OAH Distinguished Lecturer Profile

Matthew Pratt Guterl

Portrait of Matthew Pratt Guterl
Image Credit: Wendi Chitwood

Matthew Pratt Guterl is a professor of Africana studies and American studies at Brown University. He is a historian of race and nation, with a focus on U.S. history from the Civil War to the present, and the author of four books: The Color of Race in America, 1900–1945 (2001); American Mediterranean: Southern Slaveholders in the Age of Emancipation (2007); Seeing Race in Modern America (2013); and Josephine Baker and the Rainbow Tribe (2014). Guterl has an ongoing, interdisciplinary research partnership with Caroline Levander, and together they’ve written Hotel Life (2015), a critique of the work of the quotidian hotel in modern life. He has written for the New York Times, the New Republic, Quartz, the Guardian, Inside Higher Education, and the Chronicle of Higher Education, and he appears in the documentary, Race: The Power of an Illusion (2003). He is writing a global life of the queer, cosmopolitan, human rights icon and revolutionary, Roger Casement, and another book on fakery in post–World War II America, including class passing, racial passing, and cross-dressing.

Featured Lecture

OAH Lectures

Thinking about the lives of two iconoclasts - Josephine Baker and Roger Casement - and what their lives can teach us about the global history of radicalism and human rights.
I ask two questions here: what is the history of fakery and fraudulence in the United States? What is the longer narrative history of fakery, and how does that narrative history explain how we got to the Trump presidency?
Long after her death, the fame of Josephine Baker continues to shape the role of black women, women more generally, and celebrities of all kinds in popular and political culture in confusing and potentially dramatic ways.
The history of slavery is the most dynamic subfield in American history, and that dynamism flows from our dystopian present.