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 scholarship and teaching focus on 20th and 21st century American culture, particularly popular forms: film, music, television, comix, art, literature, evolving media forms and fashion. Critically, I focus on the negotiation of cultural identity as it expresses contested social dynamics and politics. Current research involves a study of the advertising, policy and popular culture produced about legal and illegal drugs in the more than four decades of the U.S. "drug war." 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. Additional areas of interest include technology and post-humanism, the social politics of the monstrous, the U.S. and Iraq and Afghanistan wars, graffiti and street art.

Current Research

My current project is a book-length study of the U.S. social politics of psychoactive substance use, including close analyses of our narratives and professional discourses about drugs. I've completed chapters on criminalization (the drug war and other policy issues), medicalization (the professionalization of health, dichotomous substance perceptions, drug schedules and who uses what and why) and am currently working on chapters about the representation of users and drugs in popular culture and another on the issues of pleasure and desire as part of user agency.

I would welcome research assistance in terms of data collection and updating (for the chapters on criminalization and medicalization of substance use). The constantly changing data regarding the use of psychoactive substances in the U.S. (data found in the National Institutes of Health, particularly a national survey, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health and other data sources). It changes annually, and there are several sources that I'd like to add. This requires careful reading and an ability to cross-reference data sources. I will help you sharpen that skill.


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 the representations of war in US popular culture of the last decade, 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, 114, 124 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 Cultre, War (Afghanistan & Iraq)
  • TCULTR 450, Monstrous Imagination
  • TAMST 420, Drugs in US Culture
  • TAMST 490, Senior Capstone
  • Memberships and Conference Research Presentations:
    • American Studies Association
    • American Culture Association
    • Popular Culture Association
    • Alcohol and Drug History Association
Academic Service

Editorial Board, NANO Crit, New American Notes Online (a peer-reviewed journal)

I also consult with the ACLU and a couple of research organizations with regard to the legalization of marijuana in WA state.

Although I enjoy academic research and exchange, I am more and more interested in public scholarship. My book is a cross-over, designed for both academic and general audiences, because it is focused on several high-impact social and political issues in the last generation.

I'm also interested in the ways that academic scholarship is changing format and the ability to bring work to readers faster and in process. The current process for publication in my field is 18 months - 2 years at the fastest. My contributions as an editorial reviewre for NANO Crit and other journals is about getting work out sooner and readers involved in feedback earlier in the process.

I have presented my work in various public contexts over the last 5 years, including invitational public lectures at the Fall Free for All (Broadway Center), and leading discussions with activist groups and political organizations in the region regarding the legalization of marijuana. 

The most rewarding invitation to present my work was to give a TED talk which gives it an international audience.

Honors and Awards

In addition participation in a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities and numerous other individual research grants, I've been a keynote speaker at an international conference in a research area I helped found (The Conspiracy Conference at the University of Birmingham, 2000) and have held these honorary positions and been awarded for excellence in teaching by national organizations:

  • 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 Marys College of California, Highest honors, 1986
CV or Resume
PDF icon Ingrid Walker CV147.68 KB