Skip to content. | Skip to navigation

Home » People > Old > quality > Carolyn de la Peña

Carolyn de la Peña

de la penaDirector, Davis Humanities Institute

Associate Professor, American Studies

 2133 Hart Hall and 227 Voorhies

(530) 754-8459


Ph.D. in American Studies, University of Texas, Austin 2001



Carolyn de la Peña (Ph.D., University of Texas at Austin, American Studies, 2001) directs the UC Davis Humanities Institute and is also a Professor of American Studies and co-editor of the new Boom: A Journal of California, emerging from UC Press in February 2011. She chairs the system-wide network of Humanities Center Directors for the UC and co-coordinates (with Charlotte Biltekoff) the Multi-Campus Research Initiative (MRPI) “Studies of Food and the Body,” a group of faculty and graduate students across the social sciences and humanities on five UC campuses who, together, explore the intersection of food and human systems and cultures.  She is the author of two books (Empty Pleasures: The Story of Artificial Sweetener from Saccharin to Splenda, 2010 and The Body Electric: How Strange Machines Built The Modern American, 2003), one co-edited volume (with Siva Vaidahyanathan), Re-Wiring the Nation: The Place of Technology in American Studies (2007) and roughly twenty articles on the history of our relationship to technologies and objects—especially those that enhance physical performance—in the United States.  Carolyn is currently working on a number of projects including articles on the mechanization of tomato harvesting in the 1960s, the rise in popularity of “behavioral vision therapy” for children, and the value of engaged scholarship in the humanities. She occasionally blogs with other American Studies writers at