Jack Halberstam Appointed as Full Professor

Thursday, June 8, 2017

After spending the past year on campus as a visiting professor, Jack Halberstam is joining the Department of English and Comparative Literature and the Institute for Research on Women, Gender, and Sexuality as a full professor. “This is a dream job for me for so many reasons,” says Halberstam, “an exciting job in an exciting city with so many fantastic students and colleagues. I have luxuriated in the massive schedule of talks, conferences, seminars and events that Columbia hosts every single week.” About living in New York, Halberstam says that Columbia brings a unique opportunity to make an impact both in the university and beyond: “I hope in the years to come to contribute in meaningful ways to the flourishing of queer studies on campus, to the interactions between the university and the city and to those between scholarship and activism.”

 “Jack Halberstam’s appointment is a milestone for Columbia,” thinks Prof. Marianne Hirsch, who contributed to the faculty search in which Halberstam was hired. She adds that the appointment “consolidates the strong synergies between English and Comparative Literature and the Institute for Research on Women, Gender and Sexuality.” IRWGS Director, Prof. Patricia Dailey calls Halberstam an “exemplary colleague in being collectivity-oriented and will contribute greatly to shaping the future of the department and of IRWGS.”

Specializing in a range of mediums, from Gothic literature to film, Halberstam has cultivated an imaginative and politically salient body of criticism. Prof. Marcellus Blount remarks that Halberstam “helped define the field of sexuality studies,” and is an exceptionally strong addition the department for those studying gender, queer theory, and visual and cultural studies. His latest books include, Gaga Feminism: Sex, Gender and The End of Normal (Beacon Press, 2012), The Queer Art of Failure (Duke, 2011), In A Queer Time and Place: Transgender Bodies, Subcultural Lives (NYU, 2005), and Female Masculinity (Duke, 1998). Prof. Dailey considers this comment, which Halberstam wrote to characterize The Queer Art of Failure, an apt description of his work as a whole: “to the extent that my book makes an intervention, it does so by cleaving to counter-intuitive ways of thinking, anti-disciplinary forms of knowledge production, uncanonical archives and queer modes of address.”

Jack Halberstam alternates teaching between English Literature and Women’s Studies. Professor Sarah Cole, Chair of the English and Comparative Literature Department, remarks that “Jack Halberstam brings incredible range and diversity of interest to our department. His expertise across so many fields and his courageous approach to critical topics around gender and the body make him an exceptionally exciting addition to our faculty. We are thrilled that he is interested in offering a very wide variety of courses for our students.” His survey course, “British Literature 1950 – Present,” examines novels, music, and film from the era to “depict not only the immigrant experience but also the bleakness of postwar Britain and the subcultural movements among both black and white youth that opposed and challenged the rigid class system, the monarchy, patriarchal family structures and post-imperial illusions of grandeur.” His graduate seminar, “Queer Theory and New Materialism,” focused on “the emergence of a persistent set of conversations about the human, the inhuman, the liveliness of the material world and the death-dealing nature of social systems organized around wealth and success.” Elaborating on the theme of “wildness,” the seminar explored “what, if anything, escapes hegemonic iterations of self, other, world, being, power, classification and definition.” “Queer Modernism,” a graduate seminar to be offered in Fall 2017, “investigates odd relations between homosexuality and totalitarian masculinity on the one hand and lesbianism and fascism on the other.”

For the past 11 years, Halberstam has taught at the University of Southern California where he was Professor of American Studies and Ethnicity, Gender Studies and Comparative Literature. Halberstam earned his M.A. and Ph.D. in English Literature from the University of Minnesota after graduating from Berkeley with highest honors.

Looking ahead, Halberstam thinks of Columbia as an intellectual crucible for his scholarship: “I know that my work on transgenderism, on anti-disciplinary knowledge, on subcultures and on wildness will shift and change as a consequence of my being here, and I hope that my particular weird mix of irreverence, silliness, eclecticism and queer commitment will, in turn, impact upon my colleagues and students.”