Alondra Nelson is Dean of Social Science and professor of sociology and gender studies at Columbia University, where she has served as director of the Institute for Research on Women, Gender, and Sexuality. Prior to joining Columbia, Nelson was on the faculty of Yale University from 2003-2009 and received the Poorvu Family Award for teaching excellence.
An interdisciplinary social scientist, she writes about the intersections of science, technology, medicine, and inequality. These themes are taken up in her most recent book, Body and Soul: The Black Panther Party and the Fight Against Medical Discrimination, which was recognized with four professional prizes, including the Mirra Komarovsky Book Award from the Eastern Sociological Society and the Distinguished Contribution to Scholarship Book Award from the Race, Class and Gender section of the American Sociological Association. Also named a finalist for the C. Wright Mills Award, Body and Soul is the first book-length exploration of the radical organization’s health-focused activities.
Her next book, The Social Life of DNA: Race and Reconciliation after the Genome, is forthcoming from Beacon Press in 2015. Drawing on interviews and fieldwork, this book traces how claims about heritage and ancestry are marshaled together with genetic analysis in a range of social ventures, including kin-keeping, reparations politics, citizenship projects, and public commemoration.
Alondra is also an editor of Genetics and the Unsettled Past: The Collision of DNA, Race, and History; Technicolor: Race, Technology, and Everyday Life; and “Afrofuturism,” a special issue of Social Text on technology and cultural politics. Nelson is the author of more than a dozen articles and chapters on topics ranging from the use of racial categories in medicine and the social implications of direct-to-consumer genetic testing to the intersection of genetic genealogy and social media. In addition, her essays, reviews, and commentary have appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Boston Globe, Science, Scientific American, the Chronicle of Higher Education, Dissent and the Guardian, among others venues.
Nelson serves on the editorial boards of the journals Social Studies of Science and Social Text. She is a council member of the Eastern Sociological Society; serves on the advisory board of the Data & Society Research Institute, and is a member of the NSF-funded Council for Big Data, Ethics and Society. At Columbia, she is a member of the governing board of The Society of Fellows in the Humanities and of the executive committee of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.
An internationally recognized scholar, she has been a visiting fellow at BIOS: Centre for the Study of Bioscience, Biomedicine, Biotechnology and Society at the London School of Economics; the Bavarian-American Academy; the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science; and the Bayreuth Academy of Advanced African Studies. She is also the recipient of Ford, Woodrow Wilson, and Mellon fellowships.
Nelson received her B.A. in Anthropology (magna cum laude), from the University of California, where she was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. She earned her Ph.D. in American Studies from New York University in 2003.
A transplanted Californian, she lives in New York City.