Patricia Hill Collins
Collins in 2014
May 1, 1948
Roger L. Collins
|Thesis||Race, Gender and Labor Market Structure (1983)|
|School or tradition|
|Notable works||Black Feminist Thought (1990)|
|Notable ideas||[Intersectionality] [matrix of domination] [controlling images]|
Patricia Hill Collins (born 1948) is an American academic specializing in race, class, and gender. She is a Distinguished University Professor of Sociology Emerita at the University of Maryland, College Park. She is also the former head of the Department of African-American Studies at the University of Cincinnati, and a past President of the American Sociological Association. Collins was the 100th president of the ASA and the first African-American woman to hold this position.
Collins's work primarily concerns issues involving race, gender, and social inequality within the African-American community. She gained national attention for her book Black Feminist Thought, originally published in 1990.
Collins was born on May 1, 1948, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Her parents were Albert Hill, a factory worker and Second World War veteran, and Eunice Hill, a secretary. Her parents met in Washington, DC. Patricia has no siblings.
Collins attended the Philadelphia public schools—and even at a young age, Collins had the realization of her lived reality—she attended a school that catered to mostly white middle class students that was in a predominantly Black neighborhood. During the time of the 1950s and 1960s, when Patricia was going to school, most schools in northern cities like Philadelphia were channels for social mobility, and although they were well funded, they were not particularly easy to navigate, especially for African-Americans and people of color like Patricia. However, Patricia was part of a cohort of working-youth who had educational opportunities long denied to their parents. She attended Pennell Elementary School and later Philadelphia High School for Girls (aka Girls' High), which was founded in 1848 as the nation's first public high school for women only. Collins had the unique experience of attending Girls' High during the 1960s process of desegregation of schools, which contributed to her growing interest in sociology, feminism, and activism for African-American and civil rights.
Collins went on to pursue an undergraduate career at Brandeis University in 1965 as a sociology major, graduating cum laude with honors with a Bachelor of Arts degree in sociology in 1969. She proceeded to earn a Master of Arts degree in Teaching (MAT) in Social Science Education from Harvard University in 1970. From 1970 to 1976, she was a teacher and curriculum specialist at St. Joseph Community School in Roxbury, Boston, among two others. She went on to become the Director of the Africana Center at Tufts University from 1976 to 1980.
She completed her doctorate in sociology at Brandeis in 1984. While earning her PhD, Collins worked as an assistant professor at the University of Cincinnati beginning in 1982. She taught in the Department of Africana Studies for over two decades and retired in 2005 as the Charles Phelps Taft Distinguished Professor of Sociology.
In 1986, Collins published her first major article in the sociological journal Social Problems. Titled "Learning From the Outsider Within: The Sociological Significance of Black Feminist Thought", the article put Collins on the map as a sociologist as well as an social theorist. The article, published four years prior to her first book, focuses on how African-American women have made creative use of their marginalized placement, or "outsider within" status, and benefited from this different way of thinking, a way of thinking that provides an important angle of vision on power.
In 1990, Collins published her first book, Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness and the Politics of Empowerment. A revised 10th-anniversary edition of the book was published in 2000, and subsequently translated into Korean in 2009, French in 2016, and Portuguese in 2019.
In 2005, Collins joined the University of Maryland's department of sociology as a Distinguished University Professor. Working closely with graduate students on issues such as critical race theory, intersectionality, and feminist theory, she maintains an active research agenda and continues to write books and articles in relation to social, racial, and gender issues. Her current work has transcended the borders of the United States, in keeping with the recognition within sociological globalized social system. Collins is focused on understanding, in her own words, "How African American male and female youth's experiences with social issues of education, unemployment, popular culture and political activism articulate with global phenomena, specifically, complex social inequalities, global capitalist development, transnationalism, and political activism."
In 1990, Collins published Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness and the Politics of Empowerment, which looked at the title topic through such figures as Angela Davis, Alice Walker and Audre Lorde. The analysis incorporated a wide range of sources, including fiction, poetry, music and oral history. This book is the first book to incorporate the literature of and by African-American women. Collins's work concluded with three central claims:
In Black Feminist Thought, Collins posits how Black feminist studies made of Black women's works highlight two very important themes. One being "how Black women's paid work is organized within intersecting oppressions of race, class, and gender.":45 Although these women no longer work in domestic work in private homes, they continue to work at low-paying jobs in the growing service sector. Moreover, she continues, the theme that "concerns how Black women's unpaid family labor is simultaneously confining and empowering" for them is also extremely important.:46 Collins emphasizes this point because she points out that Black women see the unpaid work of their household as a method of resistance to oppression rather than solely as a method of manipulation by men.[page needed]
Published in 1992, Race, Class and Gender: An Anthology was a collaboration with Margaret Andersen, in which Collins edited a compilation of essays on race, class and gender. The book is widely recognized for shaping the field of race, class and gender studies, as well as its related concept of intersectionality. The essays cover a variety of topics, from historical trends and their lasting effects today, to the current media portrayal of minority groups. The tenth edition was published in 2020.
