Michael Yarbrough

Michael Yarbrough

Michael Yarbrough
Assistant Professor
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PhD, Yale University (Sociology)

JD, Yale Law School

AB, University of Chicago (Sociology)



Michael W. Yarbrough is an interdisciplinary social scientist working at the intersection of law, culture, and family. His current book manuscript explores these themes through comparative ethnographic research among two groups recently incorporated into South African marriage law: people living in communities that observe African customary law; and people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, and/or transgender. As the world's only jurisdiction that has recently extended its marriage laws to multiple social groups, South Africa makes possible a novel comparison Yarbrough uses to re-theorize the production of marital status as a fundamental category of social life. His article on how these legal expansions came to be was recently published in Social Politics, and another piece from this project that explores the persistent authority of bridewealth is forthcoming in Law & Social Inquiry. He has published other work in the South African Review of SociologyQualitative Sociology Review and the Yale Journal of Law & Feminism. In its dissertation form, his current project was awarded a Fulbright-Hays fellowship and the Marvin B. Sussman Dissertation Prize from the Yale Sociology Department.

At John Jay, Yarbrough's teaching focuses on the Law & Society major and won a Distinguished Teaching Award in 2015. His formal training is in sociology and law, and his work also draws on anthropology, political science, and LGBT and feminist studies. Outside of John Jay, Yarbrough serves as a Research Associate of the Department of Sociology at the University of Johannesburg and a Board Member of CLAGS: The Center for LGBTQ Studies. Through CLAGS he is currently co-organizing a major conference entitled "After Marriage: The Future of LGBTQ Politics and Scholarship," to be held at John Jay on October 1-2, 2016. For more information on this conference, please visit: http://www.clags.org/after-marriage/.


In press. “Very Long Engagements: The Persistent Authority of Bridewealth in a Post-Apartheid South African Community.” Law & Social Inquiry (forthcoming).
2015. “South African Marriage in Policy and Practice: A Dynamic Story.” South African Review of Sociology 46(4): 5-23.
2015. “Toward a Political Sociology of Conjugal-Recognition Regimes: Gendered Multiculturalism in South African Marriage Law.” Social Politics: International Studies in Gender, State & Society 22(3): 456-94.
2012. “When Symbolic Action Fails: Illustrations from Small-Claims Court.” Qualitative Sociology Review 8(3): 44-57.
2007. “South Africa’s Wedding Jitters: Consolidation, Abolition, or Proliferation?” Yale Journal of Law & Feminism 18(2): 497-521.
Book Reviews
2012. Out in Africa: LGBT Organizing in Namibia and South Africa by Ashley Currier (2012). American Journal of Sociology 119(1): 286-88.
2011. Unhitched: Love, Marriage, and Family Values from West Hollywood to Western China by Judith Stacey (2011). Gender & Society 27(1): 123-25.
2005. Overcoming Apartheid: Can Truth Reconcile a Divided Nation? by James L. Gibson (2004). Yale Human Rights & Development Law Journal 8: 237-39.
Manuscripts in Preparation
“‘I Now Declare You’: The Sociolegal Production of Marital Status in South Africa and Beyond” (book manuscript)
Publications for the General Public
2015. “Clearing a Path to Liberation?” contexts.org, July 7. Available at: https://contexts.org/blog/clearing-a-path-to-liberation/.



marriage and family; race, gender, and sexuality; LGBT communities and politics; law in everyday life; post-colonialism; political and cultural sociology; qualitative and ethnographic methods; South Africa; the United States

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