John L. Jackson, Jr., Ph.D.

Dean, School of Social Policy & Practice
Richard Perry University Professor

John L. Jackson, Jr. is Dean of the University of Pennsylvania's School of Social Policy & Practice. Beginning on January 1, 2019, he will become the fifth Dean of the Annenberg School for Communication. He also is the Richard Perry University Professor of Communication, Africana Studies, and Anthropology. He is a Penn Integrates Knowledge Professor, holding faculty positions in Annenberg, the School of Arts and Sciences, and the School of Social Policy & Practice. He has produced feature-length fiction films, documentaries, and film-shorts that have screened at film festivals internationally. His research has been funded by the National Science Foundation, the Ford Foundation, Harvard University's Milton Fund, and the Lilly Endowment (during a year at the National Humanities Center in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina).

Jackson and Deborah Thomas, a professor in the Department of Anthropology in Penn’s School of Arts and Sciences, conducted a multi-continent (Europe, South Africa) screening of their documentary Bad Friday: Rastafari After Coral Gardens (Third World Newsreel, 2012) in July 2013.

Jackson is the author of several books, most recently Impolite Conversations: On Race, Politics, Sex, Money, and Religion (Atria [Simon and Schuster]), co-authored by Cora Daniels. His other books include Thin Description: Ethnography and the African Hebrew Israelites of Jerusalem (Harvard University Press, 2013), Harlemworld: Doing Race and Class in Contemporary Black America (University of Chicago Press, 2001), Real Black: Adventures in Racial Sincerity (University of Chicago Press, 2005), and Racial Paranoia: The Unintended Consequences of Political Correctness (Basic, 2008), released in paperback in 2010.

Before coming to Penn, he taught in the Department of Cultural Anthropology at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, and spent three years as a Junior Fellow at the Harvard University Society of Fellows in Cambridge, Massachusetts.


Uploaded on Wednesday, April 19, 2017 - 10:38am
A panel hosted by the Annenberg School for Communication and the University of Pennsylvania Faculty Senate People on all sides of the political...
Uploaded on Tuesday, December 17, 2013 - 3:42pm
John L. Jackson, Jr., Dean of the Penn School of Social Policy & Practice and a member of the faculty at Annenberg, talks about his research.

Related News

Current Projects

Televised Redemption Marla Frederick (Harvard), Carolyn Rouse (Princeton), and I are co-authoring a book that discusses qualitative research methods for studying contemporary black religious groups. It includes a special emphasis on the ways in which African-Americans deploy media technology as part of their religious/spiritual communities. Professor Frederick's contribution focuses on Christianity and televangelism. Dr. Rouse concentrates on Muslim self-representations in film and broadcast radio/television. I highlight how a particular segment of the Black Jewish community (in the United States and abroad) uses cable access programs, self-produced DVDs/CDs, and the internet to create a transnational spiritual/ethnic community.

Courses Taught

COMM 000: Public Interest Social Science

COMM 210: Film and Reality: Toward an Anthropology of the Real

COMM 281: Race Films: Spike Lee and his Interlocutors

COMM 314: Anthropology of the Mass Media

COMM 420: Race: History, Theory and Practice

COMM 740/ANTH 640/AFRC 640: Africana Studies Proseminar 

ANTH 640/AFRC 640: Africana Studies Proseminar

COMM 820: The Ethnographic Imagination

COMM 840: Media Ethnography: Theory and Practice

COMM 842: The Filmic 

Beginning on January 1, 2019, John L. Jackson, Jr. will be the Dean of the Annenberg School. Jackson's research involves ethnographic methods in media analysis, the impact of mass media on urban life, mediamaking as a form of community-building and proselytizing among religious organizations, globalization and the remaking of ethnic/racial diasporas, visual studies and theories of reality, and racialization and media technology.

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Jackson's Network

  • Culture and Communication
  • Global and Comparative Communication
  • Visual Communication
  • CAMRA at Penn
  • Center for Media at Risk
  • School of Social Policy & Practice
  • Penn Center for Africana Studies
  • Penn Anthropology Department