John L. Jackson Jr.
Richard Perry University Professor of Communication and Anthropology
John L. Jackson, Jr. is the Walter H. Annenberg Dean of the Annenberg School for Communication and the Richard Perry University Professor of Communication, Anthropology, and Africana Studies. With appointments in Penn Arts & Sciences, the School of Social Policy and Practice, the Annenberg School for Communication, and the Graduate School of Education, Jackson works at the intersection of cultural anthropology, race studies, and new media.
A renowned cultural anthropologist, Jackson has spent the last 20 years reshaping and modernizing his discipline for the Internet Age. His research defies traditional categories, incorporating multiple fields in each inquiry: technology and religious studies, culture and economics, anthropology and new media, Africana studies and linguistics. As a result, he often links academic disciplines that have rarely intersected before — in this way, establishing models for new standards of scholarship.
For the last decade, Jackson has focused his research on the African Hebrew Israelites of Jerusalem, a spiritual group of African-American ex-pats who live in Israel, practice veganism, and strive for eternal life. In his fourth book, Thin Description: Ethnography and the African Hebrew Israelites of Jerusalem, Jackson dives into the group’s inner-workings, supplementing traditional fieldwork with contemporary mass and social media research. The book also kick-starts a conversation about what ethnography means in the 21st century.
Drawn to the power of storytelling through image and sound, Jackson is leading efforts to bring film into academia. He’s produced numerous visual anthropologies: feature-length documentaries, fictional movies, and short films that have won prestigious awards and screened around the world. He also co-foundedCAMRA—an interdisciplinary group of researchers and educators at Penn who, like Jackson, believe that film can present scholarship just as effectively as papers or books.
Whether he’s presenting a lecture on his latest research, teaching a race studies class, or blogging for the Chronicle of Higher Education, Jackson’s voice can be heard all over Penn and well beyond. His candor, wit, and accessibility have made him a popular mentor for the University’s undergraduates and Ph.D. students alike, and in 2008 he received the Penn Arts & Sciences Dean’s Award for Innovation and Teaching.
Jackson earned his Ph.D. in anthropology from Columbia University in 2000.
About the Donor
Richard Perry, W'77, gave the inaugural gift in support of the Penn Integrates Knowledge (PIK) initiative, a cornerstone of President Amy Gutmann’s vision for propelling Penn from excellence to eminence.