Core Faculty

The Gender, Sexuality and Women's Studies Program and The Center for Research in Feminist, Queer, and Transgender Studies Core Faculty are Penn professors and lecturers who have gender, sexuality or women as a primary area of their research and who commit to sharing their latest research in faculty seminars and colloquia at least once every three years. Our Core Research Faculty keep The Center for Research in Feminist, Queer, and Transgender Studies and GSWS Program on the cutting edge of new scholarship in gender, sexuality, and women’s studies. Additionally, Core Faculty, are professors and lecturers who teach one undergraduate or graduate-level cross-listed GSWS course on a regular basis. We count on our Core Faculty to teach courses on a regular rotating basis so that undergraduates and graduate students may fulfill the requirements of the major, minor, or graduate certificate.

Francesca Ammon

Francesca Ammon is a cultural historian of urban planning and the built environment. Her teaching and research focus on the changing spaces of American cities, from World War II to the present. She grounds her interdisciplinary approach to this subject in the premise that the landscape materializes social relations, cultural values, and political and economic processes. Professor Ammon is particularly interested in the history of urban revitalization, with an emphasis on urban renewal; the dynamic relationship between cities and nature; public history as a tool for community-based research and engagement; and the ways that visual culture has shaped understanding of what cities are, have been, and should be. Her book, Bulldozer: Demolition and Clearance of the Postwar Landscape, won the 2017 Lewis Mumford Prize for the Best Book in Planning History. Her work has also appeared in the Journal of Planning Education and ResearchJournal of Planning HistoryJournal of Urban HistoryChange over TimePreservation Education and Research, and Technology and Culture.

Sarah Banet-Weiser

Sarah Banet-Weiser is Distinguished Professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication and Professor of Communication at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. She is the founding director of the Center for Collaborative Communication at the Annenberg Schools (CCAS).  Herteaching and research interests include gender in the media, identity, citizenship, and cultural politics, consumer culture and popular media, race and the media, and intersectional feminism. Committed to intellectual and activist conversations that explore how global media politics are exercised, expressed, and perpetuated in different cultural contexts, she has authored or edited eight books, including the award-winning Authentic™: The Politics of Ambivalence in a Brand Culture (NYU Press, 2012) and Empowered: Popular Feminism and Popular Misogyny (Duke, 2018), and dozens of peer-reviewed articles, book chapters, and essays. In 2019-2020, she had a regular column on popular feminism in the Los Angeles Review of Books.

Caz Batten

Caroline (Caz) Batten is Assistant Professor of Medieval English Literature and core faculty in Gender, Sexuality, and Women's Studies. A scholar of Old English and Old Norse language and literature, their research interests include gender and sexuality, sickness and health, the history of medicine, and somatic emotions in medieval texts. Their monograph in progress, By Word and Deed: Poetry and Process in the Old English Metrical Charms, explores the verse, content, and rich cultural context of twelve protective magical incantations copied in English medical and religious manuscripts in the tenth and eleventh centuries. They are also the author of Health and the Body in Early Medieval England (Cambridge Elements, CUP, forthcoming 2024), an introduction to early medieval English medical practice and conceptions of the body.

Ericka Beckman

My research focuses primarily on narratives of capitalist modernity and modernization in nineteenth- and twentieth-century Latin America.  My first book, Capital Fictions:  The Literature of Latin America's Export Age (Minnesota, 2013), studied how literature represented the incorporation of the region's economies into world commodity markets at the end of the nineteenth century.  My current book project, tentatively titled "Agrarian Questions:  Latin American Literature in the Age of Development," examines how twentieth-century literary fiction by authors such as, Rosario Castellanos, Juan Rulfo, José Donoso and José María Arguedas, registered capitalist transitions in the countryside, primarily in relation to three overlapping processes:  agricultural commercialization and mechanization, urban out-migration, and land reform. 

