Ph.D., Yale, 1978
Jonathan Rieder, Professor of Sociology, joined the faculty of Barnard College in 1990 and chaired the department from 1990 through 2003. In addition to his teaching in the Department of Sociology, Professor Rieder directs Barnard’s Civic Engagement program. He is affiliated with Barnard's programs in American Studies, Jewish Studies, and Human Rights Studies, and is a member of the graduate faculty of Columbia University. Professor Rieder teaches courses on contemporary American culture and politics, unity and division in the United States, the sociology of culture, race, ethnicity and American pluralism, and has taught “The Shapes and Shadows of Identity” in the First Year Writing Program.
His 2008 book, The Word of the Lord is Upon Me: The Righteous Performance of Martin Luther King, Jr. (Harvard University Press, 2008), was the subject of comment and review in The Washington Post, The New York Sunday Times Book Review, the Los Angeles Times, Harpers Magazine, Newsweek, the Nation and Christian Century. Rieder has discussed King on Michel Martin’s National Public Radio show “Tell Me More,” on the Tavis Smiley Show on PBS, on the Brian Lehrer show, in the Washington Post-Newsweek magazine “On Faith,” on CNN, and many other places. His article “‘I’m Going to Be a Negro Tonight’: Martin Luther King, Jr., Barack Obama and Postracial Paradoxes” appeared in the summer 2009 issue of The Michigan Review. The Huffington Post featured Rieder’s "Too Black or Not Black Enough?: Final Thoughts on Beer Summits and Postracial Paradoxes” in Fall of 2009.
Rieder is currently working on two projects. The first, Authority and Indignation in “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” is a reinterpretation of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s iconic letter in the light of King’s performances in black venues during the Birmingham insurgency. Rieder received a fellowship at the Davis Center for Historical Studies at Princeton to work on that project in 2011-12. The second project, Crossing Over, an analysis of the birth of the contemporary world of racial crossover culture, explores the complex interplay of blacks and whites in the transformation of rhythm and blues into soul music (and rock n roll) and traces out the ripples of crossover culture in various modern incarnations, including the 2008 triumph of Barack Obama.
Between 1995 and 2001, Professor Rieder was founding coeditor of CommonQuest: The Magazine of Black-Jewish Relations, which won national acclaim for the fresh way it explored a broad array of racial, ethnic, and religious conflicts in the United States and beyond. He has been a regular contributor to The New York Times Sunday Book Review and a contributing editor for The New Republic, where his cover stories on black-Korean conflict in Brooklyn, the Crown Heights riot, and the Howard Beach affair chronicled racial and ethnic tensions in New York City during the late 1980s and early1990s. Professor Rieder has been awarded fellowships by the National Humanities Center, the Woodrow Wilson Center, the Russell Sage Foundatio, the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, and the Davis Center for Historical Studies at Princeton.