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 who studies the intersection of law, culture, and family. He is especially interested in how people define their relationships to each other, and in the ways these definitions reflect and shape struggles for power.

His current book manuscript pursues these questions through 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 how the official law of marriage translates--or doesn't--into daily practices and understandings. Articles from this project have been published in Social PoliticsLaw & Social Inquiry, and Sexualities, and earlier versions of the project received the Marvin B. Sussman Dissertation Prize from the Yale Sociology Department and a Fulbright-Hays fellowship. Yarbrough has published other work on South African marriage and family in the South African Review of Sociology and the Yale Journal of Law & Feminism.

Yarbrough has also recently published three co-edited volumes (with Angela Jones and Joseph Nicholas DeFilippis) on queer families and relationships, queer activism, and queer political priorities after the arrival of legal marriage rights. Published with Routledge in 2018 as the After Marriage Equality series, these volumes build on a conference Yarbrough conceived and co-organized that convened 450 scholars, activists, artists, and community members at John Jay to examine how LGBTQ communities and movements are changing after the legalization of same-sex marriage, and to chart future directions for research and activism.

At John Jay, Yarbrough's teaching focuses on the Law & Society major and received a Distinguished Teaching Prize in 2015. Outside of John Jay, Yarbrough serves as a Senior Research Associate of the Department of Sociology at the University of Johannesburg, and is a former member of the Board of Directors for CLAGS: The Center for LGBTQ Studies.


Edited Volumes
2018. Michael W. Yarbrough, Angela Jones, and Joseph Nicholas DeFilippis, eds. In press. Queer Families and Relationships After Marriage Equality. New York: Routledge
2018. Angela Jones, Joseph Nicholas DeFilippis, and Michael W. Yarbrough, eds. 2018. The Unfinished Queer Agenda After Marriage Equality. New York: Routledge.
2018. Joseph Nicholas DeFilippis, Michael W. Yarbrough, and Angela Jones, eds. Under contract. Queer Activism After Marriage Equality. New York: Routledge.
In press. Something Old, Something New: Historicizing Same-Sex Marriage in Ongoing Struggles over African Marriage in South Africa. Sexualities. Version of record published online September 12, 2017. DOI: 10.1177/1363460717718507
In press. “Very Long Engagements: The Persistent Authority of Bridewealth in a Post-Apartheid South African Community.” Law & Social Inquiry (forthcoming). Version of record published online January 19, 2017: DOI: 10.1111/lsi.12275.
2015. “South African Marriage in Policy and Practice: A Dynamic Story.” South African Review of Sociology 46(4): 5-23. DOI: 10.1080/21528586.2015.1100095.
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. DOI: 10.1093/sp/jxv016.
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. Available at http://digitalcommons.law.yale.edu/yjlf/vol18/iss2/5/.
Chinese translation forthcoming:
Michael W. Yarbrough. 南非的婚姻震动:巩固、废除或再生. Yang Junfei, trans. Review on Law, Shanghai International Studies University (in press).
Book Chapter
2018. “Introduction: For Better or for Worse? Relational Landscapes in the Time of Same-Sex Marriage.” In Michael W. Yarbrough, Joseph Nicholas DeFilippis, and Angela Jones, eds. Queer Families and Relationships After Marriage Equality. New York: Routledge.
Manuscripts in Preparation
“Staying True: Representing Gay African Weddings in Contemporary South African Media” (article manuscript)
“‘I Now Pronounce You...’: Marital Status and the Everyday Life of Law in Post-Apartheid South Africa” (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; gender, sexuality, and race; LGBTQ communities and politics; law in everyday life; post-colonial law and society; political and cultural sociology; South Africa; the United States

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Course taught

LWS 200: Introduction to Law & Society

LWS 225: Introduction to Research in Law & Society

LWS 425: Colloquium for Research in Law & Society