Roger N Lancaster

Roger N Lancaster

Roger N Lancaster

Interim Director


Gender/Sexuality, Culture and Political Economy, Crime and Punishment, American Studies, Latin America

Roger Lancaster is a product of public universities. He was educated at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and the University of California, Berkeley, where he earned his PhD in Cultural Anthropology. He has taught at the Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, and at Columbia University. At George Mason, he served as Anthropology Program Coordinator and, for fifteen years (1999-2014), as Director of the Cultural Studies Ph.D. Program. He is currently Interim Director of Cultural Studies.

Lancaster's research tries to understand how sexual mores, racial hierarchies, and class predicaments interact in a volatile world. His books include Life is Hard: Machismo, Danger, and the Intimacy of Power in Nicaragua, which received both the C. Wright Mills Award (Society for the Study of Social Problems) and the Ruth Benedict Prize (Society of Lesbian and Gay Anthropologists). He edited (with Micaela di Leonardo) The Gender/Sexuality Reader: Culture, History, Political Economy. His fifth book is Sex Panic and the Punitive State, which also won the Ruth Benedict Prize. It examines America's draconian sex offender laws and their production of ever-larger ranks of people who are subject to permanent social exclusion.

His sixth book, The Struggle to be Gay--in Mexico, for Example will be available in October, 2023. An ethnographic inquiry into the material foundations of identity, this book makes an argument for the centrality of social class in gay life.

Current Research

Lancaster is working on two books: one an ethnography of Mexican gay worlds in globalization, the other a phenomenological work on play.

Selected Publications

The Struggle to be Gay--in Mexico, for Example (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2023).

Sex Panic and the Punitive State (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2011).

The Trouble with Nature: Sex in Science and Popular Culture (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003).

Life is Hard: Machismo, Danger, and the Intimacy of Power in Nicaragua (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992).

The Gender/Sexuality Reader: Culture, History, Political Economy, (ed., with Micaela di Leonardo), (NY: Routledge, 1997).

Thanks to God and the Revolution: Popular Religion and Class Consciousness in the New Nicaragua (NY: Columbia University Press, 1988).

Expanded Publication List

"Class is Central to Gay Politics," Jacobin, February 7, 2024.

"Complexities of Gender and Sex," Anthropology Today, December, 2023.

"An Argument for Universalism," New Labor Review, September 29, 2020.

"The Policing Crisis," nonsite, July 9, 2020.

"How Not to Tackle COVID-19: Butler's Anticapitalism," nonsite, April 10, 2020.

"Of All the Things to Say About Mayor Pete," nonsite, June 10, 2019.

"Planet of Exiles," emisférica 14.1: Expulsion (2018).

"The New Pariahs: Sex, Crime, and Punishment in America," in The War on Sex, edited by David Halperin and Trevor Hoppe (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2017), 65-125.

"Marriage Is Not a Timeless Unchanging Institution," in Anastasia de Wahl, ed., The Meaning of Matrimony (London: Civitas: Institute for the Study of Civil Society, 2013).

Punishment,” Didier Fassin, ed., A Companion to Moral Anthropology (Wiley, 2012), 519-539.

When I was a Girl (Notes on Contrivance),” Fran Mascia-Lees, ed., Blackwell A Companion to the Anthropology of the Body and Embodiments (Wiley, 2011), 46-71.

"Republic of Fear: The Rise of Punitive Governance in America," in Hugh Gusterson and Catherine Besteman, eds., The Insecure American: How We Got Here and What We Should Do About It" (University of California Press, 2009).

"Preface" and "State of Panic," in Micaela di Leonardo, Jane Collins, and Brett Williams, eds., New Landscapes of Inequality: Neoliberalism and the Erosion of Democracy in America (Santa Fe: School of American Research, 2008).

Sex, Science, and Pseudoscience in the Public Sphere,” Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power (special issue on anthropology of the US) 13 (2006): 101—138.

Guto's Performance: Notes on the Transvestism of Everyday Life, in Daniel Balderston and Donna Guy, eds., Sex and Sexuality in Latin America: An Interdisciplinary Reader (NY: NYU Press, 1997).

Subject Honor and Object Shame: The Construction of Male Homosexuality and Stigma in Nicaragua, Ethnology 27 (2) (April 1988).

