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I am a cultural historian who specializes in U.S. performance and theatre from the nineteenth century to the present. My interests include formations of race, age, gender, and sexuality, and my research integrates the study of theatrical, visual, material, and literary evidence. A graduate of Yale's doctoral program in American Studies, I have recently been promoted to Professor of African and African American Studies and of Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality at Harvard University. I am also a faculty member in Harvard's doctoral program in the History of American Civilization.
My book, Racial Innocence: Performing American Childhood from Slavery to Civil Rights, was published by New York University Press in December 2011 and entered its second printing eleven weeks later. It is now in its third printing. Racial Innocence won the Outstanding Book Award from the Association for Theatre in Higher Education (ATHE), the Grace Abbott Best Book Award from the Society for the History of Childhood and Youth, the Book Award from the Children's Literature Association, and the Lois P. Rudnick Book Prize from the New England American Studies Association. Racial Innocence was also a runner-up for the American Studies Association's John Hope Franklin Publication Prize and received an Honorable Mention for the Book Award from the Society for the Study of American Women Writers. Racial Innocence argues that the concept of "childhood innocence" has been central to U.S. racial formation since the mid-nineteenth century. Children--white ones imbued with innocence, black ones excluded from it, and others of color erased by it--figured pivotally in sharply divergent racial agendas from slavery and abolition to antiblack violence and the early Civil Rights Movement. Integrating performance studies with literary and visual analysis, I read theatrical productions, literary works, and material culture. Throughout, I show how "innocence" gradually became the exclusive province of white children--until the Civil Rights Movement succeeded in legally desegregating public spaces and in culturally desegregating the concept of childhood itself. Reviews of Racial Innocence, as well as links to video and radio interviews about the book, are available here. I blog about Racial Innocence here.
My other books include the anthologies Cast Out: Queer Lives in Theater (University of Michigan Press) and Generation Q (Alyson), as well as a Jewish feminist children's book titled Terrible, Terrible! I am currently writing a book titled Paradoxy: Lesbians and the Everyday Art of the Impossible. This book shows how racially diverse lesbians in the U.S. have, since the early twentieth century, performed paradoxes on stage and in everyday life. These bodily performances of paradoxes, I argue, have theorized lesbian modes of historiography, art-making, and politics.
A chapter from Paradoxy, titled "Utopian Movements: Nikki Giovanni and the Convocation Following the Virginia Tech Massacre," is forthcoming in African American Review. Another article, "Signposts on the Road Less Taken: John Newton Hyde’s Anti-Racist Illustrations of African American Children," is forthcoming in the inaugural issue of J19: The Journal of Nineteenth-Century Americanists. I recently published "Children's Books, Dolls, and the Performance of Race; Or, The Possibility of Children's Literature" (which appeared in PMLA, January 2011, in a special "theories and methodologies" section on children's literature) and "Toward the Integration of Theatre History and Affect Studies: Shame and The Rude Mechs's The Method Gun" (Theatre Journal, May 2012). I have also published articles on Lorraine Hansberry, Anna Deavere Smith, and Harlem Renaissance playwright Angelina Weld Grimké. My article "Dances with Things: Material Culture and the Performance of Race," which was published in Social Text in December 2009, won two prizes: the Outstanding Article award from the Association for Theatre in Higher Education (ATHE) and the Vera Mowry Roberts Award for Research and Publication, given by the American Theatre and Drama Society for the best essay published in English.
I am currently co-leading a Charles Warren Center faculty seminar titled "Everyday Life: The Textures and Politics of the Ordinary, Persistent, and Repeated," and I just began a three-year term as an elected member of the Executive Committee of the American Society for Theatre Research. In honor of International Day of the Girl, CNN recently invited me and other "leading women" to share the advice we'd give our fifteen-year-old selves. If you'd like to view my advice, click here and then click on the eleventh thumbnail.
This website designed and maintained by Robin Bernstein.