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Katherine Crawford

Professor of History
Chair of Gender and Sexuality Studies

Katherine Crawford received her PhD in history from the University of Chicago in 1997, where she was subsequently a Harper Postdoctoral Fellow for two years. Since coming to Vanderbilt, she has taught courses on gender and sexuality, European history, historical practice, and feminist/queer theory.

Crawford is the author of four books, all of which center on questions of gender and sexuality as operations of power in the early modern past. Power is at its most obvious in her first book, Perilous Performances: Gender and Regency in Early Modern France (Harvard University Press, 2004), examines the political dynamics created by the need to utilize queen mothers as regents when their underage sons became kings. Crawford argues that the gendering of political authority that occurred during regencies affected “normal” political situations by facilitating the gradual expansion of royal authority. Moving past the high politics of the French Old Regime, Crawford’s second book, European Sexualities, 1400-1800 (Cambridge University Press, 2007) offers a synthetic interpretation of developments in and scholarship on sexuality on the presumption that feminist theory, gender history, and social history reveal the operations of power on gender and sexed bodies in the early modern past.

Crawford has continued to move between more geographically specific studies and more broadly European ones while continuing to query the relationship of the early modern past to later configurations of gender and sexuality. In the more geographically specific register, The Sexual Culture of the French Renaissance (Cambridge University Press, 2010) hones in on how the development of modern modes of sexual expression generated an intersecting and contradictory set of articulations during the French Renaissance. Transactions between and among physical bodies opened up a language for the deployment of sexuality that had wide-ranging implications for issues ranging from sovereignty through nationalism to gender-, race-, and class-based identities. Questions of race, class, gender, and disability feature in Crawford’s most recent book, Eunuchs and Castrati: Disability and Normativity in Early Modern Europe (Routledge, 2019). This book analyzes how castrated men were constructed as disabled subjects and regarded as transgendered in pejorative ways that had wide-ranging influence on the perception of gender non-normative people as a deprecatory cultural practice.

Crawford is currently at work on a project on sexual deception, and she is editing a volume of essays on the early modern history of sex work.

She was awarded the Jeffrey Nordhaus Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching at  Vanderbilt University and the Von Holst Teaching Prize at the University of Chicago.