Nancy Bentley

Nancy Bentley is Donald T. Regan Professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania, where she teaches courses on topics in American literature and culture, sexuality, kinship studies, and law and literature. Her most recent book is Frantic Panoramas: American Literature and Mass Culture, 1870-1920 (University of Pennsylvania, 2009). She co-authored Volume Three of the Cambridge History of American Literature (2005) and the Bedford Edition of Charles Chesnutt’s The Marrow of Tradition (2002). Her book The Ethnography of Manners (Cambridge University Press, 1996) examined the intersection of novelistic and ethnographic writing in the nineteenth century. She has served as Chair of the Penn English Department and is a recipient of the Lindback Award for Distinguished Teaching.


Toni Bowers

Toni Bowers (Professor) specializes in British literature and culture from Charles II’s restoration in 1660 to the French Revolution. Professor Bowers’ research and writing focus particularly on how representations of intimate relations shaped public and private distributions of power during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and on the ongoing discursive construction of "Great Britain." She publishes and teaches on seventeenth- and eighteenth-century British writing by and about women, ideologically driven and partisan political writing of that time and place, the discursive construction of "Great Britain" between 1600 and 1800, and early prose fiction from England and Scotland.


S. Pearl Brilmyer

S. Pearl Brilmyer's work lies at the intersection of the history of philosophy, science, and literature with a focus on the nineteenth-century English novel. Other areas of research include theories of will and drive in nineteenth-century German philosophy and science (Nietzsche, Schopenhauer, Freud, Reich), the history of sexuality, and materialisms old and new.

Kathleen Brown

Kathleen Brown is a historian of gender and race in early America and the Atlantic World. Educated at Wesleyan and the University of Wisconsin, Madison, she is author of Good Wives, Nasty Wenches, and Anxious Patriarchs: Gender, Race, and Power in Colonial Virginia (Chapel Hill, 1996), which won the Dunning Prize of the American Historical Association. Her second book, Foul Bodies: Cleanliness in Early America (Yale, 2009), received the Organization of American Historians' Lawrence Levine Book Prize for cultural history and the Society of the History of the Early American Republic Book Prize. Foul Bodies explores the relationships among health, domestic labor, and ideals for beauty, civilization, and spiritual purity during the period between Europe's Atlantic encounters and the American Civil War. Brown is also author of numerous articles and essays. She has been a fellow of the Omohundro Institute for Early American Studies at the College of William and Mary, the American Antiquarian Society, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Bunting Institute at Radcliffe College. She is currently a Guggenheim Fellow (2015-2016)



former director

Hsiao-wen Cheng

Hsiao-wen Cheng is a cultural and intellectual historian of China's middle period (9th-14th centuries), interested in issues related to gender, sexuality, medicine, and religion. Her first book Divine, Demonic, and Disordered: Women without Men in Song Dynasty China explores the unstable meanings attached to the bodies of "manless women" in medical and religious literature as well as popular anecdotes. She is now working on her second book project on the notions of norms in premodern China.

Joan DeJean

Her books reflect her areas of research: the history of women's writing in France (Tender Geographies: Women and the Origins of the Novel in France, 1991); the history of sexuality (Fictions of Sappho, 1546-1937, 1989); the development of the novel (Literary Fortifications, 1984; Libertine Strategies, 1981); and the cultural history and the material culture of late 17th- and early 18th-century France (Ancients against Moderns: Culture Wars and the Making of a Fin de Siècle, 1996 ; The Essence of Style, 2005; The Age of Comfort, 2010). She published the first uncensored edition of Molière's Dom Juan , as well as editions of Graffigny’s Lettres d’une Péruvienne and Duras’ Ourika. Prof. DeJean was the winner of the 2003 MLA Aldo and Jeanne Scaglione Prize for French and Francophone Studies for her book The Reinvention of Obscenity: Sex, Lies, and Tabloids in Early Modern France (U of Chicago P, 2002).

André Dombrowski

André Dombrowski’s research and teaching center on the arts and material cultures of France and Germany, and their empires, in the mid to late nineteenth century. He is particularly concerned with the social and intellectual rationales behind the emergence of avant-garde painting in the 1860s to 1880s, including Impressionism. Committed to interdisciplinary inquiry, he places the development of modern art firmly within the histories of technology, science, politics, sexuality, and psychology. He has written books and articles on such crucial artists of the period as Paul Cézanne, Édouard Manet, Claude Monet, Edgar Degas, and Adolf von Menzel, to name but a few. He has also published on the political imagery surrounding the Dreyfus Affair and Second Empire decorative arts.

