Patricia A. Banks (Harvard University P.h.D. & A.M./Spelman College B.A.) is a sociologist whose research program lies at the intersection of culture, patronage, and markets. With a focus on the African Diaspora, she studies the determinants, consequences, and meanings of cultural patronage and the processes underlying the emergence and growth of cultural markets. Some of the topics she explores are the bi-directional relationship between art collecting and identity, structural and cultural explanations of museum philanthropy, and the influence of consecration on the art market. At Mount Holyoke College she is an Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology and a faculty member in the Program in Africana Studies and the Program in Entrepreneurship, Organizations, and Society.
Banks is author of the book Represent: Art and Identity Among the Black Upper-Middle Class (Routledge 2010) and has published articles in journals such as Ethnic and Racial Studies, Cultural Sociology, and Qualitative Sociology. Her research involves various methods including in-depth interviews, visual analysis, participant observation, and archival research. Represent is the first major empirical and theoretical analysis of art collecting as a practice of black identity construction. She is currently working on the book Race, Ethnicity, and Consumption: A Sociological View (Under Contract Routledge) where she brings sociological theory to bear on race and ethnicity in the for-profit and non-profit marketplaces. In other research projects Banks is investigating philanthropy at African American museums, corporate support for the arts, and the global market for contemporary African art.
Banks has been a Sheila Biddle Ford Foundation Fellow and Non-Resident Fellow at the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research (now the Hutchins Center) at Harvard University, and received fellowships or grants from institutions such as the UNCF/Mellon Foundation, the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, and the American Association of University Women. She was recently elected to serve a three year term as a Council Member for the Sociology of Culture section of the American Sociological Association and has served in an elected position as Secretary-Treasurer of the American Sociological Association Section on Race, Gender and Class. Her work with students has been recognized by a teaching award from the Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning at Harvard University and election as the Junior Faculty Baccalaureate Speaker at Mount Holyoke College. Banks has lectured and given talks on issues related to art and culture internationally and nationally. She is also the creator of the African American Museums Database (AAMD) which is a digital archive that allows researchers and other users to search for over 300 African American museums and related organizations across the United States. For more information about how her research on art collecting and racial identity has been incorporated into the sociology of art see Sociology Looks at the Arts.