Vesla Mae Weaver serves as the Bloomberg Distinguished Professor of Political Science and Sociology at Johns Hopkins University and faculty affiliate of the Justice Collaboratory at Yale University. A scholar of American politics, she writes about race, power, and political life. Weaver has produced leading scholarship and pioneered concepts to understand the role of incarceration and policing in race-class subjugated communities and the development and consequences of coercive institutions in American democracy. Weaver’s books include Arresting Citizenship and Creating a New Racial Order. Her next book, The State From Below: Racial Authoritarianism in US Democracy, amasses the most extensive collection of first-hand accounts of the police—by those who are policed—to date, using a new civic infrastructure called Portals. She co-directs the American Prison Writing Archive, the largest and first fully searchable digital archive of imprisoned people writing about their experience inside confinement in four hundred prison and jail facilities. Such projects unite a concern with positioning the unfree as central theorists of democracy. Weaver’s research has been supported by fellowships from the Andrew Carnegie Foundation (2017 fellow), Russell Sage Foundation, National Science Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Brookings Institution, and owes her beginnings as a political scientist to the Ralph Bunche Summer Institute. She has written in the New York Times, Washington Post, Boston Review, Marshall Project, and Slate, among others. And she takes an active role in public debates about what it might mean to construct public space focused on civic health rather than surveillance.
A list of Weaver’s notable publications include:
- “Racial Authoritarianism in U.S. Democracy,” with Gwen Prowse; Science.
- “De-Policing America’s Youth: Disrupting Criminal Justice Policy Feedbacks That Distort Power and Derail Prospects,” with Amanda Geller; ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science.
- “Too Much Knowledge, Too Little Power: An Assessment of Political Knowledge in Highly Policed Communities,” with Spencer Piston and Gwen Prowse; Journal of Politics.
- “The Great Decoupling: The Disconnection Between Criminal Offending and Experience of Arrest Across Two Cohorts,” with Andrew Papachristos and Michael Zanger-Tishler; RSF: The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences.
- “Police Are Our Government: Politics, Political Science, and the Policing of Race-Class Subjugated Communities,” with Joe Soss, Annual Review of Political Science.
- “Political Consequences of the Carceral State,” with Amy Lerman; American Political Science Review.
- “Frontlash: Race and the Development of Punitive Crime Policy,” Studies in American Political Development.
- “Staying Out of Sight? Concentrated Policing and Local Political Action,” with Amy Lerman; Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science.
- “Electoral Consequences of Skin Color: The ‘Hidden’ Side of Race in Politics,” Political Behavior.
- “The Skin Color Paradox and the American Racial Order,” with Jennifer Hochschild; Social Forces.
Areas of Expertise
- Citizenship, Power, and Race-Class Subjugation
- Politics of Coercive Institutions in Nominally Democratic States
- Policing, Incarceration and State/Citizen Relations
- Colorism and Intra-Racial Inequality
- Using Bottom-Up Accounts of Political Life to Theorize Democracy, Racial Hierarchy, and Resistance
- Bloomberg Distinguished Professor of Political Science and Sociology, Johns Hopkins University
- Associate Professor, Political Science and African American Studies; Yale University
- Founding Director, ISPS Center for the Study of Inequality, Yale University
- Assistant Professor, Woodrow Wilson Department of Politics and Miller Center of Public Affairs; University of Virginia
- Nonresident Senior Fellow, Governance Studies; The Brookings Institution
- Ph.D. in Political Science, Harvard University
- B.A. in Government, University of Virginia