David Eng

David L. Eng is Richard L. Fisher Professor of English as well as Graduate Chair of the English Department. He is also Professor in the Program in Asian American Studies, the Program in Comparative Literature & Literary Theory, and the Program in Gender, Sexuality & Women's Studies. After receiving his B.A. in English from Columbia University and his Ph.D. in comparative literature from the University of California at Berkeley, he taught at Columbia and Rutgers before joining Penn in 2007. Eng has held visiting professorships at the University of Bergen (Norway), King's College London, Harvard University, and the University of Hong Kong. He is the recipient of research fellowships from the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, the Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies, and the Mellon Foundation, among others. In 2016, Eng was elected an honorary member of the Institute for Psychoanalytic Training and Research (IPTAR) in New York City. His areas of specialization include American literature, Asian American studies, Asian diaspora, critical race theory, psychoanalysis, queer studies, gender studies, and visual culture.

Chloe Estep

Chloe Estep's research focuses on poetry, media, and material culture in modern China. Her book project examines how print periodicals enabled the transformation and modernization of classical aesthetics (including painting and calligraphy) as poets, writers, and artists reckoned with the radical political changes of early twentieth-century China. She is especially interested in what happens when classicism and canonicity become the tools of modernists and nationalists. She is also interested in the history, theory, and practice of translation.

Julie Fairman

Julie Fairman is a nurse historian whose work on the history of 20th Century health care represents a track record of consistent funding, including fellowships from the NLM, NEH and RWJ. Her work on the history of critical care earned her awards from the American Association of the History of Nursing and her first book, Critical Nursing: A History, received favorable reviews in the national and regional popular press and from reviewers in professional journals.

Vivian L. Gadsden

Dr. Gadsden began her career teaching developmental English, reading, and educational psychology at Oakland and Wayne State Universities in Michigan. From 1983 to 1985, she was a research analyst at Policy Studies Associates in Washington, D.C. In 1988, Dr. Gadsden joined Penn GSE’s Literacy Research Center, where she became associate director in 1989. A former Spencer Foundation/National Academy of Education postdoctoral fellow, Dr. Gadsden served as associate director in the National Center on Adult Literacy for six years. In 1994, she became the director of the newly founded National Center on Fathers and Families, an interdisciplinary policy research center focused on child and family well-being. She also served as Education Graduate Group Chair from 1996 to 2004. In 2006, she was named the William T. Carter Professor in Child Development and Education.


Kristen Ghodsee

When the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, Kristen R. Ghodsee was traveling in Europe, and spent the summer of 1990 witnessing first-hand the initial hope and euphoria that followed the sudden and unexpected collapse of state socialism in the former Eastern Bloc. The political and economic chaos that followed inspired Ghodsee to pursue an academic career studying this upheaval, focusing on how ordinary people’s lives – and women’s particularly – changed when state socialism gave way to capitalism. For the last two decades, she has visited the region regularly and lived for over three years in Bulgaria and the Eastern parts of reunified Germany. Now a professor of Russian and East European Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, she has won many awards for her work, and has written ten academic books on gender, socialism, and postsocialism, examining the everyday experiences of upheaval and displacement that continue to haunt the region to this day. She is also the author of From Notes to Narrative: Writing Ethnographies that Everyone Can Read and the co-author of Professor Mommy: Finding Work Family Balance in Academia. Together with Mitchell A. Orenstein, she is the author of Taking Stock of Shock: Social Consequences of the 1989 Revolutions, published with Oxford University Press in 2021.


Kathryn Hellerstein

Kathryn Hellerstein is Associate Professor of Germanic Languages and Literatures, specializing in Yiddish, and the Ruth Meltzer Director of the Jewish Studies Program at the University of Pennsylvania.  Her books include a translation and study of Moyshe-Leyb Halpern's poems, In New York: A Selection, (Jewish Publication Society, 1982), Paper Bridges:  Selected Poems of Kadya Molodowsky (Wayne State University Press, 1999), and Jewish American Literature:  A Norton Anthology, of which she is co-editor (W. W. Norton, 2001).  Her monograph, A Question of Tradition:  Women Poets in Yiddish, 1586-1987, won the Barbara Dobkin Prize in Women’s Studies from the Jewish Book Council for the 2014 National Jewish Book Award, and the Modern Language Association 2015 Fenia and Yakov Leviant Prize in Yiddish Studies.

