David Ponton III

Ph.D. conferred May 13, 2017
Fields of Study: 

African American History, Gender and Society, Sociology of Race


Special thanks:

My sincerest gratitudes to the Rice University School of Humanities and Department of History for their generous support for my research since I began in 2012; it has been a truly rewarding and beautiful experience to study here. I am eternally grateful to my advisor, Dr. Alex Byrd for his graciousness, meticulousness, and thoughtfulness. My three other committee members, Drs. Lora Wildenthal, Randal Hall, and Brian Riedel: thank you for investing so much time and work to ensure my growth as a scholar. Bev, Erin, Paula, Lisa, and Lydia--I could not have wanted for better administrative support over the years. Lastly, to my colleagues and cohort: I'm so glad that you represent the future for historians. Your work is invaluable. 



2009 Religion Princeton University A.B. Certificates: African American Studies, Program in Teacher Preparation
2014 History Rice University M.A. Certificate: Center for the Study of Women, Gender, and Sexuality
2017 History Rice University Ph.D. Certificate: Center for the Study of Women, Gender, and Sexuality


Recently published:

"Sexual Assault and Social Sickness." Rice Feminist Forum. November 2016. https://ricefeministforum.org/sexual-assault-and-social-sickness/ (opens in new window).

"Clothed in Blue Flesh: Police Brutality and the Disciplining of Race, Gender, and the 'Human.'" Theory & Event 19, no. 3 (2016) https://muse.jhu.edu/ (opens in new window).

Abstract. The empirical work of conflict theorists has yielded inconsistent results concerning whether the American justice system evinces racial biases in practices and outcomes. These fickle findings may result from undertheorized conceptualizations of race that fail to account for the ways races and genders can be destabilized and refashioned during volatile interactions. Using intersectionality, affect, and assemblage theories, I analyze a video of a stop and frisk in Philadelphia in 2013 and argue that these ritualistic conflicts between officers and citizens destabilize and proliferate racial and gender categories, clothing police in blue flesh and thereby granting them political status as more-than-humans. While the logics that define and defend police violence—namely, misogyny, social violence, and racism—may deleteriously affect certain social and economic classes more than others, the ways blue flesh reconfigures police officers as more-than-humans demand renewed theoretical imagination and methodological innovation concerning the operationalization of racial variables.

Research Interests: 

What is the historical relationship between racial stereotypes surrounding criminality and the persistent spatial disadvantages experienced by black Americans? In 1954, Henry Allen Bullock, professor of sociology at Texas Southern University, warned black Houstonians that if they were not proactive “a new type of segregation” would undo their recent civil rights gains.[i] Current studies reveal that Houston remains highly segregated by race and class and that “black” spaces, regardless of their actual rates of crime, are perceived as crime-ridden.[ii] My dissertation, Criminalizing Space, explores how Houstonians adapted to Jim Crow’s demise and produced a “new type of segregation” through the criminalization of neighborhood spaces marked as “black.” As a social history of ideas, it places in relief the ideological conflicts Americans, black and white, faced in the Cold War era between their racial identity politics and their values of liberal individualism. The project underscores the limits of liberalism and its inability to stave off the deleterious effects of emerging discourses around color and its place in governance. Ultimately, I tell a local story with national implications about how liberal individualism undergirded the racialization of space, criminalization of race, and the criminalization of space shaped a Sun Belt metropolis's social and political geography, even as Jim Crow atrophied, and how these processes concatenated to define black folks' “place.”

I defended by dissertation on March 3, 2017 and will be joining the faculty in the School of Interdisiplinary and Global Studies at the University of South Florida as an Assistant Professor of Race and Society.

[i] H. A. Bullock, “Tomorrow’s Challenge: High Court Gives Us Gap to Bridge,” Informer, May 29, 1954, 12.

[ii] Michael O. Emerson et al., “Houston Region Grows More Racially/Ethnically Diverse, With Small Declines in Segregation: A Joint Report Analyzing Census Data from 1990, 2000, and 2010” (Houston: Kinder Institute for Urban Research & the Hobby Center for the Study of Texas, 2012), http://kinder.rice.edu.