree in social anthropology from the University of Cambridge.

Curriculum Vitae

Q: Why is your work at the Begun Center important to you, to our community, and to the world? I believe the importance of Begun Center research and evaluation projects arises from the mutual partnerships the Center establishes and nurtures with others. I have seen the excitement that results from the effective connections, communication, trust-building, and project implementation that underpin such collaborations and believe the Begun Center’s work is very well placed to foster sustainable, positive, community-wide change in Cuyahoga County and advance models to guide improvements in health and safety in communities elsewhere.

Q: What is a cause about which you are particularly passionate? I am personally committed to social justice and supporting people’s equitable access to resources that meet their basic needs.



Food, Culture and Survival in an African City.  New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005

Journal Articles

Opportunities to Improve Behavioral Health Crisis Response: Results of a large urban county’s community needs assessment. (2021) Co-authored with M. Riske-Morris & D. Hussey. Journal of Community Psychology, https://doi.org/10.1002/jcop.22697 

“Writing ‘Street Culture’ should be a Crime.” (2020) Co-authored with M. S. Fleisher. In J. I. Ross (Ed.), Handbook on Street Culture (1st ed., pp. 259-268 ). Routledge.

“The Utility and Impact of the Addiction Comprehensive Health Enhancement Support System (ACHESS) on Substance Abuse Treatment Adherence among Youth in an Intensive Outpatient Program.” (2019) Co-authored with D. Hussey. Psychiatry Research 281,1-7. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.psychres.2019.112580

“We Can Change Our Culture of Gun Violence: Here’s how.” Co-authored with D. Flannery. (2019) Retrieved from https://youthtoday.org/2019/07/we-can-change-our-culture-of-gun-violence-heres-how/ 

“Structural Misgendering of Transgender Sex Workers in Chicago via Mug Shots?  A Case Study of Practicing in the Social Sciences.” (2018) Co-authored with R. Lovell and M. Luminais.  Practicing Anthropology, 40(1), 48-52.

Transitioning Illicit Drug Preferences and Identities in Ohio: The Proliferation of Methamphetamine Use among African-Americans.” (2017)  Co-authored with L. Hoffer. Journal of Ethnicity in Substance Abuse, July, 1-22, doi: 10.1080/15332640.2017.1325809

“Street Credit: The Cultural Politics of African Street Children’s Hunger.” (2007) In Counihan, C. and VanEsterik, P. (Eds.), Food and Culture: A Reader (2nd edition). New York: Routledge.

“Ethical Dilemmas in Research with a Tanzanian NGO Supporting Street Girls and Boys.” (2006) Co-authored with M. Kudrati. Practicing Anthropology, 28(4), 21-25.

“Weaving a Stronger Food-Assistance Net.”(2003) Co-authored with C. Behrman and A. Hanlin. Practicing Anthropology, 25(2), 7-10.

Teaching the Day After: An Assessment of American University Pedagogy in the Wake of September 11, 2001.”(2002) Co-authored with T.J. Boisseau. Anthropology and Education Quarterly, 33(3), 350-367.

“Gender, Power and Entitlement Theory.” (2002) Co-authored with C. Behrman. Nutritional Anthropology, 25(1), 35-8.

Urban Agriculture in Mwanza, Tanzania.” (2001) AFRICA, 71 (4), 666-691.

“Food, Gender and Survival Among Street Adults of Mwanza, Tanzania.” (1999) Food and Foodways, 8(1), 1-30.

Edited Journal Issue

“Centering Gender and Women’s Experiences in Katrina’s New Orleans.” (2008) Co- authored chapter and co-edited issue with T.J. Boisseau, K. Feltey, L. Gelfand, and M. Triece. National Women’s Studies Association Journal, New Orleans: A Special Issue on the Gender Politics of Place and Displacement, 20(3), vii-xvii.

Book Reviews

"Poor Families in America’s Health Care Crisis." (2008) American Anthropologist 110(1), 82.

Food Aid After 50 Years: Recasting Its Role. (2006) African Studies Review, 49(3), 62- 63.

Mwalimu: The Influence of Nyerere. (1997) International Journal of African Historical Studies 30(2), 407-409.

Crisis, Urbanization, and Urban Poverty in Tanzania. (1996) International Journal of African Historical Studies, 29(3), 23-5.


Selected Presentations

The Utility and Impact of ACHESS on Substance Abuse Treatment Adherence among Youth in an Intensive Outpatient Program. Poster co-presented with David Hussey, 31st Annual Research and Policy Conference on Child, Adolescent, and Young Adult Behavioral Health. Tampa, FL, March 4, 2018.

"Adult Usage of and Satisfaction with Addiction Comprehensive Health Enhancement Support System (ACHESS) during Substance Abuse Treatment in Cuyahoga County, Ohio." Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services Board of Cuyahoga County, Ohio. February 14, 2018.