Michael Dawson named director of Center for the Study of Race, Politics and Culture

Michael Dawson, the John D. MacArthur Distinguished Service Professor in Political Science and the College, has been named director of the Center for the Study of Race, Politics and Culture.

“One of the nation’s leading experts on race and politics, Michael Dawson was the Center’s founding director,” said Provost Thomas F. Rosenbaum, the John T. Wilson Distinguished Service Professor of Physics. “His return promises to advance innovative, interdisciplinary scholarship, teaching at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, public engagement with matters of race, ethnicity, politics and culture, and community building on campus and beyond.”

Dawson’s research has explored the development of quantitative models of African American political behavior, identity and public opinion. He has focused on the political effects of urban poverty and has characterized African American political ideology. His work also explores the differences in public opinion between African Americans and white Americans.

With his new appointment, Dawson said he looks forward to reinforcing the University’s leading role in the study of issues surrounding race.

“We are truly fortunate to be located in a city with such rich political and cultural traditions — traditions that have been, and continue to be, profoundly shaped by the dynamics of race in the U.S. and the world,” Dawson said.

In addition to numerous journal publications, book chapters and opinion pieces, Dawson has authored two books — Behind the Mule: Race and Class in African-American Politics (Princeton, 1994) and the award-winning Black Visions: The Roots of Contemporary African-American Political Ideologies (Chicago, 2001). A third book, Not in Our Lifetimes: The Future of Black Politics, is being published by the University of Chicago Press this fall.  

Principal investigator on several significant studies of African American political behavior, Dawson is also known for his project with Lawrence Bobo, in which they conducted six public opinion studies on the racial divide in the United States. The information they gathered between 2000 and 2004 is considered the richest data on the issue. Along with Bobo he is also the co-founding editor of the Du Bois Review, the leading social science journal on racial research.

Dawson, whose three-year term began July 1, succeeds Ramon A. Gutierrez, the Preston & Sterling Morton Distinguished Service Professor of History and the College. Gutierrez is a distinguished scholar with expertise in Chicano history, race and ethnicity in American life, the social and economic history of the American Southwest, colonial Latin America and Mexican immigration.

Under Gutierrez’s leadership, the Center has hosted scholarly and cultural activities that include faculty research conferences on topics such as migrant rights, black religions and spiritualities, and black youth; an artist-in-residence program; fellowship awards to students and postdoctoral scholars; and expanded course offerings.

Dawson’s new role is his latest position of leadership at UChicago. He joined the faculty in 1992, having served on the faculty at the University of Michigan after receiving his PhD from Harvard University in 1986. Dawson was on the faculty at Harvard from 2002-05, when he returned to the University of Chicago. In addition to his role as founding director of the Center, Dawson has served as chair of the Department of Political Science and director of the Mellon Undergraduate Fellowship Program.