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Robin Bernstein

Professor of African and African American Studies and of Women, Gender, and Sexuality
Contact Information
Boylston G31
(617) 495-9634
(617) 496-9855
Department of African and African American Studies
12 Quincy St.
Cambridge, MA 02138


Robin Bernstein is a cultural historian who specializes in U.S. performance and theatre from the nineteenth century to the present. Her interests include formations of race, age, gender, and sexuality, and her research integrates the study of theatrical, visual, material, and literary evidence. A graduate of Yale's doctoral program in American Studies, she is Professor of African and African American Studies and of Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality at Harvard University. She is also a faculty member in Harvard's doctoral program in American Studies.

Bernstein’s most recent book, Racial Innocence: Performing American Childhood from Slavery to Civil Rights, was published by New York University Press in December 2011 and entered its second printing eleven weeks later. It is now in its third printing. Racial Innocence won five awards: the Outstanding Book Award from the Association for Theatre in Higher Education (ATHE), the Grace Abbott Best Book Award from the Society for the History of Children and Youth, the Book Award from the Children's Literature Association, and the Lois P. Rudnick Book Prize from the New England American Studies Association, and the IRSCL Award from the International Research Society for Children's Literature.  Racial Innocence was also a runner-up for the American Studies Association's John Hope Franklin Publication Prize and received an Honorable Mention for the Book Award from the Society for the Study of American Women Writers

Bernstein’s other books include the anthologies Cast Out: Queer Lives in Theater (University of Michigan Press) and Generation Q (Alyson), as well as a Jewish feminist children's book titled Terrible, Terrible!  She is currently writing a book titled Paradoxy: Lesbians and the Everyday Art of the Impossible. This book shows how racially diverse lesbians in the U.S. have, since the early twentieth century, performed paradoxes on stage and in everyday life. These bodily performances of paradoxes have theorized lesbian modes of historiography, art-making, and politics.

Bernstein’s recent articles include "Utopian Movements: Nikki Giovanni and the Convocation Following the Virginia Tech Massacre" in African American Review and "Signposts on the Road Less Taken: John Newton Hyde’s Anti-Racist Illustrations of African American Children" in the inaugural issue of J19: The Journal of Nineteenth-Century Americanists. Other articles have appeared in PMLA, Theatre JournalSocial Text, and other journals.  Bernstein’s 2009 article "Dances with Things: Material Culture and the Performance of Race" won two prizes: the Outstanding Article award from the Association for Theatre in Higher Education (ATHE) and the Vera Mowry Roberts Award for Research and Publication, given by the American Theatre and Drama Society for the best essay published in English.

In fall of 2013, Bernstein is teaching two AAAS seminars: “Childhood in African America” and “African American Theatre, Drama, and Performance.”