Public Engagement

  • Faculty

    C. Potter

    Professor of History

    Office Location:

    Alvin Johnson/J.M. Kaplan Building


    I am a Professor of History in the Schools of Public Engagement at The New School for Social Research, and am the Executive Editor of Public Seminar. My main research and teaching areas are in United States history after 1970, political history, the histories of gender and sexuality, mass culture, media and Internet Studies.

    My interest in how media has shaped political culture began with my first book, War on Crime: Bandits, G-men, and the Politics of Mass Culture (Rutgers University Press, 1998.) War on Crime was the first book to show that the FBI’s militarization of popular culture in the 1930s helped to create the strong New Deal state in the public mind. Subsequently, the writing I did for an edited collection with historian Renee Romano, Doing Recent History: On Privacy, Copyright, Video Games, Institutional Review Boards, Activist Scholarship, and History That Talks Back (University of Georgia Press, 2012) brought many of the questions I had asked in War on Crime into my study of a more recent political past found in multimedia archives far more fragile and evanescent than those of the 1930s: television, digital environments, email and social media. My current research focus is on the methodologies that make digital archive useful; and on the history of putting Presidential campaigns on the Internet.

    My life as a historian began as an undergraduate working in the archives of Yale University. An English major in a department that prized close reading, I was poised for the innovative use of critical theory, cultural studies, gender and queer studies as these fields became important to historical study in my graduate years. A historian with an interdisciplinarian heart, I had the good fortune to write my dissertation under the direction of political historian Susan Ware and to be a member of historical sociologist Charles Tilly’s Proseminar on the State in the early years of the Committee on Historical Studies at The New School.

    My next major research project, Beyond Pornography: Susan Brownmiller, Andrea Dworkin, Catharine MacKinnon and the Fight to End Violence Against Women, 1968-2000, caused me to dig deeply into a political world that saw media as a political problem in and of itself: second wave radical feminism. In this project, I have conducted oral histories, dug deeply into multiple archives, watched movies and television, and plunged into the debates that tore a vital social movement apart during the feminist sex wars of the 1980s. During this project, Renee Romano and I became aware how little guidance there was for historians as they tackled the archival, ethical and practical problems of writing the recent past. Doing Recent History: On Privacy, Copyright, Video Games, Institutional Review Boards, Activist Scholarship, and History That Talks Back was the result of these conversations, and is still used in graduate courses today.

    In 2006, I became a media participant, launching my blog Tenured Radical on a free Blogspot platform (it is now my Twitter handle). In 2011, I was invited to move to The Chronicle of Higher Education, where I wrote until I closed down the blog in 2015. During this period I made the transition to what is often called public scholarship, writing for a general audience at publications that include Dissent, The Village Voice, Inside Higher Education, berfrois, review31, and Jacobin. Currently I am the Executive Editor of Public Seminar, a web publication at The New School for Social Research where scholars write the first draft of history for a general audience. I am also the Director of the Digital Humanities Initiative, which (among other projects) hosts, a digital history platform devoted to supporting research on the LGBTQ past.

    My teaching reflects my scholarly commitments: to well-researched, accessibly written history; to scholarship that matters beyond the academy; to feminist and queer activist research; and to helping young historians acquire the methodological and technical tools they need to research and write the past in a twenty-first century digital world.

    I am represented by the Sandra Dijkstra LIterary Agency, Los Angeles, CA.

    Degrees Held:

    Ph.D., History, New York University
    M.A., History, New York University
    B.A., English, Yale University


    Professional Affiliations:

    American Historical Association
    Organization of American Historians
    American Studies Association
    Berkshire Conference of Women Historians
    Association of Internet Researchers

    Recent Publications:


    War on Crime:  Bandits, G-Men and the Politics of Mass Culture,  Rutgers University Press, 1998

    Edited Collections

    With Renee Romano, Historians on Hamilton: How a Blockbuster Musical is Restaging America's Past, Rutgers UNiversity Press, 2018.