Nancy Hirschmann

Nancy J. Hirschmann is Professor of Political Science at The University of Pennsylvania, where she has served as Director of the Program on Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies and the Alice Paul Center for Research on Gender, Sexuality and Women, and Vice Chair of the Department of Political Science. She previously taught at Cornell University for 12 years, and Swarthmore College.  She is the author of Gender, Class, and Freedom in Modern Political Theory (Princeton University Press, 2008), The Subject of Liberty: Toward a Feminist Theory of Freedom (Princeton University Press, 2003), which won the 2004 Victoria Schuck Award from the APSA for the best book on women and politics, and Rethinking Obligation: A Feminist Method for Political Theory (1992, Cornell University Press). She is co-editor of several collected volumes, including Women and Welfare: Theory and Practice in the United States and Europe, Revisioning the Political: Feminist Reconstructions of Traditional Concepts in Western Political Theory, Civil Disabilities: Citizenship, Membership and Belonging, and Disability and Political Theory.  

former director

Sarah J. Jackson

Sarah J. Jackson studies how media, journalism, and technology are used by and represent marginalized publics, with a focus on how communication arising from Black, feminist, and activist spaces contributes to US progress.

Sarah Jackson is a Presidential Associate Professor at the Annenberg School for Communication. Her work engages deeply with critical theories of the public sphere, race, media, and social movements. Jackson's first book, Black Celebrity, Racial Politics, and the Press (Routledge, 2014), examines the relationship between Black celebrity activism, journalism, and American politics. Her co-authored second book, Hashtag Activism: Networks of Race and Gender Justice (MIT Press, 2020), focuses on the use of Twitter in contemporary social movements. In 2020, she was awarded an Andrew Carnegie Fellowship to support research on her next book, A Second Sight, which traces the power and innovation of African American media-makers.

Jackson serves an associate editor at Communication Theory and sits on the editorial boards of six other major communication journals. She is a founder and advisory board member of the Center for Critical Race and Digital Studies. Previously, she served as the Commentary & Criticism editor of Women’s Studies in Communication, served on the advisory board of the Social Science Research Council’s MediaWell initiative, and was a Faculty Associate at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society. Jackson is co-director of the Media, Inequality & Change Center which explores the intersections between media, democracy, technology, policy, and social justice. MIC produces engaged research and analysis while collaborating with community leaders to help support activist initiatives and policy interventions.

Melissa Jensen

Melissa Jensen is current faculty in the Penn English Department. She is also an award-winning writer of historical and contemporary fiction. Most recently, her Young Adult novels have been official selections on such lists as New York Public Library's Teen Reading and FYA. She is currently working on the fourth and final book in her Philadelphia novel series and a play centered around bog bodies and Irish rap music, as well as participating in an ongoing multi-media project exploring the connection between anthropology, archaeology, and literature. “Broken Siren”, a contemporary work for string ensemble and soprano based on Homer’s Odyssey, for which she wrote the libretto, debuted in 2020, to be followed by Carmilla from the Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu novella in 2024. She has contributed to numerous print media, including Philadelphia Style Magazine and the Philadelphia Inquirer. She currently divides her time between Philadelphia and Dublin, all the better to be immersed in the worlds of really really good fiction and poetry, and fascinating stuff unearthed from underground.

Ayako Kano

Dr. Kano’s research focuses on the intersection of gender, performance, and politics, in the context of Japanese cultural history from the 19th century to the present. Her first book (Acting Like a Woman in Modern Japan: Theater, Gender, and Nationalism, Palgrave2001), focused on the first generation of actresses in modern Japanese theater. Her second book (Japanese Feminist Debates: A Century of Contention on Sex, Love, and Labor, University of Hawai’i Press 2016) analyzed Japanese feminist discussions from the 1890s to the present. She has also co-edited with Julia Bullock and James Welker a volume of essays reconsidering modern Japanese feminism (Rethinking Japanese Feminisms, University of Hawai’i Press 2018). Current projects include a book on cinematic adaptations of Japanese literature focusing on themes of war, sex, and belonging, and a collaborative translation project of a popular illustrated book from the early modern period.


