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Patricia Banks

Patricia Banks

Mount Holyoke College
Fellow, 2018-19

During her fellowship year, Patricia Banks will work on two related projects. Her research considers the question, “What are the meanings and motivations underlying black cultural patronage?” The first study draws on over 80 in-depth interviews with trustees and other supporters of black museums across the United States, as well as participant observation and archival research, to examine how patrons define the value of these cultural institutions. She examines how and why patrons’ definitions of worth vary based on race and ethnicity, profession, lifestyle, and generation. Her second study draws on ethnographic and archival data to investigate why corporations support black culture such as sponsoring black museums and dance companies.

With a focus on the African Diaspora, Banks studies the determinants, consequences, and meanings of cultural patronage and the processes underlying the emergence and growth of cultural markets. Her research involves various methods including in-depth interviews, visual analysis, participant observation, and archival research. In her book Represent: Art and Identity Among the Black Upper-Middle Class (Routledge, 2009) she examines how art collecting is a practice of black identity construction.

Banks is an associate professor in the department of sociology and anthropology at Mount Holyoke College. She earned her PhD and AM in sociology at Harvard University, and her BA in sociology from Spelman College.

For more information, see Banks’ website at