Courses Taught

ANTH 114 Introduction to Cultural Anthropology
ANTH 395 Anthropological Perspectives on History
CULT 320 Globalization and Culture
CULT 390/SOCI 395 Sex in Globalization
CULT 802 Histories of Cultural Studies
CULT 804 Histories of Cultural Studies (Part 2)
CULT 808 Social Institutions
CULT 810 Culture and Political Economy
CULT 814 Gender and Sexuality
CULT 816 Science/Technology
CULT 860 Semiotics
CULT 860 The Social Body
CULT 860 Lesbigay Studies
CULT 860/SOCI 833 Social Control After Foucault
CULT 860 Critical Ethnography


BA, Anthropollogy, University of North Carolia, Chapel Hill, 1982
MA, Anthropology, University of California, Berkeley, 1984
PhD, Anthropology, University of California, Berkeley, 1987

Recent Presentations

Book Talk, Society for the Anthropology of North America business meeting, American Anthropological Association/ Canadian Anthropology Society meetings, Toronto, Canada, November 18, 2023.

Presentation and discussion, “Our Fellow Americans: A Symposium on Public Conviction Registries,” part of Meet the Chicago 400: Lessons in the Carceral State, The Drawing Center, New York City. January 25, 2020. Chicago 400 Campaign and Work Group on Conviction Registries.

"The Last Pariahs," Sex and Justice Conference, University of Michigan Ann Arbor, October 4, 2013.

"Sex Panic and the Punitive State," Plenary Session of the American Sociological Association, “The Changing Landscape of Sexual Politics in the Age of Obama,” 2011 (Las Vegas).

“How Sex Panic Reshaped American Culture,” History Department Gender Workshop, University of Wisconsin, 2009.

“The Trouble with Nature: Sex in Science, Popular Culture, and Social Movements,” George L. Mosse Lecture, Department of History, University of Wisconsin, September 30, 2009.

Presenter/participant, New Landscapes of Social Inequality, School for Advanced Research, Santa Fe, NM, March 11--16, 2006.

Presenter/participant, The World Looks At Us: Rethinking the U.S. State; Wenner Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, Critique of Anthropology, and the Center for Place, Culture and Politics at CUNY, October 8--10, 2004.

Keynote Address: “On Gay/Lesbian Studies in Latin America.” Conference on Latin American History (a division of the American Historical Association), 1997.

In the Media

Love One Another or Die: Lessons for Coronavirus from the HIV/AIDS Crisis, Common Dreams, 24 March 2020.

Welcome to the New Legitimation Crisis, Common Dreams, 7 March 2020.

In Arlington, a judge must decide if a nonviolent sex offender should stay incarcerated after serving his sentence, Washington Post, August 23, 2019.

The Carceral Problem is Getting Worse, Jacobin, December 30, 2018.

Dreams of a Better Mexico, Jacobin, July 6, 2018.

Response: A Word on Words, Jacobin, October 2, 2017.

How to End Mass Incarceration, Jacobin, August 18, 2017.

On prison reform and the problems with prison abolitionism, Behind the News (Doug Henwood), August 17, 2017.

Identity Politics Can Only Get Us So Far, Jacobin, August 3, 2017.

Foiling Faux-Populism, Jacobin, January 23, 2017.

What the Pizzagate Conspiracy Theory Borrows from a bogus satanic sex panic of the 1980s, Washington Post, PostEverything, December 8, 2016.

Guns Are Not an Equal Opportunity Destroyer, Anthropology News (Mass Shootings Series), November 1, 2016.

Imagining the Socialist Bathroom, Jacobin, May 21, 2016.

Mass Incarceration in the United States, Behind the News (Doug Henwood), August 27, 2015.

Social Inclusion and Marriage Rights: Two Cheers for Marriage Equality, Huffington Post, May 31, 2013.

Sex Offenders: The Last Pariahs, New York Times Op-Ed (Sunday Week in Review), August 20, 2011.

Dissertations Supervised

Pavithra Suresh, Triangulating Despair: Desi Cultures of Crisis and Care in Research Triangle, NC (2024)

Ray LeBlanc, Work It: An Ethnography of Drag Performance in Washington, DC (2024)

Ayondela McDole Stephenson, Working Paradise: An Ethnographic Study of Tourism Labor in the 21st Century Caribbean (2024)

Marintha Miles, Tajikistan's Diasporic Transnational Social Movements: Coalescence and Cooption (2023)

Tauheeda Yasin, The New Poorhouse: Poverty Wrangling, Predatory Justice, and Resurgence of Modern “Debtors’ Prisons”. (2020)

Sarah Carpenter, With/In Limits: Play as Practice in the Digital Vernacular (2020)

Kimberly Klinger, The Birth of Morbopolitics: Pittsburgh and the Normalization of Organ Transfer (2016)

Richard Otten, Manufacturing Charm City: The Socio-Semiotics of Baltimore's Decline (2016)

Michael Goebel, Beached White Male: Imperiled Masculinity in the Great Recession (2016)

Michael Lecker, Welcome Home: Radical Faeries and Queer Worldmaking (2015)