Core Faculty

The Gender, Sexuality and Women's Studies Program and Alice Paul Center's 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 Alice Paul Center 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.

Nancy Bentley

Nancy Bentley's research interests include law and literature, theory of the novel, African American studies, social theory, and cinema and media. She is the author of Frantic Panoramas: American Literature and Mass Culture 1870-1920 and The Ethnography of Manners. She also co-authored Volume 3 of the Cambridge History of American Literature and the Bedford Cultural Edition of Charles Chesnutt’s The Marrow of Tradition. Recent essays include “The Fourth Dimension: Kinlessness and African American Narrative”, and “Creole Kinship: Privacy, Politics, and the Novel in the New World,” in The Oxford Handbook of Nineteenth-Century American Literature. 

Toni Bowers

Toni Bowers research and writing focus particularly on how representations of intimate relations shaped and reinforced distributions of power during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. She publishes and teaches on writing by and about women, ideologically driven and partisan political writing (which, she maintains, are not the same thing), the discursive construction of "Great Britain," and early prose fiction in England and Scotland.

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) and Foul Bodies: Cleanliness in Early America (Yale, 2009).

Helen Davies

Helen Davies was selected the 1999 recipient of the Lifetime Mentor Award of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. In 2003 she was elected to rank of Fellow of American Association for the Advancement of Science. In 2005 she received the Alice Evans Award of the American Society of Microbiology for her excellence in microbiology. She has received the Lifetime Achievement Award from Women of Color at Penn. Teaching is very important to her and she has received 39 major teaching awards, including Penn’s All-University Lindback Award for Distinguished Teaching; one of the two Distinguished Basic Science Educator Awards, awards given in the Medical School; and the Trustees Council of Penn Women’s Award for Generations of Academic Excellence. ” Nationally, she is the first woman to ever receive the American Medical Student Association’s National Excellence in Teaching Award (March, 2001).

Joan DeJean

Joan DeJean's research focuses on 17th- and 18th-century French literature. Her most recent 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); the history of sexuality (Fictions of Sappho, 1546-1937); the development of the novel (Literary Fortifications); and the cultural history of late 17th- and early 18th-century France (The Essence of Style). She 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.

André Dombrowski

André Dombrowski is Associate Professor of Art History. Professor Dombrowski’s research centers on the art and material culture of France, Germany and Britain in the mid to late nineteenth century, with an emphasis on cross-national developments in the histories of science, politics, psychology, and sexuality. He is particularly concerned with the social and intellectual rationales behind the emergence of avant-garde painting in the 1860s and 1870s, including Impressionism. Winner of the 2009 Phillips Book Prize from the Center for the Study of Modern Art at The Phillips Collection in Washington, D. C., he is currently completing a book entitled Cézanne, Murder and Modern Life, forthcoming from the University of California Press in the fall of 2012.

David Eng

David L. Eng is Richard L. Fisher Professor of English. He is also Professor in the Program in Comparative Literature & Literary Theory and the Program in Asian American 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. His areas of specialization include American literature, Asian American studies, Asian diaspora, psychoanalysis, critical race theory, queer studies, gender studies, and visual culture.

C. Neill Epperson

Dr. Epperson has 17 years experience in the treatment of mood and behavioral disorders across the female reproductive life cycle. In specific, she has expertise in the assessment and treatment of premenstrual dysphoric disorder, premenstrual worsening of depression and bipolar disorder, perinatal psychiatric disorders, mood disorders due to hormonal treatments, and perimenopausal mood disturbances. Dr. Epperson also treats women with adjustment difficulties and post-traumatic stress due to pregnancy complications or loss and consults with peri- and early post-menopausal women with cognitive complaints. The Penn Center for Women's Behavioral Wellness, under the direction of Dr. Epperson, includes psychologists and psychiatrists with expertise in women's mental health.

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. Gadsen

Dr. Gadsden’s research interests focus on cultural and social factors affecting learning and literacy across the life-course and within families, particularly those at the greatest risk for academic and social vulnerability. Her writing focuses on intergenerational learning, particularly on the relationships between literacy in families and issues of culture, race, gender, and poverty in diverse learning contexts. Her research studies examine the intergenerational and cross-cultural nature of learning, literacy, and identity within families and the relationship between family members' beliefs and practices around learning, educational access, and educational persistence. Her conceptual framework, family cultures, focuses on the interconnectedness among families' political, cultural, and social histories and racialized identities.

Kathryn Hellerstein

Kathryn Hellerstein is a poet, translator, and scholar of Yiddish poetry. Her many scholarly articles on Yiddish literature, and most recently, on women poets in Yiddish, are published in journals, anthologies, and encyclopedias. Hellerstein's books include her 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).

