A.B., Swarthmore College; Ph.D., Harvard University
Associate Professor of American Studies
Qualitative sociologist with emphasis on race, class, gender, and cultural production.
All of my work concerns racism, sexism, exploitation, and the ways people in marginalized positions create meaning and build identities. My current research delves into the world of professional comedy, as the overlap of social and professional demands produces strong artistic communities within an exploitative industry. The benefits of these communities are unevenly distributed, however, as comedy workers from different backgrounds have wildly different experiences and prospects in the business.
My previous book, Paint the White House Black: Barack Obama and the Meaning of Race in America, uses Obama-related topics to demonstrate how race relies on other social forces, like gender and class, for its meaning and impact. It features discussions of race and nationhood, discourses of "biracialism" and Obama's mixed heritage, the purported emergence of a "post-racial society," and popular symbols of Michelle Obama as a modern black woman.
I have also written widely on hip-hop music. My first book, Thug Life: Race, Gender, and the Meaning of Hip-Hop, puts the spotlight on hip-hop fans, as I document the ways everyday listeners define hip-hop and use it in their lives. Additional articles and essays include pieces about hip-hop feminism and representations of love in hip-hop performances.
At Wellesley, I teach Introduction to American Studies, as well as courses on race and politics, and the sociology of sports. I also teach advanced seminars for third- and fourth-year students on Barack Obama and hip-hop studies. I enjoy teaching students about the benefits of interdisciplinary learning, and helping them apply academic work to experiences and cultural events from their daily lives.
My non-academic writing has been published by The Boston Globe, The Atlantic, and The Guardian, and I am a regular contributor at Boston's public broadcasting station, WGBH. You can follow me on Twitter @M_P_Jeffries