Collins published a third book Fighting Words: Black Women and the Search for Justice in 1998. Fighting Words focused on how Black women's knowledge examines social injustices both within Black communities, as well as wider society. Expanding on the idea of "outsiders within" from her previous book, she examines how outsiders resist the majority's perspective, while simultaneously pushing for and creating new insight on the social injustices that exist. Collins also notes how acknowledging the social theories of oppressed groups are important because their different experiences have created new angles of looking at human rights and injustice. This has not always been the case because, as she points out, "elites possess the power to legitimate the knowledge that they define as theory as being universal, normative, and ideal". '
Collins's next book was Black Sexual Politics: African Americans, Gender, and the New Racism, published in 2004. This work argued that racism and heterosexism were intertwined in multiple areas of life, for example, how ideals of beauty work to oppress African-Americans males and females, whether homo-, bi- or heterosexual. Collins asserts that people must examine the intersection of race, class, gender, and sexuality that looking at each issue separately leads to missing a large part of the problem. Her argument for resisting the creation of such narrow gender roles requires action on individual and community levels, and recognizing success in areas other than those typically respected by Americans, such as money or beauty. Collins also contends that the oppression of African Americans cannot be successfully resisted without analyzing how intersecting oppressions influence their own group, such as the treatment of women or LGBTQ people. Black Sexual Politics won the Distinguished Scholarly Book Award from the American Sociological Association.
In 2006 she published From Black Power to Hip Hop: Racism, Nationalism, and Feminism, which examines the relationship between black nationalism, feminism and women in the hip-hop generation. The book is a compilation of multiple essays by her, written over multiple years, compiled into one cohesive examination of the current situation of African Americans. Collins examines contemporary structural racism, which she calls "new racism," and explores how old ideas about what racism is prevents society from recognizing and fixing the wrongdoings that persist. The author explores a range of examples, from American national identity, to motherhood, to feminine portrayal in hip-hop. Following the Civil Rights Movement, she argues, there was a "shift from color-conscious racism that relied on strict racial segregation to a seemingly colorblind racism that promised equal opportunities yet provided no lasting avenues for African American advancement".
In 2009, Collins published Another Kind of Public Education: Race, Schools, the Media and Democratic Possibilities, in which she encourages the public to be more aware of and prevent the institutional discrimination that African-American children are experiencing today in the public education system. Collins explains that teachers have a great deal of power to be the facilitators of either discriminatory attitudes or tolerant attitudes; they are the "frontline actors negotiating the social issues of our time." Claiming that the education system is greatly influenced by the media, Collins examines racism as a system of power preventing education and democracy to reach its full potential.
Collins co-edited with John Solomos The Handbook of Race and Ethnic Studies (2010), a book on critical race theory. In 2012, she published On Intellectual Activisma collection of personal essays and interviews where she explains how ideas play an important part in bringing about social change.
In 2016 and revised in 2020, Collins also published the book Intersectionality, with co-author Sirma Bilge, which discusses, in depth, the intertwined nature of social categorizations such as race, class and gender, sexuality and nation, and how these ideas create a complex web of discrimination and disadvantage in society. Taking a global perspective, topics covered include the history of intersectionality, critical education, human rights, violence, global social protest, identity politics, and women of color feminism in the United States and Brazil.
Collins is recognized as a social theorist, drawing from many intellectual traditions. She reconceptualizes the ideas of race, class, gender, sexuality and nationalism as interlocking systems of oppression. Her more than 40 articles and essays have been published in a wide range of fields, including philosophy, history, psychology, and most notably sociology.
In 2009, a video from the C-Span website titled "BookTV: Patricia Hill Collins, author "Another Kind of Public Education" Collins takes a visit to "Busboys & Poets", a restaurant/bookstore/theater located in Washington DC and provided an hour and 16 minutes-long "book talk" regarding her book Another Kind of Public Education. As the website describes the video: "Professor Collins posits that public education is heavily influenced by the media and by the continuing influence of institutional racism and she examines ways in which schools perpetuate racism and other forms of social inequality. Professor Collins also read passages from her book and responded to questions from members of the audience."
In 2012, a video from the YouTube website titled "Dr. Patricia Hill Collins Delivers 2012 Graduate Commencement Address", Collins gives the commencement address at Arcadia University on Thursday, May 17, 2012, when she received an honorary doctorate; she provides stories of her past from growing up in Philadelphia, her parents (as well as her) struggles, and being in a school that predominately caters to middle-class white students. She also touches upon breaking her silence and how she came about using her voice as a critical instrument to make social change.
In 2014, a video from the YouTube website titled "Patricia Hill Collins at Grand Valley State University February 2014". Collins gives a talk to undergrad students from Grand Valley State University in which she expresses her concern of mainstream colorblindness, especially focusing on issues of racial profiling (regarding African Americans) [regarding Trayvon Martin] and tackling other issues regarding race, sex, class, etc. Also reads mini excerpts from her book Black Feminist Thought. The website description is: "On February 26, 2014, Grand Valley State University's Office of Multicultural Affairs, Women's Center and LGBT Resource Center hosted Patricia Hill Collins as part of ongoing Intersections programming. Patricia Hill Collins presented "We Who Believe in Freedom Cannot Rest: Lessons from Black Feminism."
In 2015, a YouTube video titled "Patricia Hill Collins Keynote at 2015 Social Theory Forum @ UMass Boston". Collins visits University of Massachusetts Boston and presents a presentation regarding the sociological theory mainly focusing on intersectionality's challenges and the critical inquiries.