Assistant Professor of General Studies and Peace & Social Justice Studies;
Chair of the Peace & Social Justice Studies Department
At Berea College since 2008
Draper Building, 304B
- B.S. Biology, Eastern Kentucky University, 2000
- M.A. Geography, University of Kentucky, 2003
- Ph.D. Geography, University of California, Berkeley, 2013
Jason Strange grew up in eastern Kentucky and northern California. He fell in love with reading as a child, which led to many wonderful things, not least of which was dropping out of high school. He spent much of the next decade in the unwalled classroom of the world, working as a carpenter and barista and corn detassler. He crewed on a sailboat and biked the western US and rode trains across India, hauling a pile of books and journals the whole way.
After finishing an undergraduate degree in biology, he looked for a discipline that tried to put the pieces together and figure out the big picture—a discipline that asked, for example, how society and nature interact and shape each other. That led to studying geography and political ecology with Michael Watts at the University of California, Berkeley, and to a research project on back-to-the-land movements in eastern Kentucky. The research culminated in March of 2020 with his first book, Shelter From the Machine: Homesteaders in the Age of Capitalism. Written for a wide audience, Shelter tells the stories of people in the hills of Appalachia who build their own homes and grow their own food. It also explores how those same people are impacted by capitalism and class and labor exploitation, offering, in the words of one reviewer, “a judgment-free assessment of the core reasons for our nation’s cultural divide, along lines created by disparate access to education and opportunity.”
Half of Jason’s courses at Berea College are freshman writing seminars which emphasize the creative and transformative power of the written word. In 2015, with the support of colleagues and students, Jason led the effort to create a major in Peace and Social Justice; the other half of his courses are now offered in that major. Those courses analyze pressing social issues but also focus on that crucial but often-neglected question: what can we do? Instead of just critiquing, say, the capitalist economy, it’s important to look at alternatives—real-world alternatives like businesses that are owned not by absentee investors, but by the workers who create the wealth.
Jason is currently working on a science-fiction novel and looking forward to when it’s safe to travel again. Even though he tries to make the classroom a relaxed and lively place, for some reason his students insist on calling him Dr. Strange.
Strange, Jason. “A Better Way to Teach: the Biden Administration Creates Opportunities for Deepening Democracy in the Classroom.” The Progressive, 4 February 2021.
Strange, Jason. “When the Economy Turns Upside down, Appalachian Homesteaders Might Have the Answers.” Lexington Herald Leader, 15 July 2020.
Strange, Jason. “Reading and Learning on the Appalachian Bohemian Homestead” (excerpt from Shelter from the Machine). Literary Hub, March 20, 2020.
Strange, Jason. Shelter From the Machine: Homesteaders in the Age of Capitalism. University of Illinois Press (2020).