John P. Murphy

Associate Professor




Campus Box 0411


McKnight Hall
Room 32
300 North Washington St.
Gettysburg, PA 17325-1400


PhD New York University, 2009
MA New York University, 2003
BA Georgetown University, 2000

Academic Focus

Contemporary French culture and society in anthropological perspective

I hold a joint PhD in French Studies and Anthropology from New York University. My teaching and research focus on contemporary French culture and society.

My first book Yearning to Labor: Youth, Unemployment, and Social Destiny in Urban France (University of Nebraska Press, 2017) chronicles the everyday struggle of a group of young people living in a French banlieue as they confront more than triple the national unemployment rate. Drawing attention to a global trend toward neoliberal reform—a shift whose deleterious consequences fall disproportionately on the youngest and the least qualified in France—I ask how the young men and women at the center of my study make sense of the inequality they face. By tracing how they position themselves and others as they look for work and attempt to project themselves into the future, I explore how subjectivities are fashioned and refashioned through a complex interplay of local and extralocal forces. Ultimately, this book aims to shed light on some of the mechanisms underlying the shifting inequalities of condition that are broadly part of the human experience at this beginning of the twenty-first century.

My next project tackles similar questions relating to the construction of self and other, albeit through a different lens: frozen food. France is often associated with visions of fine dining and expectations about culinary prowess, and a great deal of scholarly attention has been devoted to exploring this relationship. However, France is also home to a thriving frozen-food industry. It is estimated that the average person in France eats about eighty pounds of frozen food every year, and in a recent survey nearly 98 percent of French households reported buying frozen food on a regular basis. In 2014, Picard Surgelés, a premium French frozen-food company, dethroned Amazon as France’s “favorite” retailer. What, I ask, might investigating how frozen food is marketed, sold, and consumed in France tell us about such culturally derived distinctions as gender, social class, and age? More broadly, given the international scope of the networks linking frozen-food producers, distributors, and consumers, how could studying frozen food illuminate evolving notions of what it means to be French in today’s increasingly globalized, pluralistic world?

Courses Taught