Gender and Sexualities

An interdisciplinary research cluster under the auspices of the history department

About the Cluster

The study of gender, bodies and sexualities is central to a full appreciation of the past, whether one is studying political culture, work and leisure, religious ideologies, scientific practices, state formation, or war.  Our department has long been a recognized leader of gender history in a variety of temporal and geographic fields: medieval and modern Europe, colonial America and modern US, Africa, the Middle East, East Asia, and South Asia.  Many of us work on topics that transcend national boundaries by integrating gender into studies of imperialism, decolonization, borderlands, and international trade.  Our research methods are as diverse as the topics we study.  We approach gender and sexuality as historians of the emotions and the senses, as historians of political economy and business, as historians of material culture, consumption, and food practices, as historians of cities and the built environment, and as historians of childhood and the family.  We study the history of work in its widest sense, including slavery, industrial, agricultural work, and household and intimate labors.

Some of our activities include:

  • We host a Gender and Sexualities History Brown Bag series in which faculty, graduate students and guests workshop articles and chapters, and discuss current issues in feminist pedagogy and politics.
  • We sponsor guest speakers
  • We host conferences and symposia
  • We partner with the Department of Feminist Studies and other affiliated scholars
  • We host an annual graduate student retreat where students can discuss their work with faculty and peers not on their doctoral committees

Goals and Future Directions

  • Reconsider the undergraduate and graduate curriculum in light of the changing nature of the field
  • Develop new areas of departmental expertise
  • Develop greater public engagement through social media and through hosting an annual public event

People in the Cluster

Faculty and Lecturers:


Affiliated Faculty:

Current Graduate Students:


  • Justin Bengry (Honorary Research Fellow, Birkbeck College, University of London, Founder and Managing Editor of Notches: (Re)marks on the History of Sexuality)
  • Megan Bowman (Lecturer, Georgia State University)
  • Joshua Birk (Assistant Professor, Smith College)
  • Sarah Case (Managing Editor, The Public Historian, Lecturer University of California, Santa Barbara
  • Sandra T. Dawson (Lecturer, Northern Illinois University)
  • April Haynes (Assistant Professor, University of Wisconsin)
  • Carolyn Herbst Lewis (Assistant Professor, Grinnell College)
  • Betsy Homsher (Vice President, Student Affairs, Kettering University)
  • Nancy McLaughlin (Associate Professor, UC Irvine)
  • Elizabeth Pryor (Assistant Professor, Smith College)
  • Nancy Stockdale (Associate Professor, University of North Texas)
  • Danielle Swiontek (Department Chair, Santa Barbara City College)
  • Bianca Murillo (Assistant Professor, Willamette University)
  • Laura Nenzi (Associate Professor, University of Tenn. at Knoxville)
  • Nicole Pacino  (Assistant Professor, University of Alabama, Huntsville)
  • Anne Rapp (Associate Professor, Lewis University, Chicago)
  • Katrin Sjursen (Assistant Professor, Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville)
  • Tanya Stabler (Assistant Professor, Loyola University, Chicago)
  • Matthew Sutton (Professor, Washington State University)
  • Sarah Watkins (Visiting Assistant Professor, Colby College)
  • Corinne Wieben (Assistant Professor, University of Northern Colorado)
  • Angela Woollacott (Manning Clark Professor of History, Australian National University)
  • Leandra Zarnow (Assistant Professor, University of Houston)

News & Events

Research Cluster News

2019 Events:



Wednesday, January 23, 3-5pm

“Podcasting the Past: Teaching Tolerance and the Making of Queer America”

Dr. Leila Rupp, Feminist Studies, UC Santa Barbara

Public Lecture: CITRAL (UCSB Library)

Interactive talk with Dr. Leila Rupp, Distinguished Professor of Feminist Studies Leila Rupp, Department of Feminist Studies, will talk about the process of designing and co-hosting a podcast, “Queer America,” sponsored by the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Teaching Tolerance project. The podcast aims to help high school teachers integrate queer history into the social studies curriculum.


Monday, February 4, 2:30-4:00 PM

“Heavenly Hermaphrodites: Adam, Eve, and the Creation of Sex”

Dr. Leah DeVun, History, Rutgers University

Public Lecture: HSSB 6020

Leah DeVun, an Associate Professor of History at Rutgers University, will examine how certain ancient and medieval thinkers claimed that “hermaphroditism” was the original condition of humanity, created by God and documented in the first chapters of Genesis. The idea that Adam was a hermaphrodite fueled medieval debates about sex and gender, as well as about human nature. In the modern world, objections to transgender and gender-nonconforming people often cite the bible, which is viewed as describing the division of humans into two distinct sexes. Historians and other scholars, the lecture argues, should consider more carefully how Christian ideas about the sexed body emerged and developed – such histories have the power to disrupt our certainty about which sexes and genders are legitimate, natural, and deserving of human dignity.


