Professor Assata Zerai Ph.D.

Section 1


Associate Professor of Sociology
Associate Professor of Center for African Studies
Center for Global Studies
Professor of Gender and Women's Studies

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Contact Information

Office Hours

  • noon-1pm Tuesdays and Thursdays


Assata Zerai is the Associate Chancellor for Diversity and Professor of Sociology at the University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign). Serving as faculty in Sociology at Illinois since 2002, Zerai’s research frameworks (theory and methodology) build from Black feminist thought, intersectionality, and African and Africana feminisms, and her interests have included maternal and child health, health activism, and safe water and sanitation in Africa and the African Diaspora, and in U.S. populations, as well as diversity and LGBTIQ inclusiveness in U.S. Protestant congregations, and making the work of indigenous and marginalized scholars and activists more accessible. Dr. Zerai’s recent books include: Intersectionality  in Intentional Communities: The Struggle for Inclusivity in Multicultural U.S.  Protestant Congregations (Rowman and Littlefield, Lexington Books, 2016); and Hypermasculinity and State Violence in  Zimbabwe: An Africana Feminist Analysis of Maternal and Child Health (Africa World Press, 2014). She is author of Dehumanizing Discourse, Law and Policy in  America: A Crack Mother’s Nightmare  (with Rae Banks, Ashgate 2002). And her fourth book, Safe Water, Sanitation and Early Childhood Malnutrition in  East Africa: An Africana Feminist Analysis of the lives of Women and  Children in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda,  is currently under contract with Rowman and Littlefield.

Specializations / Research Interest(s)

  • Race/Class/Gender; Maternal and Child Health; Sociology of Religion; Health Activism; Health Inequality; Gender Equity and Development Effectiveness; Anti-War Activism

Research Description

  • Fall 2015, as Director of African Studies, Zerai worked with core and affiliate faculty and staff integrate expertise from our internationally recognized programs in engineering, with social science methodologies and humanities country-specific skill sets, training in cultural competency, and social justice and to propose to host a Mandela Washington Fellowship Young African Leaders Institute in public management. Zerai is co-PI on this grant, received from the U.S.Department of State. For one year, she was also PI on the Title VI National Resource Center grant to the Center for African Studies at the University of Illinois. Zerai is co-PI on a grant to establish a University Center for Exemplary Mentoring from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. Zerai was selected for the Larine Y. Cowan “Make a Difference” Leadership in Diversity Award, received at the University of Illinois in November 2015.  Zerai has received recognition from the U of I Women’s Resources Center and Office of Inclusion and Intercultural Relations for her work on behalf of women internationally during the March 2016 International Women’s Day Celebration. And Zerai has been honored with the Ebony Excellence Awards 2016 Outstanding Contributions to the Field Award, by the Bruce Nesbitt African American Cultural Center, University of Illinois on 19 April 2016.


  • University of Chicago Ph.D. 1993


  • SOC 496/596 Race, Class and Gender
  • SOC 496/596 Maternal and Child Health in Southern Africa
  • SOC 496/596 Health Inequality
  • SOC 480/583 Qualitative Research

LLS Titles & Affiliations

  • Associate Chancellor



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Journal Articles

  • "An Assessment of Afro-Centricism, Color-Blind Ideology, and Intersectionality: Three Models of Internal Christian Congregational Cohesion." Race, Gender and Class (2011):
  • "“Everyone Deserves Services No Matter What”: Defining Success in Harm Reduction Based Substance Abuse Treatment." Substance Use & Misuse (2010):
  • Zerai, Assata. "A black feminist critique of American religious anti-war (dis)engagements ." Works and Days 57/58 29.1 & 2 (2010):
  • "To be Politically Relevant and Tolerant: A Comparative Analysis of Christian Evangelical Internal Discussions of the 2008 Presidential Election." Race, Gender and Class (2010):
  • Zerai, Assata, and Salime Zakia. "A Black Feminist Analysis of Responses to War, Racism, and Repression." Critical Sociology 32.2 -3 (2006): 503-523.
  • Zerai, Assata, and Horace Campbell. "The Black Radical Congress and Black Feminist Organizing." Socialism and Democracy 19.2 (2005): 147-156.
  • Zerai, Assata, and Rae Banks. "African-American Mothers and Substance Abuse: Punishment over Treatment?." Journal of the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States 30.3 (2002): 26-29.
  • Zerai, Assata. "Models for Unity Between Scholarship and Grassroots Activism." Critical Sociology 28.1-2 (2002): 201-216.

Research Interests

  • Race, Class, Gender
  • Transnational Studies
  • Research Methods
  • Environmental Sociology
  • Population, Health, and Life Course
  • State, Law, and Society