Jonathan D. Katz

Jonathan D. Katz is perhaps the founding figure in queer art history, responsible for the very first queer scholarship on a number of artists beginning in the early 1990s. His scholarship spans a period from the late 19th-century to the present, with an emphasis on the US, but with serious attention to Europe, Latin America and Asia as well. He has written extensively about gender, sexuality and desire, producing some of the key theoretical work in queer studies in the visual arts.

former director

David Kazanjian

David Kazanjian received his PhD from the Rhetoric Department at the University of California, Berkeley, his M.A. in Critical Theory from the University of Sussex, and his B.A. in Modern Thought and Literature from Stanford University. His fields include transnational American literary and historical studies through the 19th century, political philosophy, continental philosophy, Afro-diaspora studies, Latin American studies, and Armenian diaspora studies.

So-Rim Lee

My research explores the politics of embodiment (living in and with a body) in Korea and the Korean diaspora from the intersection of performance studies, visual and media studies, queer/disability politics, and feminist activisms. I have written on gender and racial politics in multimedia art, photography, K-pop, reality television, and ASMR videos on YouTube. I am currently completing a book manuscript examining the cultural discourses of plastic surgery in Korea through the framework of remedy.

Jessa Lingel

Jessa Lingel is an associate professor at the Annenberg School for Communication, where she studies digital culture, looking for the ways that relationships to technology can show us gaps in power or possibilities for social change. She received her Ph.D. in Communication and Information from Rutgers University. She has an MLIS from Pratt Institute and an M.A. from New York University. In her activist work, Lingel concentrates on prison abolition, libraries as vehicles for DIY education, and local access to mental health resources.

Beth Linker

Beth Linker is the Samuel H. Preston Endowed Term Associate Professor at the University of Pennsylvania in the Department of the History and Sociology of Science. Her research and teaching interests include the history of science and medicine, the body, gender, health policy, and disability. She is the author of War’s Waste: Rehabilitation in World War I America (Chicago, 2011) which went on to be featured in a Ric Burns documentary titled A Debt of Honor in 2015. Linker is also the co-editor of Civil Disabilities: Citizenship, Membership, and Belonging (Penn Press, 2014). Her award-winning scholarship has also appeared in The New England Journal of Medicine, The Boston Globe, The Huffington PostThe Bulletin of the History of Medicine, and The American Journal of Public Health.

Ani Liu

Ani Liu is an internationally exhibiting research-based artist working at the intersection of art and science. Her work examines the reciprocal relationships between science, technology and their influence on human subjectivity, culture, and identity. Reoccurring themes in her work include gender politics, biopolitics, labor, simulation and sexuality.

Ania Loomba

Ania Loomba received her BA (Hons.), M. A., and M. Phil. degrees from the University of Delhi, India, and her Ph. D. from the University of Sussex, UK. She researches and teaches early modern literature, histories of race and colonialism, postcolonial studies, feminist theory, and contemporary Indian literature and culture. She currently holds the Catherine Bryson Chair in the English department. She is also faculty in Comparative Literature, South Asian Studies, and Women's Studies, and her courses are regularly cross-listed with these programs.

Heather Love

Heather Love teaches English and Gender Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. She is the author of Feeling Backward: Loss and the Politics of Queer History (Harvard), the editor of a special issue of GLQ on Gayle Rubin (“Rethinking Sex”), and the co-editor of a special issue of Representations (“Description Across Disciplines”). Love has written on topics including comparative social stigma, compulsory happiness, transgender fiction, spinster aesthetics, reading methods in literary studies, and the history of deviance studies. She is currently completing two books: Underdogs, on the deviance studies roots of queer theory; and Practices of Description: Reading the Social in the Postwar Period, which offers a literary history of microsociology from 1955-1975.

