Sophia A. McClennen works on the intersections between culture, politics, and society. Her books focus on cultural responses to complex social change, such as the connections between the satire of Stephen Colbert and post 9/11 politics or the exile writing of Ariel Dorfman and dictatorship in 1970s Latin America. Her work often analyzes the links between political events and their media representations, which has led her to critique the relationship between mainstream culture, political praxis, stereotypes, and social injustice.
The daughter of an Afghan economist and the granddaughter of an art historian, she was raised by a strong, bright, and incredibly warm mother, who taught her children that “rules were made to be broken” and to question authority. She grew up experiencing the social transitions from the 70s to the 80s in an atmosphere of dinner table debates, community service, and exposure to the arts. These early influences surely had a lot to do with her interest in studying the ways that people respond to abuses of power through creative expression.
As a child she lived in Manhattan, Washington DC, and Fort Lauderdale—a mix that likely affected her fondness for cities and interest in the Spanish-speaking world. She studied philosophy at Harvard University, where she worked on The Harvard Lampoon, and did her graduate work in Latin American cultural studies at Duke University, where she developed a love for college basketball.
She is currently Professor of International Affairs and Comparative Literature at Penn State University and director of the Center for Global Studies. At Penn State she teaches courses on human rights and world literature, culture and globalization, media studies, global cinema, the cultures of displaced peoples, cultural trade policy, and critical theory. Click here for her Academics page.
When she isn’t teaching or lecturing, she is writing. She has written three books, co-authored one, and co-edited two. She has published over 50 essays in books and journals. She also regularly writes for Huffington Post and has had pieces in Alternet, Truthout, The Chronicle of Higher Education, and Counterpunch.
One of the great benefits to her work has been the opportunity to travel. In 2006 she was the Fulbright Research Chair in Globalization and Cultural Studies at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada and she also held a Fulbright faculty award in Peru (2003) where she researched Peruvian cinema. She has taught in Chile, Germany, and Peru, and has also done research in Argentina, Bolivia, Mexico, Spain, Guatemala, Uruguay, and Costa Rica.
She lives with her two children in State College, PA. They enjoy the ease of small town living and explore cities whenever possible.