Faculty Publications

Our dedication to research includes the Feminist Research Alliance Workshop, a work-in-progress series featuring UB faculty, the Signature Lecture series, conferences and symposia, writing and reading groups.

For more information on these initiatives, please go to:  Faculty Research Grants 
and the Feminist Research Alliance Workshop..

Award Winning Publications

Director's Research

Carrie Tirado Bramen. American Niceness: A Cultural History. Harvard University Press, 2017.

Book Cover image of American Niceness depicts Indigenous peoples and pilgrims gathered together sharing food.

American Niceness

The cliché of the Ugly American—loud, vulgar, materialistic, chauvinistic—still expresses what people around the world dislike about their Yankee counterparts. Carrie Tirado Bramen recovers the history of a very different national archetype—the nice American—which has been central to ideas of U.S. identity since the nineteenth century.

Niceness is often assumed to be a superficial concept unworthy of serious analysis. Yet the distinctiveness of Americans has been shaped by values of sociality and likability for which the adjective “nice” became a catchall. In America’s fledgling democracy, niceness was understood to be the indispensable trait of a people who were refreshingly free of Old World snobbery. Bramen elucidates the role niceness plays in a particular fantasy of American exceptionalism, one based not on military and economic might but on friendliness and openness. Niceness defined the attitudes of a plucky (and white) settler nation, commonly expressed through an affect that Bramen calls “manifest cheerfulness.”

To reveal its contested inflections, Bramen shows how American niceness intersects with ideas of femininity, Native American hospitality, and black amiability. Who claimed niceness and why? Despite evidence to the contrary, Americans have largely considered themselves to be a fundamentally nice and decent people, from the supposedly amicable meeting of Puritans and Native Americans at Plymouth Rock to the early days of American imperialism when the mythology of Plymouth Rock became a portable emblem of goodwill for U.S. occupation forces in the Philippines.


Meredith Conti. “Slow Academic Travel” (forthcoming). Theatre Topics vol. 30, no. 4 (2021).


Book cover image of ancient ruins in the top left corner, the bottom half of the image is ocean.

Irus Braverman (Editor). Blue Legalities: The Life and Laws of the Seas. Duke University Press (2020).

The ocean and its inhabitants sketch and stretch our understandings of law in unexpected ways. Inspired by the blue turn in the social sciences and humanities, Blue Legalities explores how regulatory frameworks and governmental infrastructures are made, reworked, and contested in the oceans. Its interdisciplinary contributors analyze topics that range from militarization and Maori cosmologies to island building in the South China Sea and underwater robotics. Throughout, Blue Legalities illuminates the vast and unusual challenges associated with regulating the turbulent materialities and lives of the sea. Offering much more than an analysis of legal frameworks, the chapters in this volume show how the more-than-human ocean is central to the construction of terrestrial institutions and modes of governance. By thinking with the more-than-human ocean, Blue Legalities questions what we think we know—and what we don’t know—about oceans, our earthly planet, and ourselves. 

Picture of the header from Alcohol Research Current Reviews, which is a peer-reviewed journal of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) of the NIH.

Jo Freudenheim. "Alcohol's Effects on Breast Cancer in Women." Alcohol Research Current Reviews, Vol. 40 no. 2 (2020).

Jo Freudenheim, Distinguished Professor and Chair, Department of Epidemiology and Environmental Health and Gender Institute Affiliate, was recently awarded the title of SUNY Distiguished Professor. 
In addition, Professor Freudenheim published an invited review on alcohol and breast cancer. It was published in Alcohol Research Current Reviews, which is a peer-reviewed journal of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) of the NIH.

This article presents findings from a systematic literature review that examined various forms of adolescent sexting, and as relevant to educator responsibilities in the support of prosocial behavior and teen dating violence (TDV) prevention within the United States.

Dark book cover image of the Aesthetic Clinic.

