Psyche Williams-Forson

Chair of American Studies

Psyche Williams-Forson is an Associate Professor and Chair.  From 2009 to summer of 2012 she served as Director of Graduate Studies.  She is an affiliate faculty member of the Women’s Studies and African American Studies departments and the Consortium on Race, Gender, and Ethnicity.  Her research and teaching interests include cultural studies, material culture, food, women’s studies, social and cultural history of the U.S. in the late 19th and 20th centuries.

Her work on material culture and food has been published in her books Taking Food Public: Redefining Foodways in a Changing World and the award-winning (American Folklore Society) Building Houses Out of Chicken Legs: Black Women, Food, & Power. In the latter, she examines the complexities of black women’s legacies using food as a form of cultural work. Her new research explores food shaming and food policing in communities of color.  Another study focuses on black women in rural Virginia who worked in the underground economy at a time when few paying jobs other than domestic work were available to them.  A third  project analyzes African American class and material culture through domestic interiors from the late nineteenth-century through early twentieth-centuries.

Williams-Forson is the recipient of several teaching awards including one from the [Domonique and Ashley] Foxworth Creative Enterprise Initiative ( that encourages faculty and students to enter into a collaborative learning and working relationship with an under-represented community.  Another from the Academy for Innovation and Entrepreneurship for a “Fearless Ideas” course uses design-thinking activities to address food insecurity in Prince George’s County, MD.  Dr. Williams-Forson frequently participated in public and community-engaged activities.  In 2014, for example, she participated on a panel discussion about the history of food, race, and identity in America on the Melissa Harris-Perry shoe. She is the recipient of several fellowships including a UMD Service Learning Faculty Fellowship, a Smithsonian Institution Senior Fellowship, and a Ford Foundation Postdoctoral Diversity Fellowship. She has also been a fellow at the the Maryland Historical Society, the Virginia Historical Society, and the Winterthur Museum and Library.

Dr. Williams-Forson was invited to participate in a panel discussion about the history of food, race, and identity in America on Melissa Harris-Perry on 11/29/14:–race-and-identity-in-america-365087811768.

Research Areas

  • Food Studies
  • Critical Race and Ethnic Studies
  • Material Culture
  • Gender Studies
  • Cultural History


  • Ph.D., American Studies (Univ. of Maryland)
  • M.A., American Studies, Women’s Studies Certificate (Univ. of Maryland)
  • B.A., English/African American Studies, Women’s Studies (Univ. of Virginia)

Select Publications


  • Taking Food Public: Redefining Foodways in a Changing World. Eds. Psyche Williams-Forson and Carole Counihan (Routledge, 2011)
  • Building Houses Out of Chicken Legs: Black Women, Food, & Power. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2006.


  • “Other Women Cooked for My Husband: Negotiating Gender, Food, and Identities in an African American/Ghanaian Household.” Feminist Studies 36.2 (Summer 2010): 435-461.
  • “African Americans and Food Stereotypes.” African American Foodways: Explorations of History and Culture. Ed. Ann Bower. (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2009).
  • “More than Just the ‘Big Piece of Chicken’: The Power of Race, Class, and Food in American Consciousness.” Food and Culture: A Reader. 2nd ed. Eds. Carole Counihan and Penny van Esterik (NY: Routledge, 2007)
  • “Suckin’ the Chicken Bone Dry: African American Women, History and Food Culture.” Cooking Lessons: The Politics of Gender and Food. Ed. Sherrie Inness. (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2000) 200 – 214.

Areas of Expertise/Interest

  • Food Studies
  • Critical Race and Ethnic Studies
Psyche Williams-Forson
Faculty Information
Campus Address
1328E Tawes Hall
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