Son of a Black father and Ethiopian American mother, Caleb E. Dawson resides on and recognizes the unceded land of the Ohlone people, also known as the San Francisco Bay Area of California. Caleb is a playful community organizer who loves to dance and indulge in food that tastes too good to be vegan. He studies the cultural politics of institutional change and the political economy of inclusion in higher education.
A PhD Candidate in Education, Caleb has drawn on sociology and a range of interdisciplines like Black Studies and Women and Gender Studies to engage in theoretically ambitious social science research. Indebted to the legacy of Michael J. Dumas, Caleb’s research boldly examines how Black people experience suffering in higher education and uncovers the institutionality of antiblackness. He also studies how Black folk sustain themselves amidst and contest institutionalized antiblackness.
Caleb’s dissertation, a Black feminist institutional ethnography, interrogates the racial and gender politics of institutional change at an elite public university. He investigates (a) how Black undergraduates, graduate students, staff, faculty, and administrators critique and contest antiblackness as an institutional phenomenon; and (b) how university leaders work with and rely on Black people to solve institutional problems. He cares about all the labor that is required, how it feels, and what it costs of Black people to change institutions.
Additionally, Caleb convenes the Critical University Studies working group at UC Berkeley, and has written about the political economy of student debt and of for-profit colleges. He has co-authored a theoretical intervention about racial capitalism and student debt with colleague Dr. Jalil Bishop. Caleb is also a thought partner on the first national qualitative study about the Black student debt crisis led by Dr. Bishop.
His advocacy and organizing for Black and Brown people in higher education animates his scholarship. While an undergraduate student at Gonzaga University, Caleb successfully led a campaign to revise the university’s mission statement and to create a Critical Race and Ethnic Studies department. He continues to support activists at his alma mater and at UC Berkeley in their political and personal endeavors. Caleb is especially proud of re-directing more than $100,000 toward funding and programming for Black graduate students, and loves collaborating with the Cite Black Women Collective to highlight the knowledge production of his Black feminist peers, friends, and teachers.
Mitigating institutional violence and building capacity for life-affirming alternatives is central to Caleb’s scholar identity. In all these labors of love, Caleb brings efficacy in community building, endurance in stewarding change through bureaucratic processes, and a conviction that the radical possibilities of the future are made more tangible by what we do and refuse to do today. Caleb intends to continue his scholar activism as a university professor.
Specializations and Interests
Sociology of Race and Education; Black Feminist Marxism; Affect and Labor; Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging; Antiblackness and Education