Leo Coleman has been named chair of the Department of Social Science and Cultural Studies (SSCS) in the School of Liberal Arts and Sciences after a competitive international search. With extensive experience as an educator, scholar, and administrator, Coleman arrives at Pratt Institute from Hunter College, CUNY, where he served as the chair of the Department of Anthropology.

“Professor Coleman is an urbanist, a scholar of science and technology, and an anthropologist of law,” said School of Liberal Arts and Sciences Dean Helio Takai. “He has expertise in curricular initiatives at all levels in higher education, from developing new general education classes to rethinking graduate-level core courses.”

As a chair, Coleman will oversee a department of approximately 65 faculty who teach courses to roughly 1,800 students from across disciplines each semester. A core part of the Pratt experience, SSCS offers a BA degree in critical and visual studies, a variety of minors, and general education courses for all students. The SSCS courses delve into the rich ideas and cultural expressions surrounding art, design, and architecture, helping students to understand how culture is created and to develop a perspective on how to change it. The department comprises critical and visual studies, cultural studies, gender and sexuality studies, philosophy, psychology, social justice/social practice, and sustainability studies.

“A robust academic department can be more than a place of teaching, learning, and research—it can also be a hub for exchanges, conversations, and connections that configure new possibilities across existing institutional hierarchies,” said Coleman. “I’m looking forward to helping to grow such a ‘central place’ for cultural studies and critical social analysis within the ecology of Pratt.”

For the past four years, Coleman has led Hunter College’s anthropology department, guiding the growth of the Human Biology program and contributing to the revision of the MA degree. His scholarly research focuses on political and legal anthropology; technology and infrastructure; energy and society; and the history of anthropological theory, with a strong geographical emphasis on India, the British Empire, and Scotland. Informed by a commitment to interdisciplinarity, Coleman’s work considers social patterns and forms—both how they’re designed and how they change over time. His research has contributed significantly to the development of the field of infrastructure studies. He has published monographs and peer-reviewed articles, contributed to edited volumes, and is currently working on a book about legalism in liberal societies. 

A longtime educator and advisor, Coleman is currently a senior Associate Professor at both Hunter and the CUNY Graduate Center, and has taught at CUNY and The Ohio State University on subjects including global urbanism, science and technology studies, and the anthropology of energy and climate change. He has held research fellowships from the British Academy and Vanderbilt University.

His background in administration and coordination includes developing curricular initiatives, managing a unionized workforce, academic scheduling, recruiting instructors, and overseeing promotion and tenure cases.

Coleman holds a PhD in Anthropology from Princeton University.