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Michele Elam, Olivier Nomellini Family University Fellow in Undergraduate Education, Professor of English, and currently Director of Stanford University's interdisciplinary graduate program, Modern Thought and Literature (MTL). She is an affiliate with the Michelle R. Clayman Insitute for Gender Studies, African & African American Studies, and Comparative Studies in Race & Ethnicity. Elam is the author of Race, Work, and Desire in American Literature, 1860-1930 (Cambridge University Press, 2003), The Souls of Mixed Folk: Race, Politics, and Aesthetics in the New Millennium (Stanford University Press, 2011), and is Editor of the Cambridge Companion to James Baldwin (Cambridge University Press, 2015). She has published articles in African American Review, American Literature, Theatre Journal and Genre, among others as well as op-eds for CNN, Huffington Post, and Boston Review. Her work appears in many collections on race and culture, including 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 (eds. Susan Gillman and Alys Weinbaum, University of Minnesota Press).
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 (2006-8) and Director of Curriculum (2011-13). Chair of the Executive Committee for the Black Literatures & Culture Division of the Modern Language Association (2009-13) and Chair of the Executive Council for the American Literature Society at MLA (2011-14), she 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, 100 universities worldwide joined in a multi-institution synchronous teaching program centered around the Asian American Literary Review Special Issue on Mixed Race (2013).
Dedicated to teaching, Elam is twice the recipient of the St Clair Drake Outstanding Teaching Award at Stanford (2004, 2006) and the Faculty Award for “Outstanding Service to Undergraduate Students as a Teacher, Advisor and Mentor” from the Program in Comparative Studies in Race & Ethnicity (2013), among her other teaching awards. Recent undergraduate and graduate seminars include Mixed Race Politics & Culture; African American Poetics; Mixed Race Literature in the U.S and South Africa; Narratives of Enslavement & Theories of Redress; Modernism & the Harlem Renaissance; Gender Studies for the 21st Century; Literature by Women of Color; Race Theory in the Post-Race Era; W.E.B. Du Bois and American Culture; Toni Morrison & the Occasion of Black Feminism; Art & Activism; Literature of Inequality: Have & Have-Nots from the Gilded Age to the Occupy Era.

Key works

Cambridge University Press, 2015

"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.)

Prof. Elam in the News

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