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

2020 Events:




FRIDAY, 19 JUNE 2020

* For the Zoom link, email


9:45 AM – 10:45 AM – SESSION A

“Women, Children, the Idle, and the Infirm”:

Making Mormon Silk Work in the Mid-Nineteenth Century

Sasha Coles, History, UC Santa Barbara

This paper gives shape to the discourse and labors that facilitated the Mormon silk project in the middle decades of the nineteenth century. After members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints colonized the Great Basin region of the North American West in the late 1840s, church president and prophet Brigham Young tasked his followers with building a self-sufficient economy. He and other church authorities extolled the benefits of manufacturing iron, wheat, wool, cotton, silk, and other commodities at home. Their commentary about the ease with which “idle” household members could tend mulberry trees and feed silkworms in their “spare time” replicated widespread nineteenth-century ideas assumptions about the invisibility of domestic labor and the desire to extract productive working hours from “dependents,” namely women, children, the elderly, and people with disabilities. Chapter 1 locates this boosterism alongside the on-the-ground experiences of people who made silk work 1850s and 1860s. Mormon women and children did most of the planting, pruning, feeding, killing, cleaning, reeling, and spinning required to make silk work. This chapter challenges the historiographical celebration of Mormon economic life as a radical, exceptional communitarian experiment. This study of the silk project reveals a gendered understanding of and experience with work that fell in line with nineteenth-century industrial capitalist ideology. 


11:00 AM – 12:00 PM – SESSION B

Between Heaven and Empire: 

Esther Fahmy Wissa’s Advocacy in Interwar Egypt

 Amy Fallas, History, UC Santa Barbara

This paper considers the long durée of Egyptian nationalist Esther Fahmy Wissa’s advocacy and examines how she became an important political liaison between Egypt and Britain during the 1930s. Wissa’s bold advocacy platform and mediation of diplomatic negotiations in the interwar period drew from her experiences in Christian Coptic communal politics at the turn of the twentieth century and her role in Egypt’s women’s movement following the Revolution of 1919. Utilizing archival material from Egypt, England, and the United States, this paper traces how Wissa fused Christian, national, and transnational solidarities to challenge the domestic and international political conditions of her time. 

12:00 PM – 1:00 PM – ZOOM LUNCH


Page last modified: June 8, 2020