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Alex Sayf Cummings

Associate Professor    

Dr. Cummings is a historian of law, technology, and American political culture and director of the department’s graduate program, whose work examines how the transition to an “information society” reshaped American culture, economic policy, and the built environment from the late nineteenth to the early twenty-first century. Cummings earned a BA in History at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, and went on to receive an MA (2005) and PhD (2009) in History from Columbia University, studying with Elizabeth Blackmar and Barbara Fields.

Cummings’s first book, Democracy of Sound: Music Piracy and the Remaking of American Copyright in the Twentieth Century, was published by Oxford University Press in 2013, and has been reviewed in publications such as Paste, Blurt, Reason, Pop Matters, and Entertainment Law Review, among others. A further project, Brain Magnet: RTP and the Idea of the Idea Economy, looks at North Carolina’s Research Triangle region as a landscape of the high-tech economy of the late twentieth century. It approaches the same economic and technological shift that Democracy of Sound examined through law by looking instead at local boosterism, the role of federal policy in fostering high-tech enclaves, and the changing racial and class demographics of the prosperous, sprawling metropolitan area encompassing Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, and Cary. (The book is under contract with Columbia University Press for its Studies in the History of US Capitalism series.) The article, “Brain Magnet: Research Triangle Park and the Origins of the Creative City, 1953-1965,” was published in the Journal of Urban History in May 2017, and other pieces have previously appeared in the Journal of American HistorySouthern Cultures, Al Jazeera, and Salon, among other publications

Dr. Cummings has been the recipient of the Torbet Prize, a Whiting Fellowship, a postdoctoral fellowship from the American Council of Learned Societies, and a Dean’s Early Career Award and Provost’s Faculty Fellowship at Georgia State University. Cummings is also a senior editor of the history blog Tropics of Meta.

Curriculum vitae