Sophia A. McClennen works on the intersections between culture, politics, and society. Her books focus on cultural responses to complex social change, such as the connections between the satire of Stephen Colbert and post 9/11 politics or the exile writing of Ariel Dorfman and dictatorship in 1970s Latin America. Her work often analyzes the links between political events and their media representations, which has led her to critique the relationship between mainstream culture, politics, stereotypes, and social injustice.

Click here for her CV

The daughter of an Afghan economist and the granddaughter of an art historian, she was raised by a strong, bright, and brave mother, who taught her children that “rules were made to be broken” and to question authority. She grew up experiencing the social transitions from the 70s to the 80s in an atmosphere of dinner table debates, community service, and exposure to the arts. These early influences surely had a lot to do with her interest in studying the ways that people respond to abuses of power through creative expression.

As a child she lived in Manhattan, Washington DC, and Fort Lauderdale—a mix that likely affected her fondness for cities and interest in the Spanish-speaking world. She studied philosophy at Harvard University, where she worked on The Harvard Lampoon, and did her graduate work in Latin American cultural studies at Duke University, where she developed a love for college basketball.

She is currently Professor of International Affairs and Comparative Literature at Penn State University and founding director of the Center for Global Studies. At Penn State she teaches courses on human rights culture, culture and globalization, media studies, global cinema, the cultures of displaced peoples, cultural trade policy, cross-cultural conflict resolution, and critical theory. Click here for her Academics page. Click here for her academic bio.

When she isn’t teaching or lecturing, she is writing. She has published eleven books and has two in process. Her most recent book is Globalization and Latin American Cinema: Toward a New Critical Paradigm (Palgrave 2018).  She also co-edited The Debt Age (Routledge 2018) with Jeffrey Di Leo and Peter Hitchcock. Other recent books include The Routledge Companion to Human Rights and Literature (2015), co-edited with Alexandra Schultheis Moore, which includes over 50 contributions to the topic. She also recently published, Is Satire Saving our Nation? Mockery and American Politics (Palgrave 2014), co-authored with Penn State communications undergraduate Remy Maisel, and Neoliberalism, Terrorism, Education (Paradigm 2013), which she co-wrote with Jeffrey Di Leo, Henry Giroux, and Kenneth Saltman. Her current book project is Trump is a Joke: Why Satire Makes Sense When Politics Doesn’t, which analyzes the role that political satire has played in the Trump era.  She is also working on a book in the global impact of political satire: The Revolution Will Be Satirized.

She has published over 60 essays in books and journals. She writes regularly for Salon and has published in Huffington Post, Daily Beast, Truthout, Counterpunch, and other sites as well.  She has been interviewed by Neil de Grasse Tyson, CNN, BBC TV, Wall Street Journal TV, HuffPost Live, The Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Politico, Variety, The Hill, NPR-Miami, and CBC Canada among others. Find her on Twitter @mcclennen65.

One of the great benefits to her work has been the opportunity to travel. In 2006 she was the Fulbright Research Chair in Globalization and Cultural Studies at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada and she also held a Fulbright faculty award in Peru (2003) where she researched Peruvian cinema.  She has taught in Chile, Germany, and Peru, and has also done research in Argentina, Bolivia, Mexico, Spain, Guatemala, Uruguay, and Costa Rica.

When she isn’t working, she practices Pilates, stand up paddling, and teaches yoga.  In summers she races wooden sailboats with her family on Cape Cod. She spends a lot of time on social media and she loves watching clips of Colbert, Stewart, Oliver and more–but since it helps her research she counts that as work and play.  She reads twitter more often than The New York Times.

She lives with her two children in State College, PA. They enjoy the ease of small town living and explore cities whenever possible.

Write to Sophia McClennen at

Elise Bogdan
Newman Communications
125 Walnut St. Suite 205
Watertown, MA 02472
(617) 254-4500