Dr. Leith Mullings, Distinguished Professor of Anthropology at the CUNY Graduate Center, is an anthropologist, author, lecturer and educator. She served as President of the American Anthropological Association from 2011-2013. Much of her work focuses on the analysis of inequality and she has been involved in research projects in Africa, the United States and Latin America. Through the lens of feminist and critical race theory, she has analyzed a variety of topics including kinship, representation, gentrification, health disparities and social movements. Mullings has a strong commitment to producing scholarship that addresses timely social issues, is undertaken in collaboration with research subjects and seeks to empower communities through knowledge.
…her work has centered on inequality, its consequences and resistance to it in the U.S. and other regions of the world.
Leith Mullings received her Ph.D. from the University of Chicago and is currently Distinguished Professor of Anthropology at the Graduate Center, CUNY. After beginning her research in Africa with the study of religion, plural medical and the construction of personhood in postcolonial Ghana (Therapy, Ideology and Social Change: Mental Healing in Urban Ghana, [University of California Press, 1984]), her work has centered on inequality, its consequences and resistance to it in the U.S. and other regions of the world.
Examining race, racism and resistance in a global context, “Interrogating Racisms: Toward an Antiracist Anthropology,” (Annual Review of Anthropology, 34: 667-93, 2005) includes an extensive review of scholarship on racism and offers a framework for thinking about changing structures of racism in a global context. She has written about the intersections of race, class and gender (On Our Own Terms: Race, Class and Gender in the Lives of African American Women, [Routledge, 1997] in the U.S. and has applied an intersectional approach to explain how power differentials produce and reproduce health disparities (Gender, Race, Class and Health: Intersectional Approaches, co-edited with Amy Schulz, (Jossey-Bass, 2006). In Stress and Resilience: The Social Context of Reproduction in Central Harlem, co-authored with Alaka Wali, (Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers, 2001) as well as “The Sojourner Syndrome and the Social Context of Reproduction in Harlem” (Transforming Anthropology, 13(2): 79-91, 2005) she introduces ‘the Sojourner Syndrome’– a model for examining health disparities among African American women through analysis of the inequalities produced by class, race and gender.
In 2015, Mullings was among the 32 scholars named as Andrew Carnegie Fellows in the program’s first year.
Mullings also has a longstanding interest in social movements. With her late husband Manning Marable, she compiled Let Nobody Turn Us Around: Voices of Resistance, Reform, and Renewal (Rowman and Littlefield 2000, 2005), a widely used text in African American studies as well as Freedom: A Photographic History of the African American Struggle, (Phaidon Press 2002). Her edited volume, New Social Movements in the African Diaspora: Challenging Global Apartheid, (Palgrave MacMillan, 2009) was the foundation for her current projects, which are discussed in the next section.
Mullings’ research has been funded by the National Science Foundation, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Kellogg Foundation and the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research. She has been awarded the Society for the Anthropology of North America Prize for Distinguished Achievement in the Critical Study of North America and the French-American Foundation Prize: Chair in American Civilization, École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Paris, France. In addition, she has served on the editorial boards of numerous academic journals and on the Executive Boards of the American Ethnological Society and the American Anthropological Association and as President of the American Anthropological Association from 2011 to 2013.
“Presidential Address: Anthropology Matters,” American Anthropologist, 117(1):
“Movement, Migration and Displacement: What Can Anthropologists Contribute to the Public Discourse?” American Anthropologist 116 (1):147-48
New Social Movements in the African Diaspora: Challenging Global Apartheid, editor, New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2009.
Let Nobody Turn Us Around: An Anthology of African American Social and Political Thought from Slavery to the Present, Second Edition, (co-editor with Manning Marable) Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2009.
Gender, Race, Class and Health: Intersectional Approaches (co-edited with Amy Schulz), San Francisco: Josser-Bass, 2006.
“Resistance and Resilience: The Sojourner Syndrome and the Social Context of Reproduction in Central Harlem,” Transforming Anthropology, 13(2): 79-91, 2005.
“Interrogating Racism: Toward an Antiracist Anthropology,” Annual Review of Anthropology, 34: 667-93, 2005.
