John L. Jackson, Jr.

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

John L. Jackson, Jr.
  • Penn Provost
  • Richard Perry University Professor

John L. Jackson, Jr. is a filmmaker and urban anthropologist who works at the intersection of visual culture, critical race theory, media studies, and the ethnography of diasporic religions.

John L. Jackson, Jr., is the Penn Provost and served as the fifth dean of the Annenberg School from 2019 until June 2023. He is also the Richard Perry University Professor at the University of Pennsylvania and was previously Dean of the School of Social Policy & Practice and Special Adviser to the Provost on Diversity at Penn.

Jackson earned his B.A. in Communication (Radio/TV/Film) from Howard University, completed his Ph.D. in Anthropology from Columbia University, and served as a junior fellow at the Harvard University Society of Fellows before becoming Assistant Professor of Cultural Anthropology at Duke University.

He is the author of 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); Racial Paranoia: The Unintended Consequences of Political Correctness (Basic Civitas, 2008); Thin Description: Ethnography and the African Hebrew Israelites of Jerusalem (Harvard University Press, 2013); Impolite Conversations: On Race, Politics, Sex, Money, and Religion (Atria/Simon & Schuster, 2014), co-written with Cora Daniels; and Televised Redemption: Black Religious Media and Racial Empowerment (NYU Press, 2016), co-written with Carolyn Rouse and Marla Frederick. He is also editor of Social Policy and Social Justice (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2016).

His most recent films include Bad Friday: Rastafari after Coral Gardens (Third World Newsreel, 2012), co-directed with Deborah A. Thomas, and Making Sweet Tea: The Lives and Loves of Southern Black Gay Men, co-directed with Nora Gross and co-executive produced with E. Patrick Johnson.

An urban researcher, media ethnographer, anthropologist of religion, and theorist of race/ethnicity, Jackson’s work also critically explores how film and other non-traditional or multi-modal formats can be most effectively utilized in specifically scholarly research projects, and he is one of the founding members of CAMRA, the University of Pennsylvania-based initiative organized around creating visual and performative research projects and producing rigorous criteria for assessing them.

He is currently a faculty member at Penn’s new Center for Experimental Ethnography, and he has affiliations with Penn’s Departments of Africana Studies and Anthropology, as well as with the Graduate School of Education and the School of Social Policy & Practice.


  • B.A., Howard University, 1993
  • M.A., Columbia University, 1994
  • M.Phil., Columbia University, 1998
  • Ph.D., Columbia University, 2000

Selected Publications