Clarissa Rile Hayward is a political theorist at Washington University in St. Louis whose research and teaching focus on questions central to understanding and evaluating political life: “What is social power, and how does it shape human freedom?” “What does democratic government entail, and what are its practical and institutional implications?” “How do social actors create and maintain identities?” Unlike theorists who attempt to answer such questions by relying exclusively on what Rawls called “ideal theory,” Hayward approaches these problems by examining their concrete manifestations, writing theoretical work that is grounded in the analysis of institutions and practices. The result is an engaged form of political theory, addressed not only to other specialists in the field, but more generally to social and political theorists, social scientists, and others who are concerned with questions of power, democracy, and identity.

Hayward’s most recent book is the award-winning How Americans Make Race: Stories, Institutions, Spaces (Cambridge University Press, 2013). This book challenges what is sometimes called the “narrative identity thesis”: the idea that people produce and reproduce identities as stories. Identities have greater staying power than one would expect them to have if they were purely and simply narrative constructions, she argues, because people institutionalize identity-stories, building them into laws, rules, and other institutions that give social actors incentives to perform their identities well, and because they objectify identity-stories, building them into material forms that actors experience with their bodies. Drawing on in-depth historical analyses of the development of racialized identities and spaces in the twentieth-century United States, and also on life-narratives collected from people who live in racialized urban and suburban spaces, Hayward shows how the institutionalization and objectification of racial identity-stories enables their practical reproduction, lending them resilience in the face of challenge and critique.

In addition to How Americans Make Race, Hayward is the author of De-Facing Power (Cambridge University Press, 2000) and co-editor (with Todd Swanstrom) of Justice and the American Metropolis (University of Minnesota Press, 2011). She has published many articles in edited volumes and in journals, such as the American Political Science Review, Constellations, Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy, Polity, and Political Theory. Her research has been supported by the National Academy of Education/Spencer Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton.

She is Fellow in Residence at the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard, Senior Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Ash Center for Democratic Governance, and Associate Professor in the Political Science Department at Washington University in St. Louis.

You can read excerpts of How Americans Make Race using Amazon’s “Search Inside the Book” tool. You can also visit the facebook page for How Americans Make Race and follow Clarissa Hayward on twitter @ClarissaHayward.