Michael Yarbrough

Michael Yarbrough

Michael Yarbrough
Associate Professor
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Ph.D., Yale University (Sociology)

J.D., Yale Law School

B.A., University of Chicago (Sociology)


Michael W. Yarbrough is an Associate Professor in the Political Science Department at John Jay College of Criminal Justice (CUNY), where his teaching focuses on the Law & Society major. He is also a member of the doctoral faculty in sociology at the CUNY Graduate Center. Yarbrough's research examines how law shapes the ways we understand marriage and other interpersonal relationships in our everyday lives. He is currently writing a book on South Africa, where the law recognizes a broader range of marriages than anywhere in the world but actual marriage rates have dramatically declined. The book uses historical and ethnographic lenses to explore this paradox, tracing how marriage has functioned in southern Africa as a site for constructing and contesting different forms of normativity and legal authority. This project has received multiple awards, including the Law & Society Association Article Prize. Yarbrough also co-edited the After Marriage Equality series (2018), three volumes that examine how queer families, activism, and political priorities are changing after same-sex marriage. Another collection he recently co-edited, the Research Handbook on Law, Movements, and Social Change, will be published by Edward Elgar Press in 2023.

Yarbrough places a high priority on working with undergraduates, and he has received awards from John Jay for both teaching and service to students. In 2020, his Law & Society capstone students published COVID-19 at CUNY, a web archive exploring how their families and communities experienced the first months of the COVID-19 pandemic. With his Law & Society faculty colleagues, Yarbrough also helps facilitate the Legal Disruption Project, a student-led participatory action research project that examines how law disrupts the lives of students and their communities. In 2019, Yarbrough was recognized by the CUNY Academy for the Humanities and Sciences as one of CUNY’s outstanding Assistant Professors. He holds a BA in sociology from the University of Chicago and a JD and a PhD in sociology from Yale. For more about Prof. Yarbroughs work, please visit his website at michaelyarbrough.net.

JJC Affiliations

Law & Society Major

Professional Memberships

Former Board Member, CLAGS: Center for LGBTQ Studies

Member, Law & Society Association

Course Taught

LWS 200: Introduction to Law & Society

LWS 225: Introduction to Research in Law & Society

LWS 330: Law in Everyday Life

LWS 380: Legal Tools of White Supremacy

LWS 385: Legal Disruption Project

LWS 425: Colloquium for Research in Law & Society [senior research capstone]

Scholarly Work

Edited Volumes
cover of Queer Families and Relationships After Marriage Equality cover of The Unfinished Queer Agenda After Marriagecover of Queer Activism After Marriage Equality
2018. Michael W. Yarbrough, Angela Jones, and Joseph Nicholas DeFilippis, eds. Queer Families and Relationships After Marriage Equality. Routledge
2018. Angela Jones, Joseph Nicholas DeFilippis, and Michael W. Yarbrough, eds. The Unfinished Queer Agenda After Marriage Equality. Routledge.
2018. Joseph Nicholas DeFilippis, Michael W. Yarbrough, and Angela Jones, eds. Queer Activism After Marriage Equality. Routledge.
Articles & Essays
Click [preprint] links to access pre-publication manuscript versions for free.
2021. “Queering Legal Pluralism?” [review essay] PoLAR: Political and Legal Anthropology Review. doi:10.1111/plar.12425. Available at https://polarjournal.org/2021/05/01/queering-legal-pluralism/.
2020. “A New Twist on the ‘un-African’ Script: Representing Lesbian and Gay African Weddings in Democratic South Africa.” Africa Today 67(1): 48-70. doi:10.2979/africatoday.67.1.04. [preprint]
2018. “For Better or for Worse? Relational Landscapes in the Time of Same-Sex Marriage.” In Michael W. Yarbrough, Angela Jones, and Joseph Nicholas DeFilippis, eds. Queer Families and Relationships After Marriage Equality. Routledge. [preprint]
2018. “Something Old, Something New: Same-Sex Marriage and Ongoing Struggles over African Marriage in South Africa.” Sexualities 21(7): 1092-1108. doi:10.1177/1363460717718507. [preprint]
2018. “Very Long Engagements: The Persistent Authority of Bridewealth in a Post-Apartheid South African Community.” Law & Social Inquiry 43(3): 647-77. doi:10.1111/lsi.12275. [Law & Society Association Article Prize, 2019] [preprint]

Honors and Awards

Law & Society Association Article Prize, 2019

Henry Wasser Award for Outstanding CUNY Assistant Professors, CUNY Academy of Humanities & Sciences, 2019

Distinguished Faculty Service to Students Award, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, 2019

Distinguished Teaching Prize, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, 2015

Marvin B. Sussman Dissertation Prize, Yale Sociology Department, 2014

Area of Expertise

Most requested topics by media

Racial & Social Justice
Women / Gender Justice

Faculty Expertise: topics/keywords

Law & Society; Marriage and Family; Sexuality, Gender, and Race; Queer Studies; Post-Colonial Studies; Legal Pluralism; Cultural Sociology; Political Sociology; South Africa; Undergraduate Research Pedagogy
In The Media


2021. Digication Scholars Podcast. “Teaching at the Epicenter.” [3-part interview with Yarbrough & COVID-19 at CUNY student editors Monica Guzmán-Reyes & Sally Olivo]

Part 1: The Professor and the Project.

Part 2: The Student Experience.

Part 3: Reflections on the Pedagogy.

2021. The Key Podcast by Inside Higher Ed. “The Pandemic’s Human Toll at CUNY.” [interview with Yarbrough & COVID-19 at CUNY student editor Paula-Camila Caceres]

2020. John Jay Distinguished Teaching Prize Interviews. “Interview with Michael Yarbrough.”


Yarbrough, Michael W. and John Jay Law & Society Research Colloquium. "What CUNY teaches us about the coronavirus, and vice versa." New York Daily News, April 17.

Robin, Corey. "The pandemic is the time to resurrect the public university." The New Yorker, May 7. [Features research performed by Yarbrough's Spring 2020 LWS 425 class on deaths of CUNY affiliates during the COVID-19 pandemic.]

Online Presence
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