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Sophia McClennen    

Founding Director of Penn State's Center for Global Studies & Author of "Is Satire Saving our Nation? Mockery and American Politics"

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, politics, 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 brave 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 founding director of the Center for Global Studies. At Penn State she teaches courses on human rights culture, culture and globalization, media studies, global cinema, the cultures of displaced peoples, cultural trade policy, cross-cultural conflict resolution, and critical theory.

When she isn’t teaching or lecturing, she is writing. She has written three books, co-authored two, and co-edited three. She has published over 50 essays in books and journals. She regularly writes for Salon and Huffington Post. She has also 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.

When she isn’t working, she practices Pilates, stand up paddling, and teaches kickboxing. In summers she races wooden sailboats with her family on Cape Cod. She spends a lot of time on social media and she loves watching clips of Colbert, Stewart, Oliver and more – but since it helps her research she counts that as work and play. She reads twitter more often than The New York Times.

She lives with her two children in State College, PA. They enjoy the ease of small town living and explore cities whenever possible.

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