    With Renee Romano, Doing Recent History: On Privacy, Copyright, Video Games, Institutional Review Boards, Activist Scholarship, and History That Talks Back, University of Georgia Press, 2012  

    Editorial Positions

    Executive Editor, Public Seminar

    Selected Articles and Book Chapters

    “Public Figures, Private Lives: Eleanor Roosevelt, J. Edgar Hoover and a Queer History Without Sexual Identity,” in Leila Rupp and Susan K. Freeman, Ed., Understanding and Teaching U.S. Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender History (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2014), 199-212.

    “When the Stars Come Out: Jodie Foster’s Queer Families and the Celebrity Private Sphere,” QED: A Journal in GLBTQ Worldmaking (winter, 2014).

    “A Queer Public Sphere: Urban History’s Sexual Landscape,” Journal of Urban History,  (July 2014).

    “Thou Shalt Commit: The Internet, New Media, and the Future of Women’s History,” Journal of Women’s History  vol. 25 no. 4 (Winter 2013), 350-362.

    “Virtually a Historian: Blogs and the Recent History of Dispossessed Academic Labor,” Historical Reflections/Reflexions Historiques vol. 38. no. 2 (summer, 2012).

    “Taking Back Times Square: Feminist Repertoires and the Transformation of Urban Space In Late Second Wave Feminism,” Radical History Review,  issue 113 (spring, 2012).

    “Paths to Political Citizenship: Feminism, Gay Rights and the Carter Presidency,” Journal of Policy History (winter 2011-12).

    “Queer Hoover: Sex, Lies and Political History,” Journal of the History of Sexuality, vol. 15 no. 3 (September 2006). Awarded the 2007-08 Audre Lorde article prize by the Committee on Lesbian and Gay History (American Historical Association affiliate society).   

    Performances And Appearances:

    “Fibber McGee’s Closet: Archives and the Digital Challenge,” Keynote for The Radcliffe Workshop on Technology and Archival Processing, Schlesinger Library, Harvard University, April 5, 2016.


    “On Beyond MOOCs: Why Humanists Should Be Shaping the Online World” on Thursday, February 25th, 4:30-6:00 p.m., in the Pane Room, Alexander Library, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ.


    “Did Feminism’s New Deal Begin in 1980?” University of California-Santa Barbara, September 26, 2015.


    “AIDS Activism as American History,” Museum of the City of New York, May 14, 2015.


    “The United States of AIDS: Building a Multi-Media Teaching Resource on the History of ACT UP,” Yale University, March 26, 2015.


    “From Mississippi to Times Square: the Roots of the Radical Feminist Anti-Pornography Movement,” University of North Carolina, March 19, 2015


    “Beyond the Sex Wars: Histories of Anti-Pornography Feminism,” Franklin and Marshall College, March 4, 2015.


    “Andrea Dworkin’s Queer Friendships,” Keynote, Symposium on Academic Feminism, University of Freiburg, Freiburg, Germany, February 6, 2015


    “Online Identities: The Promises and Perils of A World Without Gender,” University of Tübingen, Tübingen, Germany, February 3 2015.


    “The University of Facebook,” IUPUI Arts and Humanities Institute, Indiana University/Purdue University – Indianapolis, Monday October 13, 2014.


    “Andrea Dworkin’s Queer Friendships,” Sexual Reputations Conference, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL, November 9, 2013.


    “Classrooms of the Future” TEDx, Connecticut College, New London, CT, April 14, 2012.


    "Virtually a Historian: Blogs and the Recent History of Dispossessed Academic Labor," Program in American Cultures, University of Michigan, February 14, 2012.


    Research Interests:

    United States political history; gender, sexuality and feminism; digital humanities and Internet studies.

    Awards And Honors:

    National Endowment for the Humanities Enduring Questions Grant, 2015

    Arch and Bruce Brown Foundation Digital Project Grant, 2014

    Schlesinger Library Research Grant, 2013

    AHA Committee on Lesbian and Gay History Audre Lorde article prize, 2008

    Albert J. Beveridge Research Grant, American Historical Association, 1988

    Charlotte Newcombe Dissertation Fellowship, Woodrow Wilson Foundation, 1987