Becky Thompson

Professor of Sociology
  • Sociology
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(617) 521-2592

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My BA was from the University of California at Santa Cruz, with my major in sociology, and minor in women's studies. My MA and Ph.D are from Brandeis University. My Post-doctoral work at Princeton University in African American Studies (Rockefeller Fellow). My yoga training (RYT-500) has been in the United States, Greece, and Bali.

About Me

I am a scholar, poet, and activist. My poetry includes Zero is the Whole I Fall into at Night (Selection Editor&'s Series) and two edited volumes, Making Mirrors: Righting/Writing by and for Refugees (with Palestinian poet, Jehan Bseiso, forthcoming) and Fingernails across the Chalkboard: Poetry and Prose on HIV/AIDS from the Black Diaspora (co-edited with Randall Horton). My scholarly books include Teaching with TendernessSurvivors on the Yoga MatWhen the Center is on FireA Promise and a Way of Life and several other volumes. I have held appointments at China Women's University, Duke University, the University of Colorado, Wesleyan University, The University of Massachusetts, and Simmons University. Honors I have received include the Rockefeller Fellowship in African American Studies at Princeton University, the Ford Fellowship, the Mosaic Outstanding Teaching Award at the University of Colorado, the Creative Justice Poetry Prize, the Gustavus Myers Award for Outstanding Book on Human Rights in North America, and the recent nomination for Poet Laureate of Boston. These have been most welcome encouragement for my work as a scholar/poet/activist.

I teach yoga (RYT-500) at the Dorchester YMCA in Boston and internationally (Greece, Thailand, China).

What I Teach

I teach many courses in the sociology department at Simmons University including "Working for Social Justice," "Poetry and Prose: 21st Century Voices of Conscience," "Whiteness, Antiracism and Social Justice Work" and "Birth and Death: The Sociology of Joy and Suffering." Some of these courses are also graduate courses. I also teach a leadership course "Love Calls Us to the Things of This World: Leaders for Social Justice" where we read inspiring books about social justice leaders while incorporating contemplative practices into the learning. For many years, I have been teaching the doctoral course "Diversity in Education" that has enabled me to work with an exciting range of teachers, therapists, and health professionals seeking ways to create and sustain social justice in their neighborhoods and work spaces. I have had the honor of walking alongside many doctoral students working on their dissertations at Harvard University, the University of British Columbia, Duke University and Simmons. Current topics include: transgender health care, trauma-informed, feminist adult education, Bantu Somali health in the US, and resistance to mass gun violence.

Whether working with first year undergraduates or alongside doctoral students completing their dissertations, my commitment to what Gloria Anzaldúa and Cherríe Moraga first named "theory in the flesh" makes space for reflexivity, offering us a resonant register, new sound. I bring to the classroom a feminist pedagogy that rests on encouraging students to think self-reflectively about how their intersecting identities shape their outlook. I see the work of teachers as companions, not authorities. Feminist embodied pedagogy allows teachers to trust student experience and awareness, as we create expansive contexts for deep learning.

Research/Creative Activities

Yoga Book for Trauma Survivors

Professor Becky Thompson recently authored Survivors on the Yoga Mat: Stories for Those Healing from Trauma, an inspiring collection of essays intended for trauma survivors and yoga teachers alike.

Learn more about Yoga Book for Trauma Survivors

Book: and maybe the moon

Professor Thompson was awarded funding to attend three poetry workshops at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown where she received the guidance and focus needed for the project. and maybe the moon is forthcoming from Dancing Girl Press.

Learn more about and maybe the moon


My recent book, Teaching with Tenderness: Toward an Embodied Practice (2017), follows in the tradition of bell hooks' Teaching to Transgress and Paulo Freire's Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Tenderness asks how teachers can draw upon multiracial feminist pedagogy, contemplative practices and trauma studies to encourage embodied learning. This book was inspired by lessons I have learned from working with students over the last decades.

My current book project, Atlas in Transit: Feminist Cartographies of the Refugee Crisis in the Mediterranean, draws upon embodied ethnographic research (based on extended work in Lesvos Greece since 2015) to offer a feminist analysis of resistance among refugees. The reality that 1:100 people in the world are currently facing forced migration asks us to rethink national borders; the nation state as protector, as identity, is increasingly fraught. Co-editing the poetry volume, Making Mirrors, with Jehan Bseiso emerged when I returned to the US mute after my third trip to meet rafts coming from Turkey to Greece. I did not want to hear or write one more word about refugees, understanding, as bell hooks has long taught us, that self determination is the key to any liberation struggle. My recent teaching while a scholar in residence at China Women's University, that emerged from my work teaching poetry and social justice workshops with migrant workers in Dali and Guangzhou, has led me to give conference papers and keynotes that engage with Chinese feminist organizing, much of which is being done skillfully and collaboratively under state radar. 

My scholarship that preceded my current work on refugee resilience also reflects engaged commitments to feminist social justice research. When the Center is on Fire: Passionate Social Theory for our Times, which I co-authored with Vassar professor and sociologist Diane Harriford, turns to classical thinkers and contemporary multiracial feminist thought to understand a series of 21st century social traumas (Hurricane Katrina, Abu Ghraib prison torture, the 9/11 attacks, and the Columbine massacre). 

My earlier book, A Promise and a Way of Life: White Antiracist Activism traces complexities of multiracial organizing in several social movements in the United States from the 1950s to the early 21st century. The core of the book focuses on the rise of multiracial feminism as a deep well for social transformation. In addition to my scholarship on multiracial feminist organizing, three of my books address the impact of trauma on embodiment. 

My research, teaching, and passion for justice have always been intertwined.