Robin Bernstein On leave

Dillon Professor of American History and Professor of African and African American Studies and of Women, Gender, and Sexuality


Robin Bernstein is a cultural historian who writes about two subjects: theatre/performance and childhood. Sometimes she studies these topics together; other times she studies them separately.  Her goal, always, is to think through performance and childhood to produce new knowledge about US cultural history, and particularly American formations of race, from the nineteenth century to the present.

Bernstein is the Dillon Professor of American History and Professor of African and African American Studies and of Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality and at Harvard University. She currently chairs the Program of Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality at Harvard.  She is also a faculty member in Harvard’s doctoral program in American Studies and undergraduate program in Theater, Dance, and Media.   With Stephanie Batiste and Brian Herrera, She edits the book series Performance and American Cultures for New York University Press.  She is an elected member of the American Antiquarian Society and a member of the editorial boards of the journals Signs and Theatre Survey.

Her most recent book, Racial Innocence: Performing American Childhood from Slavery to Civil Rights, won five awards: the Outstanding Book Award from the Association for Theatre in Higher Education (ATHE, co-winner), the Grace Abbott Best Book Award from the Society for the History of Children and Youth, the Book Award from the Children’s Literature Association, the Lois P. Rudnick Book Prize from the New England American Studies Association, and the IRSCL Award from the International Research Society for Children’s Literature.  Racial Innocence was also a runner-up for the American Studies Association‘s John Hope Franklin Publication Prize and received an Honorable Mention for the Book Award from the Society for the Study of American Women Writers. Her other books include the anthology Cast Out: Queer Lives in Theater (University of Michigan Press) and a Jewish feminist children’s book titled Terrible, Terrible!

Bernstein’s recent articles include “Utopian Movements: Nikki Giovanni and the Convocation Following the Virginia Tech Massacre,” which was published in African American Review and won that journal’s 2014 Darwin T. Turner Award for “the best essay representing any period in African American or pan-African literature and culture.”  Her article, “‘I’m Very Happy to Be in the Reality-Based Community’: Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home, Digital Photography, and George W. Bush,” was just published in the March 2017 issue of American Literature.  Other essays have appeared in PMLATheatre JournalModern DramaJ19: The Journal of Nineteenth-Century Americanists, Children’s Literature Association Quarterly, Theatre Topics, and other journals. Bernstein’s 2009 article “Dances with Things: Material Culture and the Performance of Race” was published in Social Text, and it won two prizes: the Outstanding Article award from the Association for Theatre in Higher Education (ATHE) and the Vera Mowry Roberts Award for Research and Publication, given by the American Theatre and Drama Society for the best essay published in English.

Bernstein also publishes in some other genres, including, most recently, academic advice.  For the latest information about Bernstein’s scholarship and other activities, please consult her website:

Dissertation Committees

Chair, Completed Doctoral Dissertation

2016                Scott Poulson-Bryant, “Everybody is a Star: Uplift, Citizenship, and the Cross-Racial Politics of 1970s US Popular Culture”

Employment upon Graduation: Assistant Professor of English, Fordham University

2015                Rebecca Scofield, “Riding Bareback: Imagining Sexuality and Gender in Rodeo”

Employment upon Graduation: Assistant Professor of History, University of Idaho

Committee Member, Completed Doctoral Dissertations

2013                Stephen Vider, “No Place Like Home: A Cultural History of Gay Domesticity, 1948-1981”

Current Employment: Visiting Assistant Professor of Public History, Bryn Mawr College

Employment upon Graduation: Cassius Marcellus Clay Postdoctoral Fellow in the History of Sexuality, Yale University.

Chair, Doctoral Dissertation in Progress

Amanda “Amy” Fish, “Ambassadors of Age: Child-Adult Literary Collaborations for Social Change, 1965-1975”

Michael Sasha King, “Melancholic Practices: Mapping a Diasporic Space in the Midst of Recursive Conditions”

Committee Member, Doctoral Dissertations in Progress

Sandy Placido, “Radical Solidarities: The Transnational Life and Activism of Ana Livia Cordero”

Selected Publications

  • Bernstein_CastOut

    Cast Out: Queer Lives in Theater (University of Michigan Press, 2006), by Robin Bernstein

  • Racial Innocence Cover jpg

    Racial Innocence: Performing American Childhood from Slavery to Civil Rights (New York University Press, 2011), by Robin Bernstein