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Deborah Thomas

Professor of Anthropology and Africana Studies


Deborah A. Thomas (Ph.D. New York University 2000) is an Associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania. Her first book, Modern Blackness: Nationalism, Globalization, and The Politics of Culture in Jamaica (Duke University Press, 2004), focused on the changing relationships among the political and cultural dimensions of nationalism, globalization, and popular culture. Thomas also co-edited the volume Globalization and Race: Transformations in the Cultural Production of Blackness (Duke University Press, 2006) with Kamari Clarke, a special issue of the journal Identities titled “Caribbeanist Anthropologies at the Crossroads” with Karla Slocum, and a special issue of Feminist Review called “Gendering Diaspora” with Tina M. Campt. Thomas is currently working on two research projects. The first explores the effects of a contract labor program developed by the Jamaican Ministry of Labour that sponsors the seasonal migration of Jamaican women for work in hotels throughout the United States. The second investigates the unprecedented eruption of gang violence in the Jamaican community where she has conducted research since 1996 and examines how this violence is related to broader patterns of violence in and beyond Jamaica. Prior to her life as an academic, she was a professional dancer with the New York-based Urban Bush Women. She was also a Program Director with the National Council for Research on Women, an international working alliance of women's research and policy centers whose mission is to enhance the connections among research, policy analysis, advocacy, and innovative programming on behalf of women and girls.