Patricia A. Banks

Professor of Sociology, Mount Holyoke College
Chapter Member: Boston SSN

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About Patricia

Banks’s research focuses on culture and inequality. Overarching themes in Banks’s writings include race and philanthropy, cultural patronage and identity, and inclusion in the art market. Banks serves organizations concerned with diversity and inclusion.

In the News

Opinion: "The Transparency Problem in Corporate Philanthropy," Patricia A. Banks, MIT Sloan Management Review, December 19, 2022.
Opinion: "A Holistic Approach to Diversity at Museums," Patricia A. Banks, The New York Times, October 21, 2020.


"High Culture, Black Culture: Strategic Assimilation and Cultural Steering in Museum Philanthropy" Journal of Consumer Culture (2019).

Provides a case study of race and big-gift cultural patronage, a theoretically and empirically understudied phenomenon, by investigating million-dollar museum donations by black patrons. Elaborates how strategic acculturation along with cultural steering help to explain black cultural consumption.

"Diversity and Philanthropy at African American Museums" (Routledge, May 2019).

Draws on over 80 in-depth interviews with supporters. Takes readers inside the world of cultural patronage to reveal why supporters give their time, talent, and treasure to black museums. Reveals why black museums matter in the eyes of supporters. Complicates the conventional view that social class drives giving to cultural nonprofits.

"The Rise of Africa in the Contemporary Auction Market: Myth or Reality?" Poetics 71 (December 2018): 7-17.

Investigates claims of a contemporary African art boom. Draws on an original archive of artworks offered at Christie’s New York to trace the evolution of works by African artists in the art market. Finds a rise in sales by African-born artists, but not enough to constitute a "boom".

"Money, Museums, and Memory: Cultural Patronage by Black Voluntary Associations" Ethnic and Racial Studies (2018).

Draws on ethnographic and archival data to investigate how black middle-class organizations donate to black museums to help reshape historical narratives about African Americans.

"Ethnicity, Class and Trusteeship at African-American and Mainstream Museums" Cultural Sociology 11, no. 1 (2016): 97-112.

Builds on cultural capital theory to elaborate how culture’s importance for class and ethnic cohesion is rooted in the separate spheres of arts philanthropy among black and white elites.

"Cultural Socialization in Black Middle-Class Families" Cultural Sociology 6, no. 1 (2012): 61-73.

Examines cultural capital within black middle-class families. Uses in-depth interviews with black middle-class parents to cast light on the ways that black middle-class parents approach their children’s socialization in the fine arts.

"Represent: Art and Identity Among the Black Upper-Middle Class" (Routledge, 2010).

Draws on over 100 in-depth interviews, observations at arts events, and photographs of art displayed in homes to elaborate a racial identity theory of consumption. Documents how the salience of race extends into the cultural life of even the most socioeconomically successful blacks.