The Aesthetic Clinic

In The Aesthetic Clinic, Fernanda Negrete brings together contemporary women writers and artists well known for their formal experimentation—Louise Bourgeois, Sophie Calle, Lygia Clark, Marguerite Duras, Roni Horn, and Clarice Lispector—to argue that the aesthetic experiences afforded by their work are underwritten by a tenacious and uniquely feminine ethics of desire. To elaborate this ethics, Negrete looks to notions of sublimation and feminine sexuality developed by Freud, Baudelaire, Mallarmé, and Nietzsche, and their reinvention with and after Jacques Lacan, including in the schizoanalysis of Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari. But she also highlights how psychoanalytic theory draws on writing and other creative practices to conceive of unconscious processes and the transformation sought through analysis. Thus, the “aesthetic clinic” of the book’s title (a term Negrete adopts from Deleuze) is not an applied psychoanalysis or schizoanalysis. Rather, The Aesthetic Clinic privileges the call and constraints issued by each woman’s individual work. Engaging an artwork here is less about retrieving a hidden meaning through interpretation than about receiving a precise transmission of sensation, a jouissance irreducible to meaning. Not only do art and literature serve an urgent clinical function in Negrete’s reading but sublimation itself requires an embrace of femininity.

Tia Palermo, et al. “Impacts of a Cash Plus Intervention on Gender Attitudes Among Tanzanian Adolescents. Journal of Adolescent Health, (2020).

Inequitable attitudes toward men’s and women’s roles, rights, and responsibilities are associated with poor health–related outcomes, particularly for girls and women. Yet, we know relatively little about what interventions work to improve gender-equitable attitudes among adolescents in low-income countries. This study examines the impact of a government-implemented “cash plus” intervention on gender-equitable attitudes among adolescents in Tanzania. The intervention includes discussions and activities related to gender norms, embedded in broader life skills, livelihoods, and health training.

Lora E. Park, et al. “Open Science, Communal Culture, and Women’s Participation in the Movement to Improve Science.” PNAS, vol. 117, no. 39 (September, 2020). 

Science is undergoing rapid change with the movement to improve science focused largely on reproducibility/replicability and open science practices. This moment of change—in which science turns inward to examine its methods and practices—provides an opportunity to address its historic lack of diversity and noninclusive culture. Through network modeling and semantic analysis, we provide an initial exploration of the structure, cultural frames, and women’s participation in the open science and reproducibility literatures.

Image of a woman in western clothing leaning on an acoustic guitar in front of a bonfire.

Hillbilly Maidens, Okies, and Cowgirls

Stephanie Vander Wel. Hillbilly Maidens, Okies, and Cowgirls: Women’s Country Music, 1930-1960. University of Illinois Press, (2020).

From the 1930s to the 1960s, the booming popularity of country music threw a spotlight on a new generation of innovative women artists. These individuals blazed trails as singers, musicians, and performers even as the industry hemmed in their potential popularity with labels like woman hillbilly, singing cowgirl, and honky-tonk angel.

Stephanie Vander Wel looks at the careers of artists like Patsy Montana, Rose Maddox, and Kitty Wells against the backdrop of country music's golden age. Analyzing recordings and appearances on radio, film, and television, she connects performances to real and imagined places and examines how the music sparked new ways for women listeners to imagine the open range, the honky-tonk, and the home. The music also captured the tensions felt by women facing geographic disruption and economic uncertainty. While classic songs and heartfelt performances might ease anxieties, the subject matter underlined women's ambivalent relationships to industrialism, middle-class security, and established notions of femininity.

Image of a Victorian woman with the book title text superimposed over her.

The Shapes of Fancy

Christine Varnado. The Shapes of Fancy: Reading for Queer Desire in Early Modern Literature. University of Minnesota Press, (2020).

The Shapes of Fancy offers a powerful new method of accounting for ineffable and diffuse forms of desire, mining early modern drama and prose literature to describe new patterns of affective resonance. It stages an impassioned defense of the inherently desirous nature of reading, making a case for readerly investment and identification as vital engines of meaning making and political insight.



Victoria Wolcott. "Networks of Resistance: Floria Pinkney and Labor Interracialism in Interwar America.” Journal of African American History, vol. 105 no. 4 (2020).

