Davin Phoenix Receives the 2020 Ralph J. Bunche Award

Assistant Professor of Political Science Davin Phoenix

The Ralph J. Bunche Award is presented annually by the American Political Science Association (APSA) to honor the best scholarly work in political science that explores the phenomenon of ethnic and cultural pluralism.

Davin Phoenix is an associate professor of political science at the University of California, Irvine.  He earned a joint Ph.D. in public policy and political science from the University of Michigan in 2015.  A first-generation college graduate, Davin researches how race interacts with various spheres of U.S. politics to shape the attitudes, emotions and behavior of both everyday people and elites.  His research appears in Politics, Groups and Identities, The Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, and The Journal of Social and Political Psychology.  Davin is a recipient of the 2016-17 UC Hellman Fellowship, the 2017-18 Dean’s Honoree for Teaching Excellence Award, and a 2019 UROP Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Fostering Undergraduate Research.  He is a member of APSA’s Committee on the Status of First Generation Scholars in the Profession and the Race and Ethnicity Politics Executive Council.

Citation from the Award Committee:

For decades, scholars of political participation have argued that the low levels of African American political participation in a wide variety of domains (e.g. turnout, contacting officials, donating, volunteering, and attending meetings) reflects the relative dearth of African American civic skills and socioeconomic resources when compared to white Americans.  In The Anger Gap: How Race Shapes Emotion in Politics, Davin Phoenix investigates the role that emotions, most notably anger, play in accounting for the racial divide in political participation in the United States.  Drawing on insights from African American political thought, history, political communication, psychology, and political science and employing a multi-method approach, Phoenix argues that the racial divide in participation is a reflection of the gap between African Americans and whites in the mobilizing emotion of anger.  Phoenix deftly shows how the stereotype of the “angry black man/woman” has and continues to preclude African Americans from accessing, expressing, and employing the emotion of anger – an emotion that has been used successfully as a tool by white Americans to mobilize political support among elected officials to effect beneficial political change.  According to Phoenix, the result of this “anger gap” in public opinion is continued racial inequality in the U.S. and the lack of receptivity to African American political demands by elected officials.

The Anger Gap: How Race Shapes Emotion in Politics is a nuanced, encompassing, and thorough analysis of African American public opinion, thought, and political behavior in the 21st century.  Phoenix’s argument concerning the mobilizing and transformative effect of anger on U.S. politics is not only timely, but prescient, as evidenced by the emergence, spread, and influence of the #BlackLivesMatter movement in the U.S.  The committee unanimously agreed that in line with the tenets of the Ralph J. Bunche Award that Davin Phoenix’s The Anger Gap: How Race Shapes Emotion in Politics not only breaks new ground in the empirical and scholarly study of African American public opinion, but assists the public in better understanding the nature and origins of a contemporary African American-led social movement that seeks to establish the social justice, equality, and protections promised in nation’s founding documents and most cherished values.

APSA thanks the committee members for their service: Tatishe Nteta (chair), University of Massachusetts Amherst; Emily Farris, Texas Christian University; and Dr. Debra Thompson, McGill University.