Patricia A. Banks (Harvard University P.h.D. & A.M./Spelman College B.A.) is a sociologist who studies cultural and social boundaries. Her research agenda centers on cultural consumption with a focus on race and ethnicity. In 2018-2019 Banks was in residence at Stanford University as a CASBS Fellow. Banks has also been at Harvard University as a Sheila Biddle Ford Foundation Fellow and Non-Resident Fellow at the Hutchins Center for African & African American Research and received fellowships or grants from institutions such as the UNCF/Mellon Foundation, the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, and the American Association of University Women.
Some of the topics Banks explores are the bi-directional relationship between art collecting and identity, structural and cultural explanations of museum philanthropy, and the influence of consecration on the art market. At Mount Holyoke College she is an Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology and a faculty member in the Program in Africana Studies and the Program in Entrepreneurship, Organizations, and Society.
Banks is author of the books Diversity and Philanthropy at African American Museums (Routledge Research in Museum Studies 2019) and Represent: Art and Identity Among the Black Upper-Middle Class (Routledge 2010). She has published articles in journals such as Poetics, the Journal of Consumer Culture, Ethnic and Racial Studies, Cultural Sociology, and Qualitative Sociology. Her research involves various methods including in-depth interviews, visual analysis, participant observation, and archival research. Represent is the first major empirical and theoretical analysis of art collecting as a practice of black identity construction. She is currently working on the book Race, Ethnicity, and Consumption: A Sociological View (Under Contract Routledge) where she brings sociological theory to bear on race and ethnicity in the marketplace. In other research projects Banks is investigating philanthropy at African American museums, corporate support for the arts, and the markets for contemporary art by black artists and African artists.
Banks was recently elected to serve a three year term as the Secretary-Treasurer of the Sociology of Consumers and Consumption section of the American Sociological Association. She is also an elected Council Member for the Sociology of Culture section of the American Sociological Association and has served in an elected position as Secretary-Treasurer of the American Sociological Association Section on Race, Gender and Class. Her work with students has been recognized by a teaching award from the Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning at Harvard University and election as the Junior Faculty Baccalaureate Speaker at Mount Holyoke College. Banks has lectured and given talks on issues related to art and culture internationally and nationally. She is also the creator of the African American Museums Database (AAMD) which is a digital archive that allows researchers and other users to search for over 300 African American museums and related organizations across the United States. For more information about how her research on art collecting and racial identity has been incorporated into the sociology of art see Sociology Looks at the Arts.