Psyche Williams-Forson

Chair of American Studies

Dr. Psyche Williams-Forson is Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of American Studies at University of Maryland College Park. She is an affiliate faculty member of the Theatre, Dance, and Performing Studies, the Departments of Anthropology, African American Studies, Women’s Studies and the Consortium on Race, Gender, and Ethnicity. She is a material culturalist who examines the lives of African Americans living in the United States from the late 19th century to the present. Her research explores the ways in which Black people (broadly define) engage their material worlds, especially with food and food cultures as well as historical legacies of race and gender (mis)representation. She has conducted extensive research throughout the United States in this area using intersectionality, cultural studies, popular culture, and more to inform our understanding of these phenomena. 

Dr. Williams-Forson’s 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, as well as in many journals and book chapters. Her expertise has been featured in a number of media outlets, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, Al Jazeera America, NPR (National Public Radio), Radio New Zealand, Irish Radio, MSNBC (the former Melissa Harris-Perry Show), and The Associated Press (wire service), among others. 

Dr. Williams-Forson also is the recipient of several teaching awards, among them are the Academy for Innovation and Entrepreneurship for a “Fearless Ideas” course that uses design-thinking activities to address food insecurity in Prince George’s County, MD; and, the [Domonique and Ashley] Foxworth Creative Enterprise Initiative (, which encourages faculty and students to enter into a collaborative learning and working relationship with an under-represented community. She is the recipient of several fellowships including a UMD Service Learning Faculty Fellowship, a Smithsonian Institution Senior Fellowship, a Ford Foundation Postdoctoral Diversity Fellowship, and a Winterthur Museum and Library Fellowship.

She is currently developing a new project on food shaming and food policing in African American communities and another on African American class and material culture through domestic interiors from the late nineteenth-century through early twentieth-centuries.

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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