Elspeth Brown

Professor, Historical Studies - History, University of Toronto Mississauga
Interim Associate Vice Principal Research (through June 30, 2023), University of Toronto Mississauga
Picture of Elspeth Brown wearing a blue shirt.


Main Bio

I am Professor of History here 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 am Faculty Director of the Critical Digital Humanities Initiative as well as Associate VP, Research at UTM. My research/public humanities website can be accessed here.

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 Smithsonian’s 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 (Duke University Press, 2019) and the award-winning The Corporate Eye: Photography and the Rationalization of American Commercial Culture, 1884-1929 (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2005). I am co-editor of Feeling Photography (2014, Duke University Press 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 Co-President of the Board at The ArQuives, Canada’s Lesbian and Gay Archives, the world’s largest LGBTQ+ community archive.

I am the P.I. 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 2025. Oral history projects currently underway in the Collaboratory include one on the history of trans activism (in collaboration with The ArQuives, the Transgender Archives, and filmmaker Dr. Chase Joynt) and one on the history of the Pussy Palace women’s bathhouse police raid in 2000 (in collaboration with The ArQuives).

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.