Serena Mayeri

Serena Mayeri is Professor of Law and History at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. Mayeri’s scholarship focuses on the historical impact of progressive and conservative social movements on legal and constitutional change. Her history of feminist legal advocacy in the 1960s and 1970s, Reasoning from Race: Feminism, Law, and the Civil Rights Revolution (Harvard University Press, 2011; paperback edition 2014) received the Littleton-Griswold Prize from the American Historical Association and the Darlene Clark Hine Award from the Organization of American Historians (OAH). Mayeri’s current book project, The Status of Marriage: Marital Supremacy Challenged and Remade, examines challenges to the legal primacy of marriage since 1960. Recent work related to this project has appeared in the Yale Law Journal, Constitutional Commentary, and the California Law Review. Mayeri is the author of many law review articles and book chapters in edited volumes, and has contributed to several amicus briefs authored by historians and legal scholars on subjects including marriage equality, abortion rights, constitutional family rights, and gender-based citizenship restrictions.

Brooke O'Harra

Brooke O’Harra joined the UPenn Theatre Arts faculty in July 2016. Brooke has previously taught at NYU Tisch School of the Arts Drama Department and the Experimental Theater Wing, Mt. Holyoke College and Bates College. Her fields of interest include Japanese theater, experimental theater, serial drama, LGBTQ theater and performance, performance with live media and contemporary visual art.

Keisha-Khan Perry

Feminist anthropologist and political activist, Keisha-Khan Y. Perry is the Presidential Penn Compact Associate Professor of Africana Studies. She writes on urban social movements fighting against the violence of forced displacement. She is the author of the prize-winning book, Black Women against the Land Grab: The Fight for Racial Justice in Brazil (University of Minnesota Press, 2013), an ethnographic study of Black women’s activism for housing and land rights in the northeastern Brazilian city of Salvador. With an emphasis on the United States, Jamaica, and Brazil, she continues to write on issues of Black land ownership and loss and the related gendered racial logics of Black dispossession in the African diaspora. 

Karen Redrobe

Karen Redrobe is the Elliot and Roslyn Jaffe Professor of Cinema and Modern Media ( A feminist film theorist, she is the author of Vanishing Women: Magic, Film and Feminism (Duke UP, 2003); Crash: Cinema and the Politics of Speed and Stasis (Duke UP, 2010), and is now completing, Undead: Animation and the Contemporary Art of War. She has co-edited three volumes: Still Moving: Between Cinema and Photography with Jean Ma (2008); On Writing With Photography with Liliane Weissberg (2013); and Deep Mediations: Thinking Space in Cinema and Media Cultures with Jeff Scheible (2021), which won SCMS’s Best Edited Book Award. She is also the editor of Animating Film Theory (2014). As a faculty member, her top priority is to expand access to higher education.

Teemu Ruskola

Teemu Ruskola is Professor of Chinese Law and Society as well as Professor of Law.  He is a scholar of Chinese law and society in a comparative and global context, with an interest in China’s place and role in the development of social theory.  He is the author of Legal Orientalism: China, the United States, and Modern Law (Harvard University Press, 2013), co-author of Schlesinger’s Comparative Law (Foundation Press, 2009), and co-editor (with David L. Eng and Shuang Shen) of a special double issue of the journal Social Text on “China and the Human.”  He has also published widely in law journals, from the American Journal of Comparative Law to the Yale Law Journal.  Ruskola is currently working on two book projects.  The Unmaking of the Chinese Working Class: A Brief history of Inequality in the PRC analyzes the ongoing reorganization of rural and urban capital in China, marking a transition from a politically enforced inequality between city and country to a legally structured inequality between the rich and the poor, with further implications for both labor and domestic relations.  Ruskola’s second project, China, For Example: China and the Making of Modern International Law, investigates the history of the introduction of Western international law into China as part of the globalization of Euro-American conceptions of sovereignty.

Melissa E. Sanchez

Melissa E. Sanchez received her Ph.D. from the University of California, Irvine. Her research and teaching focus on feminism, queer theory, and sixteenth- and seventeenth-century literature, and she is Core Faculty in Penn's Gender, Sexuality, and Women's Studies Program.


