On Lies: Strange Abundance in Slavery's Archive of Sex

Emily Owens, Brown University

Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024 | 5:00–6:30 p.m. (reception following) | 411 Fayerweather Hall

Emily Owens

This talk explores the work of surfacing the history of sex in antebellum slavery. Unlike records from earlier periods of slaveholding in the Atlantic world, the archives of 19th century US slaveholders are abundant, yet that abundance is marked by the fictions and delusions that seduced and gripped the imaginations of slaveholding authors. Taking as a given that black women appear in fleeting and distorted forms in these records, this talk explores methods through which historians might reconstruct histories of black women's survival on the backdrop of sex and slavery, with attention to the twin legacies of social history and ethical provocation in African American women's history and black feminist theory.

Emily Owens is the David and Michelle Ebersman Assistant Professor of History at Brown University, and the author of Consent in the Presence of Force: Sexual Violence and Black Women's Survival in Antebellum New Orleans. Her work broadly considers the ways that racism and misogyny get expressed in ordinary–and intimate–life.


(POSTPONED UNTIL FALL 2024) Timely Revelations: Trans Temporality, Crip Time, and Mexican Historical Testimony

Robert Franco, Kenyon College

Postponed until fall 2024

Robert Franco

This presentation explores the ways that testimonio–a genre of Latin American witness-bearing texts–offers a space to explore the contradictions of trans* and disabled historical accounts. Using the testimonio of the transgender and disability rights activist Irina Layevska Echeverría Gaitán, it interrogates how gender affirmation and the advancement of chronic debility structure the temporalities of testimonials: the moment when details are shared, intersectional experiences of time, and how chronologies are altered after pivotal life events.

Robert Franco is an Assistant Professor of History at Kenyon College. His current manuscript, Revolution in the Sheets: Sexuality and Tolerance in the Mexican Left, explores the history of homophobia, heterosexism, and hostility towards sexual politics in Mexico's leftist parties and organizations. His work has been featured in Journal of the History of Sexuality, Radical History Review, and elsewhere.


Free Speech, Religious Liberty, and the Long Campaign to Constitutionalize Discrimination

Kate Redburn, Columbia Law School

Thursday, Sept. 21, 2023 | 5:00–6:30 p.m.

411 Fayerweather Hall

Kate Redburn

Last June, the Supreme Court opened a chasm in the longstanding legal settlement between the First Amendment and anti-discrimination law. In 303 Creative v. Elenis, the Court ruled that public accommodations may deny service to same-sex couples under certain circumstances. This talk traces the new right to exclude back to the Christian Right movement lawyers who first advanced it in the aftermath of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Beyond explaining how market discrimination became protected speech, this historical genealogy helps locate lawyers for the New Christian Right in the broader history of the conservative legal movement.

Kate Redburn is an Academic Fellow and Lecturer in Law at Columbia Law School. They are completing a JD-PhD in History and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Yale.

Eroticizing Bloodlust: The Ongoing Legacies of Sexual Prohibition Laws

Marlon Ross, University of Virginia

Thursday, Nov. 9, 2023 | 5:00–6:30 p.m. (reception following) | 411 Fayerweather Hall

Marlon Ross

When the first Africans landed at Fort Comfort in 1619, some of the Angolans evidently married their Native American and English counterparts. Using this confounding situation of intermixture upon the 1619 landing as a departure point and foil, as well as Thomas Jefferson’s Enlightenment rationale against miscegenation as a pivot, this paper considers the emergence, entanglement, and ongoing impact of moral, social, and legal codes against miscegenation, sodomy, incest, and bestiality. What is the cultural logic that historically has bound together these laws, and what might this logic tell us about the current cultural warfare over LGBTQIA+ inclusion and rights?

Marlon Ross is Professor of English and Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at the University of Virginia. He is the author of Sissy Insurgencies: A Racial Anatomy of Unfit Manliness, Manning the Race: Reforming Black Men in the Jim Crow Era, and The Contours of Masculine Desire.