Ph.D., New York University, 2003
Alondra Nelson is Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology and the Institute for Research on Women and Gender.
Nelson's research explores the production of knowledge about human difference in biomedicine and technoscience and the circulation of these ideas in the public sphere: Her research focuses on how science and its applications shape the social world, including aspects of personal identification, racial formation and collective action. In turn, she also explores the ways in which social groups challenge, engage and, in some instances, adopt and mobilize conceptualizations of race, ethnicity, and gender derived from scientific and technical domains.
Nelson is the author of Body and Soul: The Black Panther Party and the Fight Against Medical Discrimination (University of Minnesota Press, 2011), which was recognized with four professional awards, including the Mirra Komarovsky Book Award from the Eastern Sociological Society and the Distinguished Contribution to Scholarship Book Award from the American Sociological Association (Section on Race, Gender, and Class). A finalist for the 2012 C. Wright Mills Award, Body and Soul is the first book-length exploration of the radical organization’s health-focused activities. Through its activism, Nelson argues, the Black Panther Party advanced a “social health” frame—a distinctive, expansive conceptualization of well-being that articulated biological wellness with both economic justice and racial equality and that would anticipate contemporary debates about racial health disparities.
Her next book, The Social Life of DNA: Race and Reconciliation after the Genome (forthcoming from Beacon Press), traces how claims about ancestry are marshaled together with genetic analysis in a range of social ventures. She takes up these themes in two recent publications that are among the earliest empirical scholarly investigations of direct-to-consumer genetic testing: “Bio Science: Genetic Ancestry Testing and the Pursuit of African Ancestry” (Social Studies of Science 38, 2008) and "The Factness of Diaspora: The Social Sources of Genetic Genealogy" (in Revisiting Race in a Genomics Age, Rutgers University Press, 2008). Nelson is also co-editor of Genetics and the Unsettled Past: The Collision of DNA, Race, and History (with Keith Wailoo and Catherine Lee; Rutgers University Press, 2012) and Technicolor: Race, Technology, and Everyday Life (with Thuy Linh N. Tu; New York University Press, 2001).
Her research has been supported by the Ford Foundation, the Woodrow Wilson Foundation and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. From 2006-2007, she was an external fellow at the W.E.B Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research at Harvard University. She has also been a visiting scholar at the International Center for Advanced Study at New York University, the BIOS Centre at the London School of Economics, the Bavarian-American Academy in Munich, and the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin. Prior to joining Columbia University, Nelson was on the faculty of Yale University, where she received the Poorvu Family Award for Interdisciplinary Teaching Excellence.
The Social Life of DNA: Race and Reconciliation after the Genome. forthcoming, Beacon Press.
Keith Wailoo, Alondra Nelson, and Catherine Lee. (eds). 2012. Genetics and the Unsettled Past: The Collision of DNA, Race, and History. Rutgers University Press.
Body and Soul: The Black Panther Party and the Fight against Medical Discrimination. 2011. University of Minnesota Press.
Alondra Nelson and Thuy Linh Tu with Alicia Headlam Hines. (eds). 2001. Technicolor: Race, Tecnology, and Everyday Life. New York University Press.
Executive Committee, Institute for Research on Women and Gender (IRWaG)
Executive Committee, Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race (CSER)
Faculty Affiliate, Institute for Research in African-American Studies (IRAAS)