Nancy Hirschmann

Nancy Hirschmann was Director from 2014-2017. During her tenure, the structure of the GSWS program underwent significant changes, ranging from a new governance structure to curricular revision to obtaining new and larger space. A professor in Political Science, she works in the history of political thought, analytical philosophy and feminist theory. Her newest book, Gender, Class, and Freedom in Modern Political Theory considers the concept of freedom as it developed in the canon of political thought from the 17th to 19th centuries and examines how issues of gender and class affected the dominant conceptions of freedom.  Her previous book, The Subject of Liberty: Toward a Feminist Theory of Freedom, took a more contemporary approach and considered the concept of freedom in the context of political and social issues such as domestic violence, Islamic veiling, and U.S. welfare reform. She is a former Vice-President of the American Political Science Association.

former director

Ayako Kano

Ayako Kano's research focuses on the intersection of gender, performance, and politics, as well as on Japanese cultural history of the late 19th to early 20th century. Her first book focused on the first generation of actresses in modern Japanese theater. She is currently writing a book about Japanese feminist debates from the 1890s to present. Future projects include a cross-cultural analysis of the medieval Japanese noh theater, as well as a book on film actresses and female spectatorship. Select publications: Acting Like a Woman in Modern Japan: Theater, Gender, and Nationalism and “Towards a Critique of Transhistorical Femininity.

David Kazanjian

David Kazanjian is Associate Professor of English. His area of specialization is transnational American literary and historical studies through the nineteenth century. His book, The Colonizing Trick: National Culture and Imperial Citizenship in Early America (Minnesota), offers a comparative study of colonial and antebellum, racial and national formations, and a critique of the formal egalitarianism that animated early U.S. citizenship. He is currently completing The Brink of Freedom: Improvising Life in the Nineteenth-Century Atlantic World, a study of three nineteenth-century social movements (immigration to Liberia; race and insanity in the 1840 US census and the Creole slave ship revolt; and the Caste War of Yucatán) that improvised with the discourse and practice of freedom.

Andrew Lamas

Andrew Lamas research concerns the theoretical and practical dimensions, as well as the philosophical and religious bases, of social justice and economic democracy — in the context of urbanization. He teaches courses for students pursuing degrees and careers in economic development, community development finance, NGO/non-profit leadership, and related fields. He participates in the Global Gender Group sponsored by the Women’s Studies Program, and he is an Affiliated Faculty of Women's Studies and the Alice Paul Center as well as a Faculty Affiliate of the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Center.

Robin Leidner

Robin Leidner's research concerns the relation between structural conditions of employment and its interactional components, as well as how work arrangements draw on and affect cultural understandings of the ways people do and should relate to each other. In Fast Food, Fast Talk: Service Work and the Routinization of Everyday Life, she examined what happens when organizations try to standardize interactions between workers and customers.  Her current research involves low-status jobs in which people had incentives to separate themselves from the identity their work conferred.

Beth Linker

Beth Linker's research and teaching interests include social and cultural history of U.S., medicine and surgery in the 19th and 20th centuries, disability history, war studies, history of medicine, the body, surgery, American health policy, bioethics, public health; gender and health; history and sociology of medicalization.

Ania Loomba

Ania Loomba researches and teaches early modern literature, histories of race and colonialism, postcolonial studies, feminist theory, and contemporary Indian literature and culture. Her writings include Gender, Race, Renaissance DramaColonialism/ Postcolonialism and Shakespeare, Race, and Colonialism. She has co-edited Post-colonial ShakespearesPostcolonial Studies and BeyondRace in Early Modern England: A Documentary Companion. Her latest publication is a critical edition of Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra and a co-edited collection of essays Feminisms in South Asia: Contemporary Interventions is forthcoming from Duke University Press.

Heather Love

Heather Love's areas of interest include gender studies and queer theory, the literature and culture of modernity, affect studies, film and visual culture, psychoanalysis, race and ethnicity, sociology and literature, and critical theory. She is the author of Feeling Backward: Loss and the Politics of Queer History (Harvard, 2007) and the co-editor of a special issue of New Literary History ("Is There Life after Identity Politics?"). She is currently at work on a book on the source materials for Erving Goffman's 1963 book, Stigma: On the Management of Spoiled Identity ("The Stigma Archive").

Serena Mayeri

Serena Mayeri’s scholarship focuses on the historical impact of progressive and conservative social movements on legal and constitutional change. Her book, Reasoning from Race: Feminism, Law, and the Civil Rights Revolution, was recently published by Harvard University Press.

Mayeri's current project examines the history of challenges to marriage's primacy as a legal institution and a source of public and private benefits. She teaches courses in family law, employment discrimination, gender and the law, and legal history.

Sharrona Pearl

Sharrona Pearl is an Assistant Professor of Communication at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania. An expert on physiognomy – the study of facial features and their relationship to character traits – she previously was a post-doctoral fellow in the Committee on Degrees in History and Literature and in the Department of the History of Science at Harvard University.  She is the author of About Faces: Physiognomy in Ninetheenth-Century Britain (Harvard UP: 2010).

Kathy Peiss

Kathy Peiss's research has examined the history of working women; working-class and interracial sexuality; leisure, style, and popular culture; the beauty industry in the U.S. and abroad; and print culture and cultural policy during World War II.  She is particularly interested in the ways that commerce and culture have shaped the everyday life and popular beliefs of Americans across time.  Peiss is the author of Cheap Amusements: Working Women and Leisure in Turn-of-the-Century New York and Hope in a Jar: The Making of America's Beauty Culture, which was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Award and named one of Amazon's 1999 top ten books in Women's Studies. 

