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Michael Gibson-Light

Michael Gibson-Light ("MGL") is an Assistant Professor of Sociology & Criminology at the University of Denver specializing in the study of punishment, work, and inequality. He researches these phenomena through ethnographic observations, interviews, and historical and archival analyses. Through these methods, he has investigated groups as diverse as dumpster divers, independent hip-hop artists, migrant day laborers, and–most recently–prison laborers.

Michael's book, Orange-Collar Labor, forthcoming from Oxford University Press, examines life and labor in today's prison. Following 18 months of ethnographic research working alongside incarcerated laborers in a US men's prison, it explores the organization of work behind bars, imprisoned workers' experiences of this labor, and the reproduction of inequalities in this context.


Other research explores the rise of cheap food like ramen as informal money within US prisons. Early findings were reported on in the Guardian, Washington Post, BBC, NPR, the Atlantic, Time, US News & World Report, and over 100 other reputable news outlets.

Michael's current book project draws on ethnographic fieldwork within a US state prison and over 80 interviews with working prisoners and institutional staff members to explore the realities of prison labor today. Forthcoming from Oxford University Press.