“Globalization and Race: Racialization from Below,” Souls: A Critical Journal of Black Politics, Culture and Society, 6(2): 1-9, 2004.
“Losing Ground: Harlem, the ‘War on Drugs’ and the Prison-Industrial Complex,” Souls: A Critical Journal of Black Politics, Culture and Society, 5(2): 22-41, 2002.
Freedom: A Photographic History of the African American Struggle (with Manning Marable), London: Phaeton Press, 2002. Awarded a Krazna-Krausz Foundation Book Prize.
Stress and Resilience: The Social Context of Reproduction in Central Harlem (with Alaka Wali), New York: Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers, 2001.
On Our Own Terms: Race, Class and Gender in the Lives of African American Women, New York: Routledge, 1997.
“Households Headed by Women in the United States: The Politics of Class, Race and Gender,” In Conceiving the New World Order, Faye Ginsburg and Rayna Rapp, eds., Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995.
Cities of the United States: Studies in Urban Anthropology, editor, New York: Columbia University Press, 1987. Selected by Choice as an Outstanding Academic Book of 1988-89.
Therapy, Ideology and Social Change: Mental Healing in Urban Ghana, Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1984.
“For research to be transformative, the subjects of research must become actors in the transformation of their own environment, as well as interpreters of their own space and place. In the end, the change agents of history are social movements in which everyday people, in their own language and from their own experiences, collectively work to change their world. Culture then becomes a weapon of struggle.”
-Leith Mullings, 2000, “African-American Women Making Themselves: Notes on the Role of Black Feminist Research,” Souls,p.28.
Harlem BirthRight Project
Funded by the Centers for Disease Control, the Harlem Birth Right Project explored racial disparities in health through ethnographic study of the ways in which race, class and gender intersected to produce unique stressors. The research team worked with community residents to create materials for community consumption such as the brochure below explaining the study and how the resulting findings could be used by them.
New York State Scholar-Practitioner Project
Mullings also directed the New York State Scholar-Practitioner Project, an initiative funded by the Kellogg Foundation that sought to bridge the gap between the academy and advocacy organizations. The research team analyzed the effects of welfare reform and presented their findings at five New York City community meetings. Materials, such as those below were produced in English, Spanish and Mandarin.
“Communication, Engagement, Outreach,” Anthropology News
“Report on AAA Adjunct Rights Resolution,” Savage Minds
“AAA President Reflects on Race,” Savage Minds
Leith Mullings discusses her late husband, Manning Marable’s writing the Pulitzer prize-winning biography of Malcolm X, Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention and his concerns the assassination of the black leader.
Leith Mullings discusses the Ebola crisis with Margaret Prescod of Pacifica Radio
Interview with Leith Mullings in Cultural Anthropology: A Toolkit for the Global Age, by Ken Guest
The New York City African Burial Ground
With Dana Davis, Mullings is currently completing a manuscript on the ethnohistory of the New York City African Burial Ground. The Burial Ground, dating from between the late 1600s and 1794, is he earliest and largest colonial population available for study and the largest colonial-era burial ground for people of African descent. Shortly after its discovery in 1991, people of African descent became involved in a 20-year struggle to recognize, preserve and memorialize the site. Davis and Mullings interviewed key participants about their role in this struggle and how they understood their intervention in constructing history.
Based on a network of anti-racist observatories in several Latin American countries, initiated by Charles Hale and Pamela Calle, the goal of this project is to analyze conditions of indigenous and African-descended peoples in the western hemisphere. By comparing manifestations of racism as well as strategies to address it in five Latin American countries and the United States, the research seeks to shed light on how racism and structured racial inequality is reproduced in the contemporary era.
Now more than ever, How Capitalism Underdeveloped Black America remains one of the most relevant studies of how and why racism and capitalism continue, predicting that freedoms for Black Americans cannot be achieved in a capitalist society and offering a way forward.
-Dr. Leith Mullings, from the book’s introduction
Manning Marable’s “paradigm-shifting” text, How Capitalism Underdeveloped Black America has been rereleased with a new introduction by Dr. Leith Mullings!