Karen Redrobe (formerly Beckman)

Karen Redrobe (formerly Beckman) is currently working on a short book entitled Animation and the Contemporary Art of War, as well as an edited volume entitled Animating Film Theory, which will explore the challenges animation poses for the discourse of film theory. Prior publications include: Vanishing Women: Magic, Film and Feminism, which examines the relationship between the elusive female body and the medium of film; Crash: Cinema and the Politics of Speed and Stasis which includes chapters on early cinema, slapstick comedy, educational safety films, Warhol, and contemporary disaster films.

Melissa E. Sanchez

Melissa Sanchez studies and teaches sixteenth- and seventeenth-century literature, with a particular focus on gender, sexuality, and constitutional and religious history. Professor Sanchez has been an Andrew W. Mellon Fellow at the Huntington Library, and in 2009 she received Penn's Edmund J. and Louise W. Kahn Award for Distinguished Teaching by an Assistant Professor. Her first book, Erotic Subjects: The Sexuality of Politics in Early Modern English Literature, examines how sixteenth- and seventeenth-century writers used scenarios of erotic violence and cross-gender identification to explore the origins and limits of political allegiance.

Dawn Teele

Dawn Teele is the Janice and Julian Bers Assistant Professor in the Social Sciences. She holds a B.A. in Economics from Reed College, and a Ph.D. in Political Science from Yale University. Prior to joining the faculty at Penn she was a Research Fellow at the London School of Economics. She is the recipient of the Carrie Chapman Catt Prize for the study of women in politics and was a Thomas J. Watson Fellow. Her research has been funded by the World Bank, the Sloane Foundation, and the National Science Foundation.

Deborah A. Thomas

Deborah A. Thomas is the R. Jean Brownlee Term 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 Exceptional Violence:  Embodied Citizenship in Transnational Jamaica (2011), 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).  She is also co-director and co-producer of two films:  BAD FRIDAY:  RASTAFARI AFTER CORAL GARDENS (with John L. Jackson, Jr. and Junior “Gabu” Wedderburn), a documentary that chronicles the history of violence in Jamaica through the eyes of its most iconic community – Rastafari – and shows how people use their recollections of the Coral Gardens “incident” in 1963 to imagine new possibilities for the future; and FOUR DAYS IN MAY (with Junior “Gabu” Wedderburn and Deanne M. Bell), an experimental documentary that juxtaposes archives related to the “Tivoli Incursion” in May 2010, when Jamaican security forces entered West Kingston to arrest Christopher Coke, wanted for extradition to the United States, and killed at least 75 civilians.  Thomas is also the co-curator of a multi-media installation titled Bearing Witness:  Four Days in West Kingston, which opens at the Penn Museum in November 2017.  Thomas has also published extensively in peer-reviewed journals across the disciplines.  

As someone who has been interested in what new forms of community, subjectivity and expectation are produced by violence, and in how these are expressed and mapped, Thomas is currently working on two projects that continue to probe these issues, though in very different ways.  The first continues from her investigations of the 2010 “Tivoli Incursion” in West Kingston.  In the wake of that event, a team of internationally-based forensic pathologists was invited to observe and provide procedures for the autopsies being performed.  Because there was no local cadre of forensic pathologists (the Jamaican government has historically contracted with doctors from South Asia to work in this field), one member of that team subsequently established a fellowship to train graduates from the University of the West Indies Medical School in Canada for a year, with the goal of developing a Jamaican team of doctors able to serve in this capacity.  Thomas is exploring this emergent phenomenon in relation to long-standing anthropological and Africana Studies approaches to rituals oriented toward tarrying with the dead.  She has also begun a project on contemporary Chinese investment in Jamaica, and is interested in how China’s growth throughout Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean must be seen in relation to broader shifts away from a taken-for-granted dominance of the West. 

Prior to her life as an academic, Thomas was a professional dancer with the New York-based Urban Bush Women, a company that is committed to using art as a means of addressing issues of social justice and encouraging civic engagement, and that brings the untold stories of disenfranchised people to light through dance from a woman-centered perspective and as members of the African Diaspora community.  Thomas was also a Program Director with the National Council for Research on Women, an international working alliance of women’s research and policy centers whose mission is to enhance the connections among research, policy analysis, advocacy, and innovative programming on behalf of women and girls.  She was editor of the journal Transforming Anthropology from 2007-2010, and is currently on the Editorial Committee of the Caribbean-based journal Social and Economic Studies.  She is the Editor-in-Chief of American Anthropologist, the flagship journal of the American Anthropological Association, for which she has also co-edited the Visual Anthropology Section.  She was a member of the Executive Council for the Caribbean Studies Association from 2008-2011, was Secretary of the Society for Cultural Anthropology from 2010-2014, and currently sits on the board of the Association for the Study of the Worldwide African Diaspora (ASWAD).


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.