Donovan Schaefer

Assistant Professor of Religious Studies



Donovan Schaefer joined the Department of Religious Studies as an assistant professor in 2017, after spending three years as a lecturer at the University of Oxford. He earned his B.A. in the interdisciplinary Religion, Literature, and the Arts program at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. His master’s and doctoral degrees are from the Religion program at Syracuse University. After completing his PhD, he held a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellowship at Haverford College. His research focuses on the role of embodiment and feeling in religion, material culture, and formations of the secular. His first book,  Religious Affects: Animality, Evolution, and Power, (Duke 2015) challenged the notion that religion is inextricably linked to language and belief, proposing instead that it is primarily driven by affects.


His most recent book, Wild Experiment: Feeling Science and Secularism after Darwin (Duke 2022) explores the intersections between affect theory, science, and critical approaches to the secular. In addition to his appointment in Religious Studies, he is Core Faculty in the Program in Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies and a member of the graduate group in Comparative Literature.

Fatemeh Shams

Dr. Fatemeh Shams is a specialist in Persian literature. She earned her Ph.D in Oriental Studies from University of Oxford, Wadham College. Before joining Penn, she has taught Persian language and literature in various academic institutions including University of Oxford, University of SOAS and Courtauld Institute of Art in the United Kingdom.

Dani Smith

Prof. Smith is the J. Peter Skirkanich Professor at the University of Pennsylvania, with appointments in the Departments of Bioengineering, Electrical & Systems Engineering, Physics & Astronomy, Neurology, and Psychiatry. They are also an external professor of the Santa Fe Institute. Smith is most well-known for blending neural and systems engineering to identify fundamental mechanisms of cognition and disease in human brain networks. They received a B.S. in physics from Penn State University and a Ph.D. in physics from the University of Cambridge, UK as a Churchill Scholar, and as an NIH Health Sciences Scholar.

Deborah A. Thomas

Deborah A. Thomas is the R. Jean Brownlee Professor of Anthropology in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania.  She is also core faculty in Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies, holds a secondary appointment with the Graduate School of Education, and is a member of the graduate groups in English, Africana Studies, and the School of Social Policy and Practice.  Prior to her appointment at Penn, she spent two years as a Mellon Post-Doctoral Fellow at the Center for the Americas at Wesleyan University, and four years teaching in the Department of Cultural Anthropology at Duke University.  She is the author of Political Life in the Wake of the Plantation:  Entanglement, Witnessing, Repair (2019), Exceptional Violence:  Embodied Citizenship in Transnational Jamaica (2011), and Modern Blackness:  Nationalism, Globalization, and The Politics of Culture in Jamaica (2004), and is co-editor of Globalization and Race:  Transformations in the Cultural Production of Blackness (2006). 

former director

Filippo Trentin

Filippo Trentin is a Lecturer in Cinema & Media Studies, Italian Studies, and Queer Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, which he joined in 2016-17 as an Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Teaching Fellow in the Humanities. After getting his Ph.D. at the University of Warwick (UK) in 2014 he held academic positions as Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the ICI Berlin Institute of Cultural Inquiry and as Visiting Assistant Professor at the Ohio State University.

Beans Velocci

Beans Velocci is a historian of knowledge production in the realms of sex, gender, and sexuality, based in the Department of History and Sociology of Science. Their work uses queer, trans, and feminist methods to interrogate how classification systems become regarded as biological truths, primarily in the nineteenth- and twentieth-century United States and its colonial and white supremacist context. Their first book project, tentatively titled Binary Logic, is a prehistory of cisness that looks at how sex emerged as a privileged way of sorting bodies not despite but because of its incoherence. Beans holds a PhD and several master's degrees from Yale University, an MA from the University of Utah, and an AB from Smith College. 

Javier Samper Vendrell

Javier Samper Vendrell is Assistant Professor of German and affiliated faculty in the Program in Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies. His research focuses on LGBTQ history, literature, film, television, and print culture in Germany since 1890. His first book, The Seduction of Youth: Print Culture and Homosexual Rights in the Weimar Republicwas published in 2020 by the University of Toronto Press. The book is part of a body of growing interdisciplinary cultural studies that address the production of non-normative sexual identities, the history of homophobia, and the relationship between mass culture and politics. In particular, it investigates the wide-spread belief at the time that homosexuals were cunning seducers of youth and how those within the homosexual emancipation movement reacted against this pervasive homophobic trope. In addition, Samper Vendrell has published articles in The Germanic ReviewGerman Studies ReviewJournal of the History of SexualityThe German Quarterly, and German Life and Letters on topics such as Weimar cinema; the queer history of the Holocaust; adolescent sexuality in the early twentieth century; and queer utopia. His immediate and future research maintains this focus on LGBTQ studies, interdisciplinary research on adolescence, print culture, and cultural history in Germany with a global outlook.


