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College of Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences

Department of Sociology & Criminology


Faculty & Staff

Michael Gibson-Light

 Michael Gibson-Light photo

Michael Gibson-Light

Assistant Professor
Office: Sturm Hall 409
Phone: 303-871-2060
View CV



areas of expertise/research interests

Punishment and society; work and labor; culture; inequality; economic sociology; ethnographic methods 

professional biography

Michael Gibson-Light is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology and Criminology at the University of Denver. He is an ethnographer whose research explores various intersections of punishment, work, culture, and the economy. His research has been covered by The Guardian, Time, The Atlantic, BBC, NPR, USA Today, Vice, and hundreds of other outlets internationally and has received awards from the American Sociological Association and the American Society of Criminology. He is currently preparing a book manuscript, under contract with Oxford University Press, in which he draws on unique ethnographic data within a US prison to examine the structure and practice of prisoner labor as well as the reproduction of social inequality within penal institutions.

Professor Gibson-Light’s course offerings at DU include Prison Labor, Qualitative Methods, Criminology, and the Sociology of Popular Culture. 


PhD    Sociology, University of Arizona
MA     Sociology, University of Arizona
BA     Sociology, University of Missouri - St. Louis

selected publications

Gibson-Light, Michael. Under contract with Oxford University Press. The Market Prison: Penal Labor and the Reproduction of Inequality in the Era of Mass Incarceration.

Gibson-Light, Michael. Under review. "Sandpiles of Dignity: Labor Status, Boundaries, and Penal Subjectivities in the Contemporary American Prison."

Davis, Andrew P. and Michael Gibson-Light. Online first. "Difference and Punishment: Ethno-Political Exclusion, Colonial Institutional Legacies, and Incarceration." Punishment and Society.

Gibson-Light, Michael. 2018. "Ramen Politics: Informal Money and Logics of Resistance in the Contemporary American Prison." Qualitative Sociology 41(2):199-220. 

Gibson-Light, Michael. 2017. "Classification Struggles in Semi-Formal and Precarious Work: Lessons from Inmate Labor and Cultural Production." Research in the Sociology of Work 31:61-90.