Elspeth H. Brown

Professor & Associate Vice Principal Research (Through to June 30, 2024)
Historical Studies - History
  • Room:
    MN 4278
  • Office Hours:
    Please refer to the syllabus and/or contact via email.
  • Mailing Address:

    3359 Mississauga Road, Maanjiwe nendamowinan, 4th floor
    Mississauga, ON L5L 1C6


Dr. Elspeth Brown is a Professor of History at the University of Toronto, where she teaches queer and trans history; the history of US capitalism; oral history; and the history and theory of photography. She is Faculty Director of the Critical Digital Humanities Initiative as well as Associate VP, Research at UTM. Her research/public humanities website can be accessed here.

Her 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. She is 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). She is 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). Dr. Elspeth Brown is 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.

Dr. Elspeth Brown is 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. Their team members are specialists in LGBTQ history, trans studies, and oral history. Their 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, Dr. Elspeth Brown 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, she organized over 250 public lectures, events, and conferences over seven years.


PhD in American Studies (Yale University)

Monographs, Edited Collections, and Special Issues:

  • Work! A Queer History of Modeling (Duke University Press, 2019)
  • Feeling Photography (Duke University Press, 2014; co-editor, with Thy Phu)
  • Queering Photography: a special issue of the journal Photography and Culture. 
    Co-editor. Volume 7, #3 (November, 2014).
  • The Corporate Eye: Photography and the Rationalization of American Commercial Culture, 1884-1929 (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2005); recipient of the 2005 Awards for Excellence in Professional and Scholarly Publishing, given by the Association of American Publishing, for the best book in Business, Management & Accounting.
  • Cultures of Commerce: Representation and American Business Culture, 1877-1960 (368 pp). Co-editor with Marina Moskowitz and Catherine Gudis Palgrave/MacMillan (May 2006).

Articles (selected):

  • “Archival Activism, Symbolic Annihilation, and the LGBTQ+ Community Archive,” Archivaria 89 (Spring 2020), 6-33
  • “It’s Raining Men: Physique Photography and Racial Capitalism,” in Brian Wallis, Tina Campt, Marianne Hirsch, and Gil Pasternak, eds., Imagining Everyday Life (Steidl, 2020).
  • “Feeling in Photography: From the Affective Turn to the History of Emotions,” co-written with 2 other authors, Thy Phu and Andrea Noble, in Routledge volume on Theory in Photography 2017 (forthcoming)
  • “Queering Glamour in Interwar Fashion Photography: The “Amorous Regard” of George Platt Lynes,” GLQ: A Journal of Gay and Lesbian Studies 2017 (forthcoming)
  • “Trans/Feminist Oral History: Current Projects.” TSQ: The Transgender Studies Quarterly vol. 2 no. 4 (November 2015), pp. 666-672.
  • “’Queering the Trans* Family Album’: Elspeth H. Brown and Sara Davidmann, in Conversation,” Radical History Review issue 122 (May, 2015), pp. 188-200.
  •  “The Commodification of Aesthetic Feeling: Race, Sexuality and the 1920s Stage Models,” Feminist Studies, volume 40, no. 1, 2014, pp. 65-97
  • “From Artist’s Model to the ‘Natural Girl’: Containing Sexuality in Early Twentieth Century Modeling,” in Joanne Entwistle and Elizabeth Wissinger, eds., Fashion Models: Modeling as Image, Text, and Industry (forthcoming, Berg, 2012). 
  • “Labor, Management, and Photography as “Social Hieroglyphic”: N.C.R. and the Social Museum Collection,” in Deborah Martin Koa, ed., The New Social Order (Yale University Press, forthcoming 2012)
  • “Black Models and the Invention of the U.S. ‘Negro Market,’ 1945-1960” in Detlev Zwick and Julien Cayla, eds., Inside Marketing: Practices, Ideologies, Devices (Oxford University Press, 2011), 185-211.
  • “De Meyer at Vogue: Commercializing Queer Affect in WWI-era Fashion Photography,” Photography and Culture, November 2009 vol. 2, issue 3, 253-275.
  • “Welfare Capitalism and Documentary Photography: N.C.R. and the Visual Production of a Global Model Factory” History of Photography vol. 32, no. 2 (summer 2008), 137-151.
  • “Marlboro Men, Modeling, and Outsider Masculinities in Postwar America,” in Reggie Blaszczyk, ed., Producing Fashion: Commerce, Culture, and Consumers  (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, October 2007), 187-207. [April 2009: came out in paperback].
  • "Racializing the Masculine Body: Eadweard Muybridge's Locomotion Studies, 1883-1887," special issue of Gender and History on "Visuality and Gender,” vol. 17, no. 3, November 2005, 1-30.
  • "Reading the Visual Record," in Ardis Cameron, ed. Looking for America: An Historical Introduction to the Visual in American Studies, 1900-2000 (Blackwell, 2005), 362-370.
  • "Technology, Culture, and the Body in Modern America," American Quarterly. Vol. 56, no. 2 (June, 2004), 449-460.
  • “The Prosthetics of Management: Motion Study, Photography, and the Industrialized Body in World War I America,” in Katherine Ott, David Serlin, and Stephen Minm, eds., Artifical Parts, Practical Lives (NYU Press, 2002): 249-281.
  • "Rationalizing Consumption: Photography and Commercial Illustration, 1913-1919," Enterprise and Society (Oxford University Press), vol. 1 no. 4 (December 2000): 715-738.


  • U.S. 1877-present
  • The cultural history of capitalism
  • The history and theory of photography
  • Queer and trans* history and theory