prabhdeep kehal

Graduate Student
A.M. Brown University
M.A. University of Michigan
M.P.P. University of Michigan
B.A. University of California, Berkeley

Research Interests

Sociologies of Race and Colonialism; Organizational Theory and Cultural Sociology; Du Boisian Sociology; Sociology of Eliteness, Faculty, and Meritocracy


Year of Entry: 2015

Affiliations at Brown:

  • Swearer Center
  • Du Boisian Sociology at Brown

Dissertation: Racializing Meritocracy: Ideas of Excellence and Exclusion in Faculty Diversity.

Through ethnographic and quantitative methodologies, prabhdeep's projects consider how racism has been historically constructed within higher education by exploring the cultural and ideological relationship between slavery, colonialism, and higher education in the United States. With a specific focus on the faculty role and how faculty evaluate prospective candidates for hiring and promotion in elite, academic spaces, their dissertation is an institutional ethnography at UC Berkeley, Stanford University, Duke University, and University of North Carolina. Drawing on ethnographic data, 88 in-depth interviews with faculty across the disciplines, and campus reports, Racializing Meritocracy reorients and develops theories of racism and organizations. prabhdeep argues, in addition to identifying desired scholars, contemporary faculty deploy cultural and historically-based scripts of merit as competency and scholarly impact in disciplinary networks to justify their racial boundary maintenance within the elite professoriate. In addition to the dissertation, prabhdeep explores additional dimensions of the modern research university outside the professoriate. This work touches on the role of considering race in undergraduate admissions, university-community engagement, and the relationship between the sociology of knowledge and the sociology of racism. 

prabhdeep's work has been recognized by the Eastern Sociological Society's Charles V. Willie Minority Graduate Student Award, and supported by The Institute for Transformative Practice at Brown University, a two-year fellowship at the Swearer Center, the Beatrice and Joseph Feinberg Memorial Fund, the Office of Institutional Equity and Diversity at Brown University, and the Nelson Center for Entrepreneurship. For 2017-2019 and 2020-2021, prabhdeep is a Graduate Fellow in Community Engaged Scholarship at Brown University's Swearer Center.

Peer-reviewed Manuscripts

  • kehal, prabhdeep singh and Cadence Willse. (2020). Institutional Type, Organizational Pathways, and Student Engagement: Deepening Student Engagement and the Benefit-Use Paradox in Formal Engagement Spaces. Journal of Community Engagement in Higher Education, 20(1):50-65.
  • Willse, Cadence, kehal, prabhdeep singh, and Mathew Johnson. (2020). Social Innovation and Civic Engagement: A Critical Praxis for Engagement in Higher Education. In E. Mlyn, and A. M. McBride (Eds.), The Civic Mission of Higher Education: Connecting Social Innovation and Civic Engagement. Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing.

Manuscripts Under Review

  • kehal, prabhdeep singh, Hirschman, Daniel, and Ellen Berrey. When Affirmative Action Disappears: Unexpected Patterns in Student Enrollments at Selective U.S. Institutions, 1990-2016. (Sociology of Race and Ethnicity)

Manuscripts Under Preparation

  • kehal, prabhdeep singh. What’s Merit Got To Do With It? Historicizing U.S Faculty Evaluations and Institutional Racism in the Elite U.S. Professoriate.
  • Kaur, Harleen, prabhdeep singh kehal, and Kameron Smalls. Sikh Interventions: Beyond American Allyship in the Movement for Black Lives. (for Sikh Formations). Under contract.

Encyclopedia Entries

  • kehal, prabhdeep singh, Garbes, Laura, and Kennedy, Michael D. (2019). Critical Sociology of Knowledge. In Lynette Spillman (Ed), Oxford Bibliographies in Sociology. New York: Oxford University Press.

Reviewed Public Sociology

  • kehal, prabhdeep singh, and Michael D. Kennedy. 2020. Graduate Education and Academic Labor for Graduate Students during the Pandemic. ASA Footnotes, 12.
  • kehal, prabhdeep singh. 2018. “Hitting the Wall: It’s Unfair to Expect Graduate Students to Shoulder All the Diversity Work.” Conditionally Accepted, Inside Higher Ed.
  • Kennedy, Michael, kehal, prabhdeep singh, and Laura Garbes. 2018. Excellence, reflexivity, and racism: On sociology’s nuclear contradiction and its abiding crisis. History, Theory and Sociology in an Age of Crisis, Comparative and Historical Sociology Section of the American Sociological Association.