Elspeth H. Brown
Associate Professor of History
University of Toronto
Elspeth H. Brown
I am an Associate Professor of History at the University of Toronto, where I teach queer and trans history; the history of US capitalism; oral history; and the history and theory of photography. I earned my PhD from Yale University's program in American Studies in 2000. My work has been supported by the Getty Research Institute; the National Museum of American History; the American Council of Learned Societies; the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada; the Library of Congress Kluge Center; the American Philosophical Society, and others. I am the author of Work! A Queer History of Modeling (forthcoming, Duke University Press) and the award-winning The Corporate Eye: Photography and the Rationalization of American Commercial Culture, 1884-1929 (Johns Hopkins 2005). I am co-editor of Feeling Photography (Duke University Press, 2014, with Thy Phu), “Queering Photography,” a special issue of Photography and Culture (2014), and Cultures of Commerce: Representation and American Business Culture, 1877-1960 (Palgrave, 2006). I am an active volunteer and Vice President of the Board at the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives, the world’s largest LGBTQ+ community archive.
Research: I am the principle investigator for the LGBTQ Oral History Digital Collaboratory, a team-based project and virtual working space where members come together to share work, ideas, and new knowledge about the creation of LGBTQ oral histories in the digital age. Our team members are specialist in LGBTQ history, trans studies, and oral history. Our team includes faculty, grad students, archivists, and librarians from archives and universities across Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom. This project is funded by the Social Science Humanities and Research Council of Canada and runs until 2019.
I am also co-investigator for the Family Camera Network collaborative research project, where my research focuses on queer and trans family photography and oral history, in the context of global migration. More broadly, the Family Camera Network is a collaborative project that explores the relationship between photography and the idea of family, whether of origin or of choice, as is the case with LGBTQ+ communities. In Canada, approaches to family have expanded in response to cultural shifts including: same-sex marriage, transnational adoptions, dislocations to pursue economic opportunities or prompted by political instability, climate change, or war. Personal photographs document feelings about family, how family is defined, and connections to loved ones who may be separated due to dislocation. The Family Camera Network has produced a number of exciting projects, including an exhibition at the Royal Ontario Museum, a major scholarly conference, titled "Reframing Family Photography" at the University of Toronto in 2017, and a May 2018 exhibition that I am co-curating with Thy Phy entitled "Queering Family Photography" at the Stephen Bulger Gallery in Toronto, a Featured Exhibition of the CONTACT International Photography Festival.
From 2007 to 2013, I directed the Centre for the Study of the United States and the American Studies Program housed in the Munk School of Global Affairs. The Centre represents the largest collection of U.S.-focused scholars in Canada, as well as the greatest concentration of U.S. expertise in Canada’s history. As part of this work, I organized over 250 public lectures, events, and conferences over 7 years.