Professor Assata Zerai Ph.D.

Professor Assata Zerai

Contact Information

3120 Lincoln Hall
702 S. Wright St
Urbana IL 31801

Office Hours

  • By appointment only.
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Additional Campus Affiliations


Assata Zerai is the Associate Chancellor for Diversity and Professor of Sociology at the University of Illinois. At Illinois since 2002, Zerai’s research interests have included maternal and child health, health activism, safe water and sanitation, as well as diversity and LGBTQI inclusiveness in U.S. Protestant congregations, and making the work of marginalized scholars more accessible.Dr. Zerai’s recent books include: Intersectionality in IntentionalCommunities: The Struggle for Inclusivity (2016); Hypermasculinity and State Violence in Zimbabwe (2014). She has also authored Dehumanizing Discourse, Law and Policy in America (with Rae Banks,2002); and, Safe Water, Sanitation and Early Childhood Malnutrition in East Africa (forthcoming). She is currently completing her fifth book manuscript, African Women and the Challenge of Gendered Digital Divides to People-Centered Governance. In Spring 2015, while Associate Dean in the Graduate College, Zerai began service as co-PI on a $1M award from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation to increase numbers of graduate students underrepresented in STEM. And 2015-16, Zerai served as co-PI on a US State Department award to offer a Young African Leaders Public Management Institute to Mandela Washington Fellows at the Center for African Studies at the University of Illinois. In 2017-18 Zerai is serving as a Big-10 Academic Alliance Leadership Program Fellow.

Research Interests

  • Race/Class/Gender; Maternal and Child Health; Sociology of Religion; Health Activism; Health Inequality; Gender Equity and Development Effectiveness; Anti-War Activism

Research Description

Fall 2015, as Director of African Studies, Zerai worked with core and affiliate faculty and staff integrate expertise from our internationally recognized programs in engineering, with social science methodologies and humanities country-specific skill sets, training in cultural competency, and social justice and to propose to host a Mandela Washington Fellowship Young African Leaders Institute in public management. Zerai is co-PI on this grant, received from the U.S.Department of State. For one year, she was also PI on the Title VI National Resource Center grant to the Center for African Studies at the University of Illinois. Zerai is co-PI on a grant to establish a University Center for Exemplary Mentoring from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. Zerai was selected for the Larine Y. Cowan “Make a Difference” Leadership in Diversity Award, received at the University of Illinois in November 2015.  Zerai has received recognition from the U of I Women’s Resources Center and Office of Inclusion and Intercultural Relations for her work on behalf of women internationally during the March 2016 International Women’s Day Celebration. And Zerai has been honored with the Ebony Excellence Awards 2016 Outstanding Contributions to the Field Award, by the Bruce Nesbitt African American Cultural Center, University of Illinois on 19 April 2016.


  • University of Chicago Ph.D. 1993


  • SOC 496/596 Race, Class and Gender
  • SOC 496/596 Maternal and Child Health in Southern Africa
  • SOC 496/596 Health Inequality
  • SOC 480/583 Qualitative Research

Selected Publications


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Hypermasculinity, State Violence and Family Well-Being in Zimbabwe: An Africana Feminist Analysis of Maternal and Child Health. Trenton, NJ Africa World Press 2014.
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Zerai, Assata, and Rae Banks Dehumanizing Discourse, Law and Policy in America: A Crack Mother’s Nightmare London Ashgate Publishing Limited 2002.
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Zerai Ph.D., Prof Assata Intersectionality in Intentional Communities: The Struggle for Inclusivity in Multicultural U.S. Protestant Congregations Lanham Rowman and Littlefield 2016. Publisher info.

Journal Articles

An Assessment of Afro-Centricism, Color-Blind Ideology, and Intersectionality: Three Models of Internal Christian Congregational Cohesion Race, Gender and Class 2011.
“Everyone Deserves Services No Matter What”: Defining Success in Harm Reduction Based Substance Abuse Treatment Substance Use & Misuse 2010.
Zerai, Assata A black feminist critique of American religious anti-war (dis)engagements Works and Days 57/58 29 1 & 2 2010.
To be Politically Relevant and Tolerant: A Comparative Analysis of Christian Evangelical Internal Discussions of the 2008 Presidential Election Race, Gender and Class 2010.
Zerai, Assata, and Salime Zakia A Black Feminist Analysis of Responses to War, Racism, and Repression Critical Sociology 32 2 -3 2006, p. 503-523.
Zerai, Assata, and Horace Campbell The Black Radical Congress and Black Feminist Organizing Socialism and Democracy 19 2 2005, p. 147-156.
Zerai, Assata, and Rae Banks African-American Mothers and Substance Abuse: Punishment over Treatment? Journal of the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States 30 3 2002, p. 26-29.
Zerai, Assata Models for Unity Between Scholarship and Grassroots Activism Critical Sociology 28 1-2 2002, p. 201-216.