Vesla Weaver, a leading scholar on racial politics and criminal justice issues in America, joined Johns Hopkins last fall as a Bloomberg Distinguished Associate Professor in political science and sociology. She is perhaps best known as a leader in the movement to push the social sciences to understand punishment as a crucial site of governance in the U.S., as well as a forceful mechanism of racial inequity. With her research, she has informed one of the central questions facing policymakers today: how to grapple with the consequences of nearly four decades of state-enforced discipline for citizens and communities.
In the early years of her graduate studies at Harvard, Weaver bucked against the common thinking that punishment was not a core concern for political science, successfully arguing that incarceration and surveillance influenced America’s post-war institutions in ways that critically altered the racial politics and inequality of later decades.
Later, as a professor at Yale, Weaver embarked on the first large-scale empirical study of how seismic shifts in incarceration and policing shaped the political and civic realities in the communities most affected.
Weaver received her undergraduate degree in government studies from the University of Virginia. She earned a doctoral degree in government and social policy from Harvard, where she also worked on the university’s Civil Rights Project.
In 2012, Weaver became a tenured associate professor in African-American studies and political science at Yale.