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Photo of Brier, Jennifer

Jennifer Brier, PhD

Director and Professor

Gender and Women's Studies; History


Building & Room:

1204 UH


601 S Morgan St.

Office Phone:

(312) 413-2458


With a joint appointment in the Program in Gender and Women’s Studies and the History Department, my research and teaching are largely focused on exploring the historical intersections of gender, race, and sexuality. I am also an active public historian, working to make history useful and meaningful to communities beyond the academy.

My first book, Infectious Ideas: U.S. Political Response to the AIDS Crisis was published by the University of North Carolina Press in 2009 and in paper in 2011. In it I argue that AIDS provides the perfect lens through which to see the complex social and political history of the 1980s and 1990s. I substantiate this argument by detailing how activists, service providers, philanthropists and the federal government responded to AIDS in the first two decades of the AIDS epidemic. I place the history of a successful yet complex and contentious social movement organized to deal with the AIDS epidemic in conversation with a more traditional political history of how the state dealt with this public health crisis. Finally, I link the local to the global by connecting the development of domestic AIDS policy and activism to global AIDS policy and activism.

I have also been a part of numerous public history projects. I am currently leading an effort to build a mobile public history gallery for the city of Chicago. History Moves is not only a history gallery on wheels, it is also a project that asks people to think about how and why history matters to them. We work with community-based organizations all over the city, to engage people in a process of learning how to do oral history and interpret historical ephemera.

In 2011, I curated the award winning exhibitions, Out in Chicago, at the Chicago History Museum. This exhibition combined the history of sexuality with urban history and made a case for understanding Chicago as a queer crossroads. The catalog and anthology that accompanied the exhibition, Out in Chicago: LGBT History at the Crossroads, co-edited with Jill Austin, can be purchased as an E-book from Amazon.

In 2012, I curated a traveling exhibition on the history of AIDS for the National Library of Medicine. Surviving and Thriving: AIDS, Politics and Culture, will go to hundreds of cities over a five year run. You can access the exhibition on-line along with a web gallery that includes hundreds of posters related to HIV/AIDS.

My teaching interests revolve around the connections between gender, race, sexuality and science as well. I regularly teach “Sexuality and Community” (GWS 203) and “Sexuality and Culture” (GWS 403), courses that serve as a core for students interested in learning about sexuality and queer studies. I also teach a course that investigates the global AIDS pandemic, "AIDS, Politics and Culture" (GWS 462). This course can be used by students interested in thinking about health and human rights as well as sexuality and politics. At the graduate level, I have taught Feminist Knowledge Production (GWS 502), one of the two courses required for the Graduate Concentration in GWS.