Dr. Brian Foster – Alumnus Spotlight
Associate Professor of Sociology, University of Virginia
Hometown: Shannon, MS
BA in African American Studies (2011)
As an undergraduate at UM, Dr. Brian Foster wrote his honor’s thesis, “Crank Dat Soulja Boy: Understanding Black Male Hip Hop Aspirations in Rural Mississippi,” to examine how young people develop and pursue “non-conventional” aspirations like those centered on rap music production. He considered factors like class, race, neighborhood composition, and socialization practices.
As a faculty member, he writes about how places – especially Black communities – change; how those changes are curbed and spurned on by systems and policy; and how local people explain, contest, and live amidst it all. His book, I Don’t Like the Blues, focuses on race and community life in the Mississippi Delta.
He earned the PhD in Sociology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and returned to the University of Mississippi as an assistant professor of sociology and Southern Studies. He recently joined the faculty at the University of Virginia Department of Sociology, and is co-editor for the journal Sociology of Race and Ethnicity.
Dr. Foster’s work has been supported by the National Science Foundation, the National Institute for Child Health and Human Development, the American Sociological Association; and his writing has appeared in popular publications including CNN, Esquire, Ford Foundation, and the Washington Post.
Why study African American Studies at UM?
“First, the African American Studies program introduced me to faculty who changed my life. Being a first-generation college student is difficult. Being a first-generation, black college student presents a different, even more challenging, set of obstacles. The faculty played an indispensable role helping me navigate those obstacles.
“Second, the curriculum introduced me to books and ideas. I learned to talk, in a meaningful and theoretically sound way, about racism and racial inequality, about gender and sexism. I discovered what literary criticism is, what interdisciplinary scholarship looks like, what my own scholarship could look like. I found I could study and write about black folks in the rural South, about race and hip-hop culture, about my own experiences, and do so in a way that was academically meaningful and stylistically engaging.”