Michael G. Hanchard

Wolf Humanities Center Penn Faculty Fellow

20242025 Forum on Keywords

Michael G. Hanchard

Gustave C.Kuemmerle Professor, Africana Studies

Dr. Michael G. Hanchard is the Gustave C. Kuemmerle Professor in the Africana Studies Department at the University of Pennsylvania, where he directs the Marginalized Populations Project.  His research and teaching interests combine a specialization in comparative politics with an interest in contemporary political theory, encompassing themes of nationalism, racism,  xenophobia and citizenship. His publications include Orpheus and Power: The Movimento Negro of Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, Brazil, 1945-1988 (Princeton, 1994), Racial Politics in Contemporary Brazil, editor, (Duke, 1999), Party/Politics: Horizons in Black Political Thought (Oxford, 2006) and most recently The Spectre of Race: How Discrimination Haunts Western Democracy (Princeton, 2018).  The Spectre of Race  received the Ralphe J. Bunche Award from the American Political Science Association in 2019 for the best book on ethnic and cultural pluralism, and was named one of the Ten Best Books in 2018 by the Times Educational Supplement in London.

Professor Hanchard received his Ph.D. in Politics from Princeton University in 1991, an M.A. in International Relations from the New School for Social Research in 1985, and an A.B. in International Relations from Tufts University in 1981. He has held visiting scholar positions at the W.E.B. DuBois Institute at Harvard University, Universitaria Candido Mendes, Rio de Janeiro and the Universidade de Sao Carlos, Sao Paulo (Brazil), the University of Cartagena (Colombia), the Instituto Gramsci in Milan, Italy, the University of Ghana, Legon (West Africa), the University of Vienna, Austria, and Sciences Po in Paris, France. He has been awarded grants and fellowships from the Macarthur Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and was a member of the School of Social Science, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, 2014-2015.

Prof. Hanchard was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2021.

Democracy's Gangsters: Racial Rule and the Decline of Pluralism

Raymond Williams’ keyword entry on democracy captures many of the conflicting and contradictory meanings of the concept and practice, especially the conflicts between popular power and elite driven, representative democracy. During my participation in the Wolf Humanities Seminar on Keywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society I intend to focus on one manifestation of popular power that often results in what Hannah Arendt referred to as “racism in action”, or state racism. On the one hand, democracies purport the equality of citizens, and seek to administer and monitor equal treatment before the law. Ethno-national and racial hierarchy, however, challenges and undermines robust commitments to principles of democracy and egalitarianism.