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Ann Pellegrini

Ann Pellegrini

Professor of Social and Cultural Analysis , Performance Studies ; Director, Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality

Ph.D. 1994 (Cultural Studies), Harvard University; A.M. 1992 (Study of Religion), Harvard University; B.A. 1988 (Literae Humaniores), Oxford University; A.B. 1986 (Classics), Harvard-Radcliffe.

Office Address: 

721 Broadway, Room 605


(212) 998-7795

Personal Homepage:

Lab Homepage: States of Devotion, General Editor with Marcial Godoy-Anativia.

Areas of Research/Interest: 

religion, sexuality, and U.S. public life • performance and law • psychoanalysis and culture • trauma studies • lgbtq studies • feminist studies • gender and performance • affect studies • critical theories of secularism • religion and biopolitics • Jewish cultural studies • childhood studies

External Affiliations:

Member, American Academy of Religion • Member, American Psychological Association Division 39 • Member, American Studies Association • Member, Modern Language Association • Member, Performance Studies International • Fellow, Psychology and the Other Institute • Member, International Association for Relational Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy • Candidate, Institute for Contemporary Psychotherapy • Contributing Editor, Studies in Gender and Sexuality


The risk and anxiety of difference have preoccupied my research and writing from my first book (Performance Anxieties: Staging Psychoanalysis, Staging Race, 1997) through collaborative books with Janet R. Jakobsen (Love the Sin: Sexual Regulation and the Limits of Religious Tolerance, 2003) and Michael Bronski and Michael Amico (“You Can Tell Just By Looking” and 20 Other Myths About LGBT Life and People, 2013). My books and articles traverse several disciplines and interdisciplines, but one through-line is an abiding interest in exploring how feelings are lived, experienced, and communicated between and across bodies—and with what risks and possibilities for self and others. Another is the value of the aesthetic for repairing democratic social life. I am keenly interested in the kinds of practices that make and un-make worlds. In all my work, I proceed with feminist and queer angles of vision as a way to put pressure on normative schemas of embodiment and subjectivity and to illuminate the cross-currents of gender, race, sexuality, and religion as they shape and impress the embodied life of feeling.

These crossing or contact points do not always feel good. Far from it. They can even be points of democratic—and psychic—conflict. Social conflicts over difference are a key concern in my co-authored book with Janet R. Jakobsen, Love the Sin: Sexual Regulation and the Limits of Religious Tolerance (2004). Love the Sin analyzes debates over religion and sexuality in the United States. We are particularly interested in how “religion” is invoked—even by the secular U.S. state—to manage and contain supposedly “threatening” social differences. Another joint project with Jakobsen, the edited volume Secularisms (2008), works explicitly to de-center U.S. conceptions of secularism. Both Love the Sin and Secularisms share a desire to disrupt the Enlightenment narrative that equates secularism with modernity, reason, freedom, peace, and progress. This narrative too often produces a forced choice between “conservative” religion and “progressive” secularism, a choice not unlike the one often forwarded by secular gender and sexuality studies: to wit, between “bad” religion and the “goods” of sexual liberation. In our work together, Jakobsen and I have consistently argued against such false choices, moving instead to consider how practices of sexual and religious freedom can be theorized in tandem with, rather than in constant opposition to, one another.

I have a long-standing interest in psychoanalysis as a critical method for understanding interactions between individuals and their social contexts, self and other, and the inner and outer lives of feeling. But psychoanalysis is not just a diverse body of theory in excess of the proper name Freud; it is also a critical and creative practice in its own right. In current work, I am writing about psychoanalysis and the arts as practices (and maybe psychoanalysis as performance art?) that can help cultivate the capacity to bear difference.


Finalist, Lambda Literary Award for Best LGBT Non-Fiction, for “You Can Tell Just By Looking” and 20 Other Myths About LGBT Life and People (2014) • Faculty Fellow, Charles Warren Center for Studies in American History, Harvard University (2012-13) • Constance Rourke Prize for best article published in American Quarterly, American Studies Association (2008) • Fulbright-Freud Visiting Scholar of Psychoanalysis, Austrian Fulbright Commission and Sigmund-Freud-Society (2007) • Arnold Grossman Award for Outstanding Faculty/Staff Service to the LGBT Community, NYU (2005) • First Annual BGLT Faculty Ally Award, Harvard University Bisexual, Gay, Lesbian, Transgender, and Supporters Association (1999) • National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Fellowship (1996).


“You Can Tell Just By Looking” and 20 Other Myths about LGBT Life and People. Co-author, with Michael Bronski and Michael Amico. Boston: Beacon Press, 2013.

Secularisms. Co-editor, with Janet R. Jakobsen. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2008.

Love The Sin: Sexual Regulation and the Limits of Religious Tolerance. Co-author, with Janet R. Jakobsen. Boston: Beacon Press, 2004.

Queer Theory and the Jewish Question. Co-editor, with Daniel Boyarin and Daniel Itzkovitz. New York: Columbia University Press, 2003.

Performance Anxieties: Staging Psychoanalysis, Staging Race. New York: Routledge, 1997.

Book Series

Sexual Cultures, New York University Press — General Editor with José Esteban Muñoz, Tavia Nyong’o, and Joshua Chambers-Letson.

Journal special issues

Public Sentiments, Special Issue of S & F Online 2:1 (Fall 2003). Guest Editor, with Ann Cvetkovich.

World Secularisms at the Millennium, Special Issue of Social Text 64 (Fall 2000). Co-Editor, with Janet R. Jakobsen.


States of Devotion, General Editor with Marcial Godoy-Anativia.

Updated on 10/08/2015