Monday, February 11, 3:00 – 4:30 PM

“Rethinking Medieval Rape”

Dr. Carol Lansing, History, UC Santa Barbara

Paper Workshop*: HSSB 4020

Scholars, myself included, have argued that a medieval European woman and her family were reluctant to charge rape unless they hoped to force a marriage: then as now, the chances of humiliation and damage to reputation were high and the odds of a conviction or in fact any positive outcome very low. This simply was not true in Bologna. Sixty court cases in which women accused men of rape or attempted rape survive for a three-year period, and roughly half of the women were quite low status. Further, most quickly dropped the charge. Why would so many poor women choose to file and then drop a charge of rape?

* For a copy of the paper, please email Jarett Henderson:


Monday, February 25, 3:00 – 4:30 PM

“War and Violence: Border Women and the Mexican Revolution”

Dr. Veronica Castillo-Munoz, History, UC Santa Barbara

Paper Workshop*: HSSB 4020

During the Mexican Revolution (1910-1920), border women were often targets of violence by the military and by revolutionary caudillos. Newspapers reported how border women were victims of rape, kidnappings, and even sold into prostitution. 1 While the historiography on the Mexican Revolution is extensive, border women’s participation in the Revolution, have been, for the most part, invisible. Through an examination of rare photographs, census records, personal correspondence, and testimonies, this paper examines the gendered implications of war and how border women negotiated injustice, violence, migration, and family during the most violent years of the Revolution in Northern Mexico.

* For a copy of the paper, please email Jarett Henderson:


Friday, March 15, 12:00-1:30 PM

“‘Mate in the Struggle, Master in the Life!’ Introducing Feminism in the Trade Unions”

Dr. Anna Frisone, History, UC Berkeley

Public Lecture: HSSB 3041

Anna Frisone, a visiting researcher in the History Department at UC Berkeley, will present a lecture that elucidates the struggles conducted by Italian and French women unionists during the crucial turn of ‘the long 1970s’. The international spring of the second-wave women’s movement encouraged new critical reflections on the allegedly neutral but on the contrary deeply gendered nature of the workers’ organizations. The aim is to provide an account of trade union feminism that, despite being at the intersection of major international phenomena such as the working-class movement and the second-wave feminist movement, has been largely overlooked by historiography. Indeed, it proves to be a precious resource both for understanding the relevance of gender with regard to labor history and for better articulating the historical narrative of second-wave feminism at large.



Monday, April 8 – 12:00 – 2:00 PM 

Dr. Sharon Farmer, History, UC Santa Barbara

Paper Workshop*: HSSB 4020 

* For a copy of the paper, please email Jarett Henderson:


Monday, April 29 – 2:00 PM

Dr. Giuliana Perrone, History, UC Santa Barbara

Paper Workshop*: HSSB 4020 

* For a copy of the paper, please email Jarett Henderson:





Friday, June 21, 2019 – 9:00AM – 4:00 PM

Grad Student Colloquium

HSSB 4080

9:00 – 10:00 AM

“Interrogating Family: Paternity, Marriage, and enslaved negres in Valencian Captive Presentations, 1500-1524″

Thomas Franke, History, UC Santa Barbara

Upon first arriving to the Spanish Kingdom of Valencia, enslaved negres—a label used to describe sub-Saharan West Africans and their descendants—were interrogated by the Bailiff General about their background and the circumstances of their enslavement. These interrogations featured questions about family background and appear to offer insight into the family lives of enslaved negres before their arrival in Valencia. However, in this paper, I argue that the questions that the Bailiff asked were informed primarily by an interest in justifying the enslavement of negres, and thus produced a distorted vision of family in which issues of paternity and sexual violence experienced by enslaved women—attested to in contemporary records produced in other venues—were largely erased.

10:15 – 11:15 AM

“Searching for Cinderellas: U.S. Foot Fever, Chinese Alterity, and Global Beauty”

Fang He, History, UC Santa Barbara

By tracing how female bodies were discussed and measured in untold stories of Chicago foot contests and in a global context, this paper demonstrates shared ideologies about women’s bodies, class, and morality lying in U.S./Western small foot fever and Chinese footbinding in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This paper argues that this process of racialization prevented American women from surrendering their traditional assumptions about female nature and its relation to the body, and from building solidarity with Chinese and European women whose experience at times echoed theirs. It not only challenges U.S. operation of difference in its orientalist discourses, but also offers a critique of Chinese participation in U.S./Western orientalist constructions.

11:30 AM – 12:30 PM

“Fostering Queer Families: LGBTQ People in the U.S. Foster System, 1971-1990”

Nora Kassner, History, UC Santa Barbara

As more visible and agitational LGBTQ communities grew across the U.S. in the early 1970s, state officials grappled with two, interrelated problems: the emergence of “hard-to-place” LGBTQ foster youth, and out LGBTQ adults demanding the right to become foster parents. My dissertation will identify the creation of LGBTQ foster parenting as an early catalyst for the rise of a queer family politics that prioritized legal marriage and parenthood while marginalizing other queer issues such as poverty and homelessness.

