OAH Distinguished Lecturer Profile

Claire Bond Potter

Portrait of Claire Bond Potter
Image Credit: Olivia Drake

Claire Bond Potter is a professor of history at The New School, where she directs the Digital Humanities Initiative. She is also a codirector of OutHistory.org, an LGBT digital history project. Prior to coming to The New School, she taught in the history and American studies departments of Wesleyan University for twenty years as well as at Baruch College-CUNY and the University of Pennsylvania. She is the author of War on Crime: Bandits, G-Men and the Politics of Mass Culture (1998) and a coeditor, with Renee Romano, of Doing Recent History: On Privacy, Copyright, Video Games, Institutional Review Boards, Activist Scholarship, and History that Talks Back (2012). She is currently writing a political history of antipornography campaigns, "Beyond Pornography: How Feminism Survived the Age of Reagan," and a collection of essays on humanities scholarship in the digital age, "Digital U: Why Crowd-sourcing, Social Media, Word Press, and Google Hangouts Could Save the Historical Profession." With her students, she is producing a teaching site on the history of ACT UP and the AIDS pandemic, "The United States of AIDS." She blogged as Tenured Radical from 2006 to May 2015.

Featured Lecture

OAH Lectures

In this lecture, I reflect on several decades of transformation in our scholarly lives that have been more rapid than any other, except perhaps the 1890s, when research universities emerged as a powerful force in American life and the post-World War II years, when science and war brought millions of dollars into higher education. Historians of all ages are both excited about, and suspicious of, the role technology is playing in our teaching, scholarly and collegial lives; yet it is not an option to refuse changes we do not understand or like. Simultaneously, many of us are in the position of defending traditional curricula an dpedagigies that we value; and learning the tools we need to empoy to make degrees in history relevant to, and functional within, an increasingly digital environment. In this talk, I argue that the world of digital history is not a separate track: it is already embedded in everything historians do, and everything our profession can be in the future.
The story of feminism in the 1980s is often told in terms of collapse: its highlights, or lowlights, are the defeat of the ERA, conservative challenges to women's right to choose, and feminist organizations struggling to reassert themselves in an unwelcoming political environment. Most prominently, the feminist "sex wars" is said to have been a lightning rod for conflict within the movement, one in which second wave feminism destroyed itself. Beginning in the late 1970s pro-pornography feminists and anti-pornography feminists committed the movement to a fight over new laws that would make it possible to sue pornographers for damages. Yet the division between those who saw pornography as vital to the protection of women's speech and those who saw it as a violation of women's civil rights, including their speech, has been oversimplified. In this lecture, I look at the many women whose views about pornography occupied a vital middle ground, as well as the role that the struggle over pornography played in producing a feminist public conversation about gender equality during a political period when women's rights were being eroded by the state.