- Assistant Professor
- Department of African American Studies
- Faculty Associate
- Program in the History of Science, Department of Sociology, Center for Health and Wellbeing, Program in Gender and Sexuality Studies, Program in Global Health and Health Policy
- Ph.D, Sociology
- UC Berkeley
On Sabbatical from the Department of African American Studies for the 2016-2017 Academic Year
Ruha Benjamin specializes in the interdisciplinary study of science, medicine, and technology; race-ethnicity and gender; knowledge and power. She is author of People’s Science: Bodies and Rights on the Stem Cell Frontier (Stanford University Press 2013), Race After Technology (Polity, forthcoming), and editor of Captivating Technology: Race, Technoscience, and the Carceral Imagination (Duke University Press, forthcoming), as well as numerous articles and book chapters.
Professor Benjamin received her BA in sociology and anthropology from Spelman College, MA and PhD in sociology from UC Berkeley, and completed postdoctoral fellowships at UCLA’s Institute for Society and Genetics and Harvard University’s Science, Technology, and Society Program. She has been awarded fellowships and grants from the American Council of Learned Societies, National Science Foundation, Ford Foundation, and the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine among others, and is a 2016-17 Member at the Institute for Advanced Study (Princeton) where she continues work on the following projects:
- The Emperor’s New Genes is a multi-sited investigation of how human population genomics reflects, reinforces, and sometimes challenges socio-political classifications such as race, caste, and citizenship. This study explores how the social dimensions of genomics are enacted in different national contexts, with special attention to how “genomic sovereignty” and public health are configured in the process. Papers related to this project are published in Policy & Society; Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science; and Reimagining Biomedicalization, Pharmaceuticals, and Genetics: Old Critiques and New Engagements.
- Black to the Future: An Imagination Incubator includes workshops, publications, and collaborations that examine and experiment with speculative fiction as a site of sociological knowledge and praxis. This project draws together the arts, activism, and scholarship to imagine and enact alternative social realities that are more just and habitable than the present. Work related to this project is published in Discover Society; Catalyst: Feminism, Theory, and Technoscience; and Kalfou: A Journal of Comparative and Relational Ethnic Studies.
AAS 235 / SOC 236
Race is Socially Constructed: Now, What?
The truism that “race is socially constructed” hides more than it reveals. Have Irish Americans always been white? Are people of African descent all black? Is calling Asian Americans a “model minority” a compliment? Does race impact who we date or marry? In this course, students develop a sophisticated conceptual toolkit to make sense of such contentious cases of racial vision and division as the uprising in Ferguson. We learn to connect contemporary events to historical processes, and individual experiences to institutional policies, exercising a sociological imagination with the potential to not only analyze, but transform the status quo.
AAS 301 / SOC 367
Black to the Future: Science, Fiction, and Society
Designer Babies. Ancestry Tests. Organ Regeneration. Biometric Surveillance. These and more comprise our 21st century landscape. This interdisciplinary course examines the values and politics that shape science, medicine, and technology, asking who bears the risk and who reaps the benefit of innovations? Social inequality is legitimized, in part, by myths about human difference. And while course participants grapple with past and present stories that shape science and technology, we also apply a sociological imagination to the future, exploring how contemporary hopes and fears may give rise to “real utopias” that are more equitable and just.
AAS 302/SOC 303/ANT 378/GSS 340
Political Bodies: The Social Anatomy Of Power & Difference
In this seminar students will learn about the human body in its social, cultural, and political contexts. The framing is sociological rather than biomedical, attentive to cultural meanings, institutional practices, politics, and social problems. The course explicitly discusses bodies in relation to race, class, gender, sexuality, ability, age, health, geography, and citizenship status, carefully examining how social differences come to appear natural. From clinics to prisons to borders to virtual realities, students develop a conceptual toolkit to analyze how society “gets under the skin”, producing differential exposure to premature death.