Faculty and Staff

Dan Berger


Assistant Professor

B.A. Interdisciplinary Studies, University of Florida
B.S. Journalism, University of Florida
Ph.D. Communications, University of Pennsylvania 

Office: UW2-308
Phone: 425-352-3744
Email: daberger@uw.edu
Mailing: Box 358530, 18115 Campus Way NE, Bothell, WA 98011-8246


Teaching, to me, is an act of mentorship. I view the classroom as a space where students can ask questions, pose challenges, experiment with ideas, and discuss key concerns about the world in a supportive environment. I see my role as a teacher in helping students think critically and creatively—about both course materials and society at large. The classroom is not a bubble separate from the rest of the world but rather a laboratory in which to understand it. I try to minimize the gap between what we study and the “real world” by animating the ways complex ideas and histories continue to structure our daily experiences and practices. My classes utilize a variety of mechanisms, from small group discussions and student-led presentations to a range of participatory activities, to work through core concepts. Learning is a collaborative process, done through individual and collective work, and my classes try to strike that balance. I hope that by participating in their own learning students will take intellectual risks—will engage new concepts thoughtfully and articulate taken-for-granted concepts differently.

Recent Courses Taught

BIS 256 Introduction to African American Studies
BIS 300 Interdisciplinary Inquiry
BIS 364 Public Memory and Dissent in American Culture
BCULST 500 Formations of Cultural Studies
BCULST 570 Prisons, Politics and Activism


My research emphasizes critical race theory, social movements, and American history, with a special emphasis on where these forces align through the carceral state. I am interested in bottoms-up explorations of identity, politics, activism, and the state. My work has focused especially on U.S. social movements from World War II to the present. I have been interested in movements that reveal productive and fundamental tensions in society. My first monograph, Outlaws of America: The Weather Underground and the Politics of Solidarity (AK Press, 2006), used a range of oral histories to examine the political orbit of one of the New Left’s most controversial organizations. The Hidden 1970s: Histories of Radicalism (Rutgers University Press, 2010) emphasized the wide range of social movements that animated an era often described as being dominated by either conservatism or apathy. In 2005 I co-edited Letters From Young Activists, an anthology that brought together forty-five youth from across the country working for racial, economic, and gender justice. These anthologies have been collaborative exercises in knowledge production, something I value highly as a crucial element of interdisciplinary scholarship.

The prison has been an undercurrent to much of my published work to date, and it occupies an increasingly central place within it. I am completing a book called Captive Nation: Black Prison Organizing in the Civil Rights Era that examines the crucial role that black prisoners played in the black freedom struggle. I argue that the prison proved a useful institution in making sense of race and politics in the era immediately preceding the rise of mass incarceration. That book will be published by the new Justice, Power, and Politics series at the University of North Carolina Press. I recently published a slim primer on U.S. political prisoners, entitled The Struggle Within: Prisons, Political Prisoners, and Mass Movements in the United States (PM Press, 2014). The book includes a foreword by scholar-activist Ruth Wilson Gilmore, who is the former president of the American Studies Association, and an afterword from journalist and filmmaker dream hampton.

While most of my work has been historical and archival, I have also written about contemporary politics and theory. I participated in a Social Science Research Council grant to study the Philadelphia-based Media Mobilizing Project, and have written about Hurricane Katrina and contemporary legal battles involving the memory of the civil rights movement. I am passionate about publicly engaged scholarship, and have published op-eds and other writings in both scholarly journals and general audience newspapers or magazines. I am an active member of the Critical Prison Studies Caucus of the American Studies Association, among other entities.

I have served as a peer reviewer for several scholarly journals and currently sit on the editorial board of The Sixties: A Journal of History, Politics, and Culture.

Selected Publications

Captive Nation: Black Prison Organizing in the Civil Rights Era. Chapel Hill: North Carolina Press (Justice, Power, and Politics series), forthcoming in 2014.

The Struggle Within: Prisons, Political Prisoners, and Mass Movements in the United States. Oakland: PM Press, 2014.

The Hidden 1970s: Histories of Radicalism. Rutgers University Press, 2010.

Outlaws of America: The Weather Underground and the Politics of Solidarity. AK Press, 2006.

“Mass Incarceration: A History Since the 1970s,” module for Retrieving The American Past Textbook, forthcoming.

“Carceral Journeys: Blackness, Migration, and Slavery in 1970s California Prison Radicalism,” in Moon-Ho Jung, ed., Race, Radicalism and Repression on the Pacific Coast and Beyond. Seattle: University of Washington Press, forthcoming.

“Marilyn Buck’s Playlist,” Polygraph: An International Journal of Politics and Culture 23/24.

“Constructing Crime, Framing Disaster: Routines of Criminalization and Crisis in Hurricane Katrina,” Punishment and Society 11: 4 (2009).

“Rescuing Civil Rights from Black Power: Collective Memory and Saving the State in Twenty-First Century Prosecutions of 1960s-Era Cases,” Journal for the Study of Radicalism, 3: 1 (2009).