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Michele Elam's courses and research interests span the 18th-21st centuries, from Olaudah Equiano to Aaron McGruder, and from race and narrative to black cultural performance. She is the author of The Souls of Mixed Folk: Race, Politics, and Aesthetics in the New Millennium (Stanford University Press, 2011), Race, Work, and Desire in American Literature, 1860-1930 (Cambridge University Press, 2003), and Editor of the Cambrige Companion to James Baldwin (forthcoming, Cambridge University Press, 2014). She is currently editing a Critical Mixed Race Studies Reader.

In addition to her books and edited volumes, Elam has published widely on race and culture, including award-winning articles in African American Review, American Literature, Theatre Journal, and Genre, among others. Her work also appears in collections on race and culture such as Subjects and Citizens: Nation, Race and Gender from ""Oroonoko"" to Anita Hill (eds. Cathy Davidson and Michael Moon, Duke University Press) and in W.E.B. Du Bois and the Gender of the Color-Line (University of Minnesota Press., eds. Susan Gillman and Alys Weinbaum).

Chair of the Executive Committee for the Black Literatures & Culture Division of the Modern Language Association, at Stanford Elam has served as Director of the Program in African & African American Studies (2007-10), Director of Undergraduate Studies in the Department of English (2006-08), and Director of Curriculum (2011-13). Elected member and then Chair of the Executive Committee for the Black Literatures & Culture Division of the Modern Language Association (2009-13), she is now on the Advisory Committee for the American Literature Society at MLA.

Elam is twice the recipient of the St. Clair Drake Outstanding Teaching Award at Stanford (2004, 2006) among her other teaching awards. Recent undergraduate and graduate seminars include African American Poetics, Narratives of Enslavement & Theories of Redress, Race Theory in the Post-Race Era, Mixed Race Literature & Theory, Black to the Future: the End(s) of African American Literary History, W.E.B. Du Bois & American Culture, Toni Morrison & the Occasion of Black Feminism.

A founding member of the Critical Mixed Race Studies Association, she also serves on the Editorial Boards for the Journal of Critical Mixed Race Studies and African American Review and is Advisor for the Mixed Race Initiative where 100 universities worldwide joined in a multi-institution synchronous teaching program centered around the Asian American Literary Review, Special issue on Mixed Race (Fall 2013).

Key works

"The 'Ethno-Ambiguo Hostility Syndrome': Mixed-Race, Identity, and Popular Culture," Doing Race: 21 Essays for the 21st Century, Eds. Hazel Rose Markus and Paula M. L. Moya. New York: Norton, 2010

"Passing in the Post-Race Era: Danzy Senna’s Caucasia, Philip Roth's The Human Stain, & Colson Whitehead's The Intuitionist." African American Review, forthcoming Spring 2009

"Blood Debt: Nation and Reparation in Langston Hughes’ Play, Mulatto." With Harry J. Elam, Jr. Theatre Journal, forthcoming spring 2009

"The Mis-Education of Mixed Race." Identities in Education. Eds. Amie MacDonald and Susan Sánchez-Casal. New York: Palgrave-MacMillan, 2009, 131-150

"Mixed Race and Cultural Memory: Carl Hancock Rux’s Talk," Marc Maufort and Caroline De Wagter, eds. Signatures of the Past. Cultural Memory in Contemporary Anglophone North American Drama. (Brussels: Peter Lang, 2008): 83-100

"Dunbar's Children," African American Review Paul Laurence Dunbar Centennial Special Issue (Volume 41.2, Summer 2007): 259-268. Recipient of the Darwin T. Turner and Joel Weixlman Award for Best Essay of 2007 in African American Review, given by the Black Literature and Culture Division of the Modern Language Association

"Passing in the Post-Race Moment: Danzy Senna, Philip Roth & Colson Whitehead," Post-Soul Special Issue, African American Review (Volume 41.4 Fall 2007.)

Race, Work, and Desire in American Literature, 1860-1930. Cambridge University Press, 2003

Prof. Elam in the News

October 2, 2010
On Saturday, October 9th, 2010, four Stanford humanities professors shared examples of...
Stanford Daily, January 21, 2009
Huffington Post, November 9 2011
Stanford Daily, October 24, 2007
The Huffington Post, March 2010
Boston Review, December 5 2011

Audio and Video

Stanford University's YouTube Channel

April 15, 2011

Stanford University's YouTube Channel

September 16, 2008

"Radio Times with Marty Moss-Coane" on Philadelphia Public Radio (WHYY)

August 29, 2008

"Odyssey" on Chicago Public Radio (WBEZ), November 25, 2003

November 25, 2003

Professor Michele Elam traces multiracial identities from the 1940s to present day in her talk "The End of Race As We Know It?"  In this talk she shares demographic shifts and a personal story about the use of her photograph in various advertisements. 

October 9, 2014


  • African American History
  • African American Literary Theory
  • African American Literature
  • American Popular Culture
  • Black Cultural Performance
  • Black Feminist Theory
  • Critical Race Theory
  • Intra- and Cross-Ethnic Relations
  • Mixed Race Studies
  • Multiracialism/Interracialism
  • Redress and Reparations
  • Slave Narratives
  • Women of Color Feminisms

Contact information

Bldg 460, Rm 319


English Department Profile


B.A., University of California, San Diego, 1986
M.A., University of Washington, 1988
Ph.D., University of Washington, 1992