USC Dornsife sociologist named to prestigious American Academy of Arts and Sciences
Manuel Pastor studies issues that low-income urban communities face and the social movements that aim to address those conditions. (Photo: Mike Glier.)

USC Dornsife sociologist named to prestigious American Academy of Arts and Sciences

Distinguished Professor of Sociology and American Studies and Ethnicity Manuel Pastor enters the academy’s class of 2022 with such luminaries as authors Sandra Cisneros and Salman Rushdie, retired military leader and diplomat John R. Allen, singer-songwriter Buffy Sainte-Marie and actor Glenn Close.
ByDarrin S. Joy

Manuel Pastor, Distinguished Professor of Sociology and American Studies and Ethnicity at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, has been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Founded in 1780, the academy convenes leaders from every field of human endeavor to examine new ideas and address pressing national and global issues.

Pastor, who holds the Turpanjian Chair in Civil Society and Social Change and is director of USC Dornsife’s Equity Research Institute, is the 27th faculty member at USC Dornsife to be elected.

He joins 260 accomplished individuals in this year’s academy class, which celebrated authors Sandra Cisneros and Salman Rushdie, Brookings Institution President and retired United States Marine Corps four-star general John R. Allen, Indigenous Canadian-American singer-songwriter and Oscar-winning composer Buffy Sainte-Marie, and multi-award winning actor Glenn Close.

An award-winning, nationally recognized scholar, Pastor studies issues surrounding the economic, environmental and social conditions that low-income urban communities face as well as the social movements that aim to address and improve those conditions. He views election to the academy as a call for scholars — particularly those early in their careers — to bring their work to bear on societal challenges. 

“In a world that faces multiple crises — climate change, widening inequality and the fragility of our multiracial democracy — we need more academics to enter what USC Dornsife has termed the ‘public square.’ Fortunately, this next generation of scholars wants to do exactly that,” he said. “This award — which notably was given in the category of public affairs — gives all of us both a permission slip and a mandate to make sure our work makes a difference.”

Pastor has authored and edited numerous books delving into socio-economic issues, including Solidarity Economics: Why Mutuality and Movements Matter (‎Polity, 2021), which he co-authored with Chris Benner, and South Central Dreams: Finding Home and Building Community in South L.A. (NYU Press, 2021), co-authored with USC Dornsife’s Pierrette Hondagneu-Sotelo, Florence Everline Professor of Sociology.

His work led California Gov. Gavin Newsom in 2020 to appoint Pastor to the governor’s new Council of Economic Advisors, which aims “to keep California moving toward an economy that is inclusive, resilient, and sustainable.”

A recipient of Guggenheim, Fulbright and Kellogg National fellowships, Pastor is renowned among his colleagues and peers in the field, as is his talent as an instructor, mentor and colleague.

In his 15-year career at USC Dornsife, he has earned numerous honors including a USC Associate’s Award for Creativity in Research and Scholarship, an Albert S. Raubenheimer Outstanding Faculty Award and General Education Teaching Award.

He says this latest honor is not so much personally gratifying as socially validating and sends an important message to budding scholars.

“What it shows is that the professional lane that I have tried to occupy — working as a public intellectual with a foot in the academy and a foot in social justice activism — is one that can be recognized and rewarded,” he said. “The signal that sends to so many other younger intellectuals — that you can combine rigor with relevance, even-handedness with empathy, and analysis with action — is important.”

Pastor earned his Ph.D. in economics from the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 1984. Following more than a decade at Occidental College in Los Angeles’ Eagle Rock community and a brief stint at the University of California, Santa Cruz, where he had earned two bachelor’s degrees in 1978, he joined USC in 2007.