The life of Black labor activist Floria Pinkney exemplifies the powerful connections between labor unions, workers’ education, and the YWCA that set the stage for the long Civil Rights Movement. In the 1920s Pinkney attended three workers’ education colleges: Brookwood Labor College, the Bryn Mawr Summer School for Women Workers, and the International People’s College in Denmark. Pinkney also became a prominent labor organizer for the International Ladies Garment Workers Union (ILGWU) and worked in the New Deal’s Workers’ Education Project. The 1930s alliance between labor and civil rights generally marks the starting decade of the long Civil Rights Movement. But this alliance was fostered by an earlier left culture of social unionism and workers’ education. Pinkney’s journey through this world illustrates Black women’s propagation of this culture. Her life exposes how the expansive networks of labor and civil rights organizations empowered working-class Black women in the interwar period.


Black and white book cover image of a woman looking over her shoulder.

Haunted Bauhaus

Winner: Peter C. Rollins Book Prize, 2019.

The Bauhaus (1919–1933) is widely regarded as the twentieth century's most influential art, architecture, and design school, celebrated as the archetypal movement of rational modernism and famous for bringing functional and elegant design to the masses. In Haunted Bauhaus, art historian Elizabeth Otto liberates Bauhaus history, uncovering a movement that is vastly more diverse and paradoxical than previously assumed. Otto traces the surprising trajectories of the school's engagement with occult spirituality, gender fluidity, queer identities, and radical politics. The Bauhaus, she shows us, is haunted by these untold stories.

The Bauhaus is most often associated with a handful of famous artists, architects, and designers—notably Paul Klee, Walter Gropius, László Moholy-Nagy, and Marcel Breuer. Otto enlarges this narrow focus by reclaiming the historically marginalized lives and accomplishments of many of the more than 1,200 Bauhaus teachers and students (the so-called Bauhäusler), arguing that they are central to our understanding of this movement. Otto reveals Bauhaus members' spiritual experimentation, expressed in double-exposed “spirit photographs” and enacted in breathing exercises and nude gymnastics; their explorations of the dark sides of masculinity and emerging female identities; the “queer hauntology” of certain Bauhaus works; and the role of radical politics on both the left and the right—during the school's Communist period, when some of the Bauhäusler put their skills to work for the revolution, and, later, into the service of the Nazis.

Book cover image featuring an early American memorial grave.

Speaking with the Dead

Erik R. Seeman. Speaking with the Dead in Early America. University of Pennsylvania Press (2019).

Winner: 2020 Lawrence W. Levine Award from the Organization of American Historians.

In late medieval Catholicism, mourners employed an array of practices to maintain connection with the deceased—most crucially, the belief in purgatory, a middle place between heaven and hell where souls could be helped by the actions of the living. In the early sixteenth century, the Reformation abolished purgatory, as its leaders did not want attention to the dead diminishing people's devotion to God. But while the Reformation was supposed to end communication between the living and dead, the result was in fact more complicated than historians have realized. In the three centuries after the Reformation, Protestants imagined continuing relationships with the dead, and the desire for these relations came to form an important—and since neglected—aspect of Protestant belief and practice.

In Speaking with the Dead in Early America, historian Erik R. Seeman undertakes a 300-year history of Protestant communication with the dead. Seeman chronicles the story of Protestants' relationships with the deceased from Elizabethan England to puritan New England and then on through the American Enlightenment into the middle of the nineteenth century with the explosion of interest in Spiritualism. He brings together a wide range of sources to uncover the beliefs and practices of both ordinary people, especially women, and religious leaders. This prodigious research reveals how sermons, elegies, and epitaphs portrayed the dead as speaking or being spoken to, how ghost stories and Gothic fiction depicted a permeable boundary between this world and the next, and how parlor songs and funeral hymns encouraged singers to imagine communication with the dead. Speaking with the Dead in Early America thus boldly reinterprets Protestantism as a religion in which the dead played a central role.