Queer Oral History
This course provides an introduction to queer oral history, a form of insider ethnography that is often interdisciplinary and community-based; denaturalizes notions of self, sexual identity, and community; and exhibits an inclination toward creative interpretation. The students enrolled in my Spring 2022 course constitute a “working group” that will document and creatively interpret Baltimore’s queer & trans history. As a class, we will collectively decide on a theme to explore, record oral histories, archive them at Johns Hopkins, and interpret them via a public “listening party” or series of podcasts that can be pitched to local radio.
Taught at Johns Hopkins University Program in Museums and Society, Spring 2022
Interdisciplinary Approaches to Oral History
Students learn and practice the skills required to conceptualize, conduct, analyze, and publicize oral history narratives. From start to finish, oral history is a creative act of collaboratively making meaning, rather than a staid recounting of events. During an interview, the narrator often comes to understand more about their own life, as well as their place in the larger culture and in the grand sweep of history. When oral histories are used in museum exhibitions, radio programs, scholarly monographs, or social justice projects, audiences often extend the act of interpretation by commenting or sharing their own stories.
Taught Yale University American Studies Department, Fall 2016
Queer & Trans Public History
How do queer and trans people draw on history to re-envision the past, forge solidarities in the present, and map potential futures? This course is divided into three primary sections: queer approaches to archives; museums; queer & trans oral history, and queer temporalities & spatial histories. Throughout, we draw on studies of queer affect and temporality; trans embodiment; and performance studies to explore how queer and trans people shape collective memory through “public history,” broadly defined to include digital archives, documentary film, performance, walking tours, and site-specific installations, among other cultural productions. Students learn oral history and archival research methods.
Taught Johns Hopkins University Program in Museums and Society, Spring 2020
Historians of queer politics tend to emphasize the differences between the homophile movement of the 1950s and 1960s, on the one hand, and the gay liberation movement that thrived after the 1969 Stonewall riots, on the other. This course examines U.S. queer politics and culture in the period immediately before the gay liberation movement, during the 1960s, highlighting the significance of homophile politics, drag and leather subcultures, transgender organizing, bar- and street-based publics, civil rights activism, and a variety of subcultural practices. It also examines how we, as a culture, have come to narrate queer history and investigates the ways archival practices shape contemporary conceptions of queer life. Students learn to conduct historical research in online archives, finding and integrating primary and secondary sources in order to write about the past.
Taught Johns Hopkins University Program in Museums and Society, Fall 2021
Public Humanities and Social Justice
How can we mobilize the humanities to generate social change? This course introduces students to collaborative humanities projects that encourage democratic participation among publics more broadly conceived than the academy. The first half of the course provides an introduction to the modes of inquiry and methods by which marginalized communities become partners in research and not simply objects of study. We investigate storytelling in protest and politics, indigenous research methods, place-based storytelling, collaborative ethnography, and interactive theater. The second half explores several case studies, focusing on projects that enable marginalized populations to frame research questions, project design, and interpretation with the goal of generating social change.
Taught Taught Johns Hopkins University Program in Museums and Society, Fall 2019; Yale University American Studies, Spring 2017
This course introduces students to the intersections of queer theory and performance studies, taking as its inspiration Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick’s notion of “queer performativity:” strategies for refiguring the affects of shame, stigma, and abjection and developing from them particular structures of creativity, power, and struggle. After examining key texts that shaped conversations between these fields, we explore themes currently under debate in the academy: the “anti-social” thesis and utopia; the turn to affect; and “queer temporalities.”
Taught Yale American Studies, Spring 2017