Faculty

photo, Thornton.

Michael Thornton

4111 Helen C. White Hall
608-263-1148
mcthornt@wisc.edu

Most of my interest, both personal and professional, is related to how and why people cross boundaries, particularly racial and cultural. I'm particularly invested in understanding when that happens between groups of color, an arena still little explored or appreciated for the potential insights it can bring. I assume that groups bring with them a set of unique and indigenous resources that hinder/enhance the border crossings. Identity, marital relations and political coalitions are avenues through which I explore these phenomena.

Education

The most important education I have gotten is from what my father has called "the education of the streets" or the streets of hard knocks. My schooling (i.e., formal education) prior to college was in Connecticut, Kansas, Okinawa, Maryland, Panama, Texas, and New Jersey. I have a B.S. from Michigan State University, a M.A. and Ph.D. in sociology/Japanese Studies from the University of Michigan.

Books

My first book (co-authored with Hemant Shah), Newspaper Coverage of Interethnic Conflict: Competing Visions of America, came out in 2003. It is about how black, Asian American, Latino and mainstream newspapers describe and explain the nature of race relations among groups of color as epitomized in the LA, Washington D.C., and Miami riots.

Publications

  • Thornton, M. C. 2005. “Multiracial Experiences.” Encyclopedia of Education and Human Development, Section: “Equity and Cultural Issues in Education.” Stephen Farenga and Daniel Ness, editors. E. Sharpe Publishers. Pp. 333-335.
  • Thornton, M. C. 2004. “Race and Multiraciality: Multiracial Challenges to Monoracialism.” In P. Spickard and G. R. Daniels, eds., The Creation and Revision of Racial Thinking: Uncompleted Independence. Notre Dame University Press. Pp. 308-340.
  • Bruce, Marino and Thornton, M. C. 2004. “It's My World?: Exploring Black and White Perceptions of Personal Control.” The Sociological Quarterly 45, 3: 597-612.
  • Shah, Hemant, & M. C. Thornton. 2003. Newspaper Coverage of Interethnic Conflict: Competing Visions of America, Sage Publications.
  • Thornton, M. C. and Ruth Hamilton. (expected- 2007). “African Diaspora Passages from the Middle East to East Asia.” In The Global Black African Diaspora 2000 Series -- Roots, Routes and Redefinitions. Volume 1: Distant Mirrors and Modern Reflections on a Global African Presence edited by R. Hamilton, Michigan State University Press. (Forthcoming)
  • Thornton, M. C. (expected- 2007). “A Perspective on African Diaspora Cultural Workers and Communities in Russia..” In The Global Black African Diaspora 2000 Series -- Roots, Routes and Redefinitions, Vol.1: Distant Mirrors and Modern Reflections on a Global African Presence, edited by Ruth Hamilton. Michigan State University Press. (Forthcoming)
  • Thornton, M. C. (expected- 2007). “Race and Multiraciality: Multiracial Challenges to Monoracialism.” In P. Spickard and R. Daniels, eds., Uncompleted Independence: The Creation and Revision of Racial Thinking. Notre Dame University Press. (Forthcoming)

Interests

Teaching:

My favorite courses are Introduction to Contemporary Afro-American Society (AAS 151) and Mutual Perceptions of Racial Minorities (AAS 443). The former examines black life over the past 20 years and has a service-learning component, which links course concepts to working at a community agency. The latter course examines relations between people of African, Asian, Latino and Native ancestry, both domestically and internationally, and across time (as far back as 1500 years ago).

Research Interests:

Most of my work focuses on factors influencing how close blacks feel toward Asian Americans, Latinos and Native Americans. I have examined how religion, political ideology and economic competition colors these views. Contrary to what researchers typically assert, blacks who consider themselves very religious, pro-black and those who feel that "foreigners" steal their jobs are those MOST likely to feel close to others of color! I've also examined factors that influence black and Hispanic use of emergency rooms (versus alternative health care sites), ethnic variations in how communities create help-networks in caring for their elderly, dimensions of black identity (rebels, elites and mainstream), Afro-Asian identity, and newspaper coverage of relations among groups of color.

Courses Taught

Afro-American Studies 151: Introduction to Contemporary Afro-American Society An introductiory course about the state of black America since the 1980s that takes a sociological approach.

Afro-American Studies 443: Introduction to Contemporary Afro-American Society An introductiory course about the state of black America since the 1980s that takes a sociological approach.

Afro-American Studies 443: Mutual Perceptions of Racial Minorities Through time and space, we examine the quality of interactions between people of African, Asian, Latino and Native heritage both here and internationally.

Afro-American Studies 650: Seminar: Ethnic/Racial Identity Examines black, Asian American and Latino ethnicity.

Coming soon, new courses:

Multiracial People and Families: Examine so-called mixed racial identity, and the nature of families with parents of different racial heritage.

African American and Asian American Families: Compares similarities and difference between these kinds of families, with the emphasis on choices made and received.