Michele Elam is the William Robertson Coe Professor of Humanities in the English Department at Stanford University, Former Associate Director and currently a Senior Fellow at the Institute for Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence and a Race & Technology Affiliate at the Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity . Former Director of African & African American Studies, Elam is also affiliated with the Clayman Institute for Gender Research and with the Wu Tsai Neuroscience Institute.
Elam’s research in interdisciplinary humanities connects literature, social sciences, and STEM in order to examine changing cultural interpretations of gender and race. Her work is informed by the understanding that racial perception and identification in particular impacts outcomes for health, wealth and social justice. More recently, her scholarship examines intersections of race, technology and the arts. “Race Making in the Age of AI,” her most recent book project, considers how the humanities and arts function as key crucibles through which to frame and address urgent social questions about equity and social justice in socially transformative technologies. Her undergraduate interdisciplinary courses, "AI + Arts," and "Black Mirror: AI Activism" represent efforts to introduce these issues early in students' careers at Stanford.
Elam’s books include Race, Work, and Desire in American Literature, 1860-1930 (Cambridge University Press, 2003), The Souls of Mixed Folk: Race, Politics, and Aesthetics in the New Millennium (Stanford University Press, 2011), and The Cambridge Companion to James Baldwin (Cambridge University Press, 2015). She has published widely on race and culture including articles in PMLA, African American Review, American Literature, Theatre Journal, Genre, Daedelus: The Journal of the Academy of Arts and Sciences, and in edited volumes such as Feminist AI. Her op-eds appear in CNN, Huffington Post, and Boston Review. She was awarded the 2018 Darwin T. Turner Award for Outstanding Scholarship by the African American Literature and Culture Society.
At Stanford, she has served as the Director of the interdisciplinary graduate Program in Modern Thought and Literature (MTL), the Director of African & African American Studies, and the Director of Undergraduate Studies in the English Department. Nationally, Elam has served as Chair of the Executive Committee for the Black Literatures & Culture Division of the Modern Language Association (MLA) and on the Executive Council for the American Literature Society at MLA. She is currently on the Advisory Boards of Stanford’s Program in Feminist, Gender and Sexuality Studies, the Michelle R. Clayman Institute for Gender Studies, the Center for Comparative Studies in Race & Ethnicity, and serves on the Director’s Council for the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design (the d.school).
Dedicated to teaching, Elam has been awarded the 2018 Walter J. Gores Award, the University's highest teaching honor. She is also four times the recipient of the St Clair Drake Outstanding Teaching Award at Stanford (2004, 2006, 2015, 2023) and has twice received the Faculty Award for Outstanding Service to Undergraduate Students as a Teacher, Advisor and Mentor from the Program in Comparative Studies in Race & Ethnicity (2013, 2018), among her other teaching awards.
Undergraduate and graduate seminars include:
- Arts + AI
- Black Mirror: AI Activism
- The Harlem Renaissance
- James Baldwin & American Culture
- Got Genius? W.E.B. Du Bois
- Toni Morrison & the Occasion of Feminism
- Gender Studies for the 21st Century
- Mixed Race Politics & Culture
- Mixed Race in the U.S & South Africa
- Narratives of Enslavement & Theories of Redress