12:30 – 1:30 PM


1:30 – 2:30 PM

“Reconstruction by Rail”: Consumer Politics, Anti-Mormonism, and the Retrenchment Movement, 1869-1877

Sasha Coles, History, UC Santa Barbara

When Leland Stanford used a golden spike to join together the Central Pacific and Union Pacific railroads at Promontory Point, Utah, in May 1869, celebrations rang out across the United States. This dissertation chapter explores how some politicians and commentators believed that the completion of the transcontinental railroad offered a solution to a serious problem confronting the nation: the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Anti-Mormons theorized that the railroad would inject the latest fashions into Utah, catalyze fits of jealousy among plural wives, and bankrupt polygamous Mormon families, thus dissolving the church from the inside-out. In this chapter, I explore the politicization of Mormon women’s consumer desires in the 1860s and 1870s and the first decades of the Young Ladies Retrenchment Association, a church organization that encouraged women to withdraw from fashionable display and manufacture straw braid hats and silk dresses at home. These negotiations explain why Mormon women formed the Deseret Silk Association in 1877 to shore up and help facilitate a nascent Great Basin silk industry.

2:45 – 3:45 PM

“Viewers and Volunteers: Communities of Historical Consciousness”

Elizabeth Weigler, Anthropology, UC Santa Barbara

Chapter two – “Viewers and Volunteers” – focuses on the role of affect and labor within processes of historical consciousness—an individual’s relationship with and use of past (Crane 1997)—by investigating the messages of the United Kingdom Punjab Heritage Association’s (UKPHA) and the experiences of volunteers and viewers during their Empire, Faith & War project. The chapter has an overarching emphasis on the UKPHA as an affective institution, project leaders’ representations of their own historical consciousness through scripted experience (usually disseminated in online videos, blogs, and podcasts), and volunteer labor practices surrounding- and actors’ circulation of- historical scripts in the present.


Sasha Coles is a PhD Candidate in US History. Her dissertation project, “Homespun Respectability: Silk Worlds, Women’s Work, and the Making of Mormon Identity, 1850-1910s,” traces the history of silk production in the American West to argue that early Mormons used labor, commerce, and commodities to negotiate their identities as religious outsiders and respectable American citizens. For the 2019-2020 academic year, she will be the Tanner Humanities Center Fellow in Latter-day Saints Studies at the University of Utah. Sasha is also the founder of, a digital public history project that uses the Disney park experience to teach historical lessons.

Thomas Franke is a fifth-year doctoral student working with Debra Blumenthal. His dissertation, “Black Spaniards: Color, Status, and Community in Valencia, 1500-1550,” studies the social history of black communities in the sixteenth century Kingdom of Valencia. By interrogating the social and institutional forces that shaped the lives of black Spaniards and utilizing contemporary scholarship on race and racism, this project situates early modern European black history within an early modern history of racial thinking. Thomas has also been awarded a Dissertation Fellowship from UCSB’s Interdisciplinary Humanities Center for the 2019-202 academic year to support this research.

Fang He’s research examines the intersection of the body, migration, discourse, and institution, with a focus on transnational histories of gender, Chinese America, and U.S. immigration. Her research centers on the roles of visuality and the racialized body to understand U.S. inclusion, exclusion, and empire-building. She published a book chapter “‘Golden Lilies’ Across the Pacific: Footbinding and the American Enforcement of Chinese Exclusion Laws” in Gendering the Trans-Pacific World (Brill, 2017). Fang He has received her PhD in U.S. history and currently is IHC research fellow.

Nora Kassner is a third year PhD student working with Alice O’Connor. She studies the experiences of LGBTQ people in the U.S. foster system in the 1970s-1980s. Her research touches upon the history of social policy, HIV-AIDS, and queer youth homelessness. She has also — together with Sarah Case — curated a UCSB Library Exhibit that highlighted the Anna S.C. Blake Manual Training School, the antecedent to the State Normal School that became UC Santa Barbara. In 2018, Nora was the recipient of the Patricia Cohen Endowed Graduate Fellowship and the Michael Bransfield Prize of the UCSB History Associates.

Elizabeth Weigler is a PhD candidate in Sociocultural Anthropology at UC Santa Barbara, and earned an MA in Anthropology from UCSB in 2012 and BAs in History and Anthropology from Ripon College in 2010. My Wenner-Gren funded dissertation research focuses on the public historical projects of Sikhs living in the United Kingdom, specifically the memory of the First World War, to understand diasporic identity formation and the role of individual agency within processes of communal memorialization and civic engagement. Generational shifts in identity, socioeconomic status, and ethnoreligious subjecthood are explored via heritage (production and tourism) and historical consciousness (cognition and affect).

Papers will be circulated in advance. For copies of the papers, please email Jarett Henderson:



Page last modified: January 7, 2020