Elspeth Brown,

Historian: markets, visual culture, gender, sexuality

Recent Graduate Courses

 Spring 2015 - HIS 1544: The History of Sex, Gender, and Sexuality in the United States, Post-1945 to Present 

This course pursues two themes. The first explores recent histories and theories of sex, gender, and sexuality in the United States after WWII. We will read theoretical work that helps us understand these three key analytic categories, as well as their historical formation in relationship to number of topics including racial formation; transnational capital; social movements; reproduction; LGBTQ histories; changing sex; pornography; post-industrial economies, and others. The second theme we will pursue concerns pedagogy. How might we teach these topics to undergraduate students during a period of ongoing crisis in higher education? This course will be in dialogue with the interdisciplinary conversation underway concerning attention, learning, and digital history via HASTAC and other sites. Students will have options concerning their assignments in order to engage with both course thematics.

Spring 2011 - HIS 1020: Cultural Theory/Cultural History 

What is ‘cultural history’? How has theory informed and transformed the questions posed by historians, as well as their methods? This course will explore the ‘cultural turn’ in historical studies through thematic sections that tie theoretical works to empirical studies. The course will begin with readings in the various ‘schools’ that have informed the field (e.g., Annales, Frankfurt, Birmingham). The remainder of the course will explore the works of specific thinkers (Foucault, Butler, Benjamin, Stoler as just some examples) in relationship to historical studies. We will endeavor to think through these pairings in relationship to thematic threads on, for example, markets, intimacy, and affect; food and power; commodity chains and empire; history of the senses; sexuality, gender, and capitalism. Historical examples will be drawn from various national and transnational studies, with a likely (though not exclusive) focus on North America. The course is designed, however, for all students interested in cultural history, regardless of geographical area.

Spring 2010 - HIS 1526: Readings in US History: Post-1945 [.doc]

This seminar will survey some of the important topics and readings in U.S. history after 1877. Given the extensive scope of the historiography in the U.S. field, this particular section of HIS1538H will focus on the post-1945 period. The goals of the course are to map current debates about the period under question, and to provide snapshots of the historiography for each subfield. Topics include: the Cold War; social movement history in a global frame (including civil rights, black power, women’s movement, gay liberation, student and anti-war protest); liberalism and neoliberalism; immigration; urbanization and suburbanization, especially in the sunbelt; the rise of modern conservativism; immigration; mass and consumer culture; U.S. empire and colonialism, post-45. We will cover a range of methodological approaches and subfields, including gender history, political history, cultural history, labour history, foreign relations history, etc. The course is designed for students preparing for comprehensive fields or others seeking a basic background in 20th century US history. Course work will include book reviews; class presentation; historiographic essays.

Spring 2008 - HIS 1522: Topics in 20th Century U.S. History: Transnational Commodity Culture [.doc]

This seminar will investigate the global production, distribution, and consumption of mass-produced commodities that have been identified as “American” [i.e., U.S] artifacts. Commodities will be interpreted broadly in this seminar, and will include both material artifacts (processed food, clothing, electronics) and formerly inalienable aspects of the self (emotions, style, sexuality). Students will address questions such as: How does nationalism frame the meaning of globally-circulating commodities through, for example, ‘buy American’ campaigns, or the antipathy towards U.S. products? What is the relationship between U.S. commercial hegemony on a global scale and U.S. imperialism? In the context of global production of mass-produced goods, how can consumer activism be sustained at the local level, with activists building social movements across national boundaries? Students will analyze the seminar’s keywords—‘culture,’ ‘commodity,’ and ‘transnational’—via introductory framing texts and will read a number of recent empirical works of late 19th and 20th century history.

Spring 2004 - HIS 1016: Readings in History and Theory of Gender and Sexuality [.doc]

Co-taught with Professor Michelle Murphy.

This is a readings seminar that will focus on the study of gender and sexuality in historical perspective. Students will engage with theoretical works that are framing current historical research in the intersectional histories of gender and sexuality, as well as with empirical studies that explore specific historical questions. The goal of the course is to provide students with a basic framework for pursuing additional research, as well as for comprehensive field preparations in these areas. No single course, however, can hope to cover the entire range of gender and sexuality history problematics that are exercising scholarship on every place and time. This course by necessity reflects the strengths and weaknesses of the two instructors – in particular it emphasizes works on the 19th and 20th centuries, on the United States, and on sexuality.