Alondra Nelson

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For other people named Alondra Nelson, see Alondra Nelson (disambiguation).
Alondra Nelson
Born United States Bethesda, Maryland, U.S.
Alma mater University of California, San Diego
New York University
Occupation Dean of Social Science; Professor of Sociology and former Director, Institute for Research on Women Gender, and Sexuality; Author
Employer Columbia University
Known for Science and Technology Studies; Sociology; African American Studies
Alondra Nelson at Columbia University Alondra Nelson's Website

Alondra Nelson is an award-winning American academic and writer. She is a professor of sociology and gender studies and the inaugural Dean of Social Science [1] at Columbia University in the City of New York. She is former Director of the Institute for Research on Women, Gender, and Sexuality.[2] She is also the first African American to be tenured in the Department of Sociology at Columbia.

Personal life[edit]

Born in Bethesda, Maryland, she was raised in San Diego, California.

In 2000, she married Ben Williams, an editor at New York Magazine. They later divorced. She was romantically linked to Harvard University Law professor Randall Kennedy.


She earned a B.A. in Anthropology (magna cum laude) from the University of California at San Diego in 1994. At UCSD, she was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. She earned a Ph.D. in American Studies from New York University in 2003.

From 2003-2009, she was Assistant Professor of African American Studies, American Studies and Sociology at Yale University,[3][4] where she was the recipient of the Poorvu Family Award for Interdisciplinary Teaching.[5] At Yale, Nelson was the first Black woman to join the Department of Sociology faculty.

Nelson has been a visiting scholar at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, the BIOS Centre for the Study of Bioscience, Biomedicine, Biotechnology and Society at the London School of Economics, the Bayreuth Academy of Advanced African Studies, and the International Center for Advanced Studies at New York University. She serves on the editorial boards of Social Studies of Science and Social Text.


Nelson writes about the intersections of science, technology, medicine and African diasporic experience.[6][7] Named one of "13 Notable Blacks In Technology" By Black Voices,[8] she established the Afrofuturism on-line community in 1998 and edited an eponymous special issue of the journal Social Text in 2002.[9] She is also co-editor, with Thuy Linh Tu, of Technicolor: Race, Technology and Everyday Life, one of the first scholarly works to examine the racial politics of contemporary technoculture.[10][11] Her writing and commentary have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe,[12] The Guardian (London) and The Chronicle of Higher Education,[13] among other publications.

Nelson's writing deals with the intersection of technology, culture, and new media, and how these lenses can be used to address the continuing impacts of African Diaspora. She is among a small group of critical theorists studying and discussing Afrofuturism, an emerging theoretical and cultural aesthetic. Particularly, her essay Future Texts lends insight to the inequitable access to technologies between whites and blacks. She writes, "Blackness gets constructed as always oppositional to technologically driven chronicles of progress." [14] Nelson explores the way artists and writers have adopted older forms of technology and retrofitted them to promote a black aesthetic.

Awards and Fellowships[edit]

Nelson has won several awards over the course of her career. Her book, Body and Soul, received the Mirra Komarovsky Award, the Letita Woods Brown Award, the Best Book Award from the Association from Humanist Sociology and the American Sociological Association's Distinguished Contribution to Scholarship Book Award (Section on Race, Class and Gender). This book was also a finalist for the C. Wright Mills Award.

In 2013, Nelson received the Just Wellness Award from the Third Root Community Health Center for writing Body and Soul, a "work at the nexus of healing and social justice." [15]

Nelson is the recipient of fellowships from the Ford Foundation, the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. She is also a member of the Council on Big Data, Ethics, and Society and serves as advisor to the Data and Society Research Institute.



Articles and Book Chapters[edit]


  1. ^ Jasen, Georgette. "Faculty of Arts and Sciences Names New Divisional Deans for Social Sciences and Humanities", Columbia News, 24 June 2014.
  2. ^ Institute for Research on Women, Gender, and Sexuality.
  3. ^ Smallwood, Scott and Flores, Christopher. "Yale Seeks 'Next Generation' of Stars in Black Studies", Chronicle of Higher Education, 22 February 2002.
  4. ^ Lee, Brian. "Prof Cornel West heads south to Princeton". Yale Daily News, 15 April 2002.
  5. ^ "Junior Faculty Win Awards In Support of Their Research", Yale University Office of Public Affairs, 7 November 2008.
  6. ^ Alondra Nelson, Columbia University
  7. ^ "Scholars Question the Image of the Internet as a Race-Free Utopia", Chronicle of Higher Education, 28 September 2001.
  8. ^ "13 Notable Blacks In Technology," Black Voices
  9. ^ John Pfeiffer, Review of Alondra Nelson, guest ed. Social Text 71: Afrofuturism. Utopian Studies 14:1 (2003): 240-43.
  10. ^ Estrada,Sheryl. "What Does it Mean to be Hi-Tech Anyway?", Black Issues Book Review, 1 January 2002.
  11. ^ [1] Reviews of Technicolor: Race, Technology, and Everyday Life. Resource Center for Cyberculture Studies.
  12. ^ "Beyond Roots", Boston Globe, 10 February 2006.
  13. ^ "Henry Louis Gates's Extended Family", The Chronicle of Higher Education, 12 February 2010; "The Social Life of DNA", The Chronicle of Higher Education, Big Ideas for the Next Decade, 29 August 2010.
  14. ^ Nelson, Alondra (2002). "Introduction: Future Texts". Social Text 20 (2): 1–15. doi:10.1215/01642472-20-2_71-1. 
  15. ^ Alondra Nelson receives Just Wellness Award

External links[edit]