Michael James Gibson-Light

Assistant Professor

Professional Biography

Michael is an Assistant Professor of Sociology & Criminology at the University of Denver specializing in the study of punishment, work, and culture. He investigates these phenomena using ethnography, a research method that involves systematically observing and participating in the social world being studied. Through this method, he has participated in the routines of groups as diverse as dumpster divers, independent hip-hop artists, migrant day laborers, and – most recently – prison laborers.

Michael's current book, under contract with Oxford University Press, examines lived experiences of prison life and labor. Following 18 months of ethnographic research in a US state prison complex where he worked alongside imprisoned workers, it explores the structure and practices of work behind bars. In so doing, it documents the reproduction of social inequalities in this setting.


  • Ph.D., Sociology, University of Arizona, 2019
  • MA, Sociology, University of Arizona, 2013
  • BA, Sociology, University of Missouri - St. Louis, 2009

Professional Affiliations

  • American Sociological Association
  • American Society of Criminology
  • Law and Society Association