Ingrid Walker, Ph.D.

Associate Professor
Office hours
By appointment (please email).
American Literature
University of California Santa Cruz
English Literature
Saint Mary's College

My work focuses on contemporary American culture, particularly the politics of popular forms: film, music, television, comix, art, literature, evolving media forms and fashion. Critically, I explore the negotiation of cultural identity and power as expressed through contested social dynamics and politics.

My research and teaching express a commitment to understanding the systems that create social inequities in the United States and, particularly, what we can do to change them. I believe that the more we seek to understand our own cultural practices, the more clearly we will see their relation to and reproduction of the social systems of law, public health, education, media, etc. that empower and disempower us. I am a community-engaged scholar and activist.

My book, High: Drugs, Desire, and a Nation of Users, is a cross-cultural study of how we think about, regulate, and use psychoactive drugs in the United States. It asks a fundamental question about drug policy and social norms in the United States: Why do we endorse the use of some drugs while criminalizing the use of others? This illogical separation shapes public policy, the justice system, research, social services, and healthcare in ways that affect all Americans. My TEDx talk, “Drugs and Desire”: explores the stigmas surrounding psychoactive drugs, from caffeine to hallucinogens.

Previous scholarship has focused on conspiracy theory as a political discourse in American culture as expressed in literature, television dramas (The X Files, The Sopranos), comix, texts featuring Italian mobsters, African-American gangstas and white supremacism.

Current Research

Projects include research about how we research drugs and users, what informs drug policy, and how to enhance harm reduction in the United States.

Research questions:
• What kind of data / research do we need to improve drug policy in the US?
• How could that same data / research be used to enhance and implement harm-reduction practices?
• What are the potential points of change in criminalization and medication of drug users?
• How do we encourage users who have been silenced through criminalization to share their use-practices?


I teach courses on American culture and popular culture in the American Studies and Arts, Media and Culture majors. These are skills-based courses that take a cultural studies focus (close reading of texts, audience response and the political economy of popular culture). Texts include popular forms (art, music, comics, film, literature, graffiti, fashion, advertising) and range through various periods depending on the course. The skills you learn transfer, so once you take an intro course, it's fun to continue on in an upper level course and really dig in. The two intro courses I teach (Popular Culture and American Cultures and Perspectives) offer a great range of texts and topics to practice these skills.

Issues in these courses range from what popular culture teaches us to think about war, how the "monstrous" reflects sociopolitical needs and anxieties (from the Salem witch trials to Guantanomo Bay and the war on terror) and other topics: the history and politics of drug policy in the US, and the American Studies capstone, which deals with concepts of Americanness with the US compared with transnational perceptions.

• TCORE 104, The King of Pop: Reading Michael Jackson
• TCULTR 210, Intro to Popular Culture
• TAMST 210, American Cultures and Perceptions
• TCULTR 410, Studies in US Pop Culture (Alternating topics: War or Space)
• TCULTR 450, Monstrous Imagination
• TAMST 420, Drugs in US Culture
• TAMST 490, Senior Capstone


• Alcohol and Drug History Association
• American Studies Association
• American Culture Association / Popular Culture Association
• Drug Policy Alliance
• New American Notes Online

Honors and Awards

• Research Royalty Funds Grant, University of Washington, 2014
• University Fellow, Center for the Study of Higher Education, University of California, Berkeley, 2008
• Bingham National Fellowship for Excellence in Teaching. $60,000 award over five years, 1997
• National Endowment for the Humanities, Johns Hopkins University, 1990
• Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award, Literature, University of California, Santa Cruz, 1989-90
• The Brother Leo Meehan Award in English Literature, Saint Mary’s College of California, Highest honors, 1986

CV or Resume
Microsoft Office document icon CV-IWalker-IAS-2016-17-external.doc62.5 KB