Deborah A. Thomas

Professor of Anthropology and Africana Studies

Research Areas:
  • Nationalism and Alternative Sovereignties
  • Globalization
  • The Caribbean
  • Race and Gender
  • Labor Migration
  • Transnationalism and Diaspora
  • Cultural Politics
  • Performance
  • Violence and the Transformation of Space
  • Culture and Political Economy
  • Popular Culture
Deborah A. Thomas received her Ph.D. in Anthropology from New York University 2000, and is currently Professor of Anthropology and Africana Studies, and Chair of the Graduate Group in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania. She also holds a secondary appointment with the Graduate School of Education, and she is a member of the graduate groups of Africana Studies and English. Prior to her appointment at Penn, she spent two years as a Mellon Post-Doctoral Fellow at the Center for the Americas at Wesleyan University, and four years teaching in the Department of Cultural Anthropology at Duke University. She is the author of Exceptional Violence: Embodied Citizenship in Transnational Jamaica, Modern Blackness: Nationalism, Globalization, and The Politics of Culture in Jamaica, and is co-editor of Globalization and Race: Transformations in the Cultural Production of Blackness (with Kamari Clarke). Thomas also co-edited a special issue of the journal Identities titled “Caribbeanist Anthropologies at the Crossroads” (2007) with Karla Slocum, and a special issue of Feminist Review called “Gendering Diaspora” (2008) with Tina M. Campt. Prior to her life as an academic, Thomas was a professional dancer with the New York-based Urban Bush Women, a company that is committed to using art as a means of addressing issues of social justice and encouraging civic engagement, and that brings the untold stories of disenfranchised people to light through dance from a woman-centered perspective and as members of the African Diaspora community. Thomas 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. She was editor of the journal Transforming Anthropology from 2007-2010, and currently sits on the Editorial Committee of the Caribbean-based journal Social and Economic Studies as well as the Editorial Board of American Anthropologist. She was a member of the Executive Council for the Caribbean Studies Association from 2008-2011, and is currently Secretary of the Society for Cultural Anthropology.
Contact Information