Heidi Voskuhl

Heidi Voskuhl's research field comprises the history of technology from the early modern to the modern period. Her broader interests include the philosophy of technology, the history of the Enlightenment, and modern European intellectual and cultural history.

Lance Wahlert

Lance Wahlert is Assistant Professor of Medicine and Program Director of the Master of Bioethics (MBE) in the Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy in the Perelman School of Medicine. Dr. Wahlert is also the Director of the Project on Bioethics, Sexuality, and Gender Identity, which has demarcated a sub-field within bioethics that focuses on the intersection of LGBTQ issues and medical ethics. Dr. Wahlert’s scholarly interests include the historiographical legacy of the healthcare concerns of LGBTQ persons, the impact of cinematic genres on cultural histories, and the relationship between literary narratives and clinical forms of storytelling.

David Wallace

David Wallace is a medievalist who looks forward to the early modern period; he works on English and Italian matters with additional interests in French, German, women's writing, romance, "discovery" of the Americas and the history of slavery, and Europe.  His most recent book is Strong Women: He is currently editing the first literary history of Europe, 1348-1418, which is organized not by 'national blocks' but by nine sequences of places, or itineraries. It assumes that the space of 'Europe' becomes intelligible only through dialogue with that which forms its 'outside,' or dialogues with it.  There is an interactive website to support this project.

Liliane Weissberg

Liliane Weissberg's interests focus on late eighteenth-century to early twentieth-century German literature and philosophy. Much of her work has concentrated on German, European, and American Romanticism, but she has also written on the notion of representation in realism, on photography, and on literary and feminist theory. Among her more recent books are a critical edition of Hannah Arendt's Rahel Varnhagen: The Life of a Jewess, the anthologies Cultural Memory and the Construction of IdentityRomancing the Shadow: Poe and Race,  Picture This! Writing with Photography, and Hannah Arendt und die Frankfurter Schule. 

Dag Woubshet

Ahuja Family Presidential Associate Professor of English

Dagmawi Woubshet is a scholar, writer, and translator, working at the intersection of African American, LGBTQIA+, and African studies. He is the author of The Calendar of Loss: Race, Sexuality, and Mourning in the Early Era of AIDS (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2015), and the co-edited volume Ethiopia: Literature, Art, and Culture, a special issue of Callaloo (2010). His critical and creative writings have appeared in various publications including Transition, NKA: Journal of Contemporary African Art, The Atlantic, and African Lives: An Anthology. He is currently working on three book projects: James Baldwin and the Art of Late-Style; the first English translation of Sebhat Gebre Egziabher’s 1966 Amharic novel, ሰባተኛው መላክ Säbatägnaw Mälak [The Seventh Angel]; and a collection of lyric essays. Woubshet has served as an associate editor of Callaloo and currently is on the Editorial Board of Transition. He’s held fellowships at the Institute of Ethiopian Studies at Addis Ababa University; Modern Art Museum in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where he curated Julie Mehretu: The Addis Show (2016); Africa Institute in Sharjah, UAE (2020-21); and Civitella Ranieri, Italy (2022). Before joining the University of Pennsylvania in 2017, Woubshet taught at Cornell University where he was named one of “The 10 Best Professors at Cornell.” He received his Ph.D. in the History of American Civilization from Harvard University and his B.A. in Political Science and History from Duke University. 


Secil Yilmaz

I am a historian of sexuality, gender, and medicine of the Ottoman Empire and modern Turkey. My research and teaching focus on the broad fields of social and intellectual history at the intersections of medical humanities, life sciences, feminist, and queer studies. In my research, I am interested in the formation of knowledge and practices concerning Life as a productive site of political and social encounters, confrontations, and negotiations among various agents in which power and hegemony are formed and nested. I trace the stories of uneven and unconventional engagements and interactions of global, local, and indigenous historical agents framed by colonialism, imperialism, and modern governance.