Dr. Joseph Plaster is Curator in Public Humanities for the Sheridan Libraries and an Assistant Research Scholar at the Alexander Grass Humanities Institute. His research and teaching focuses on collaborative public humanities, performance studies, interdisciplinary oral history, and queer studies. His current book project, under contract with Duke University Press, combines archival, ethnographic, and oral history research to explore the social worlds that abandoned and runaway queer street youth, their patrons, and their protectors have created over the past century in San Francisco’s Tenderloin district. It investigates the social trauma inflicted on marginally housed youth and the ways they have worked, collectively and creatively, to reinterpret those realities through religious ritual, performative storytelling, and queer kinship networks.
As Curator in Public Humanities, Plaster conducts original research at archives and museums across Johns Hopkins University and interprets those collections through a variety of undergraduate courses and collections-based innovations. He is currently working on the Peabody Ballroom Experience, a collaboration between Johns Hopkins and Baltimore’s ballroom community, a performance-based art culture comprising gay, lesbian, and transgender people of color. Other projects include a youth workshop archiving the history of Pennsylvania Avenue, Baltimore’s black arts and entertainment district, and an “Engaged Humanities” public speaker series.
Plaster completed his PhD in American Studies at Yale University with a Certificate in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. His work has appeared in Radical History Review and will appear in forthcoming issues of The Public Historian and Kalfou: A Journal of Comparative and Relational Ethnic Studies.
- Lecturer, Johns Hopkins University, "Queer & Trans Public History"
- Lecturer, Johns Hopkins University, “Sharing Knowledge: Participatory Archives, Collaborative Oral History, and Social Justice,” Fall 2019.
- Lecturer, Yale University American Studies Department, “Interdisciplinary Approaches to Oral History Narrative,” Fall 2016.
- Lecturer, Yale University American Studies Department, “Public Humanities and Social Justice,” Spring 2017.
- Lecturer, Yale University American Studies Department, “Queer/Trans Performativity,” Spring 2017.
- Teaching Fellow, “Race, Class, and Gender in American Cities,” Yale University, Fall 2017.
- Teaching Fellow, “U.S. Lesbian and Gay History,” Yale University, Fall 2013.
- Performative Economies: The Survival of Queer Street Youth in San Francisco’s Tenderloin, under contract, Duke University Press
- “Safe for Whom? And Whose Families? Narrative, Gentrification, and Queer Oral Histories of San Francisco’s Polk Street,” forthcoming in The Public Historian, May 2020.
- “Black Queer Performance in Baltimore’s ‘Cathedral of Books,’” The Abusable Past, digital venue for the Radical History Review, Oct 2019.
- “The Peabody Ballroom Experience,” International Work, USA, Oral History, Autumn 2019.
- “Imagined Conversations and Activist Lineages: Public Histories of Queer Homeless Youth Organizing in San Francisco’s Tenderloin,” Radical History Review Issue 113, May 2012.
- Co-editor (with Megan Rohrer) of Vanguard Revisited: The Queer Faith, Sex & Politics of the Youth of San Francisco’s Tenderloin (San Francisco, CA: Wilgefortis, 2016.)
- “Polk Street: Lives in Transition,” commissioned by the Graduate Center of the City University of New York’s OutHistory Project, published online, Apr. 2009.
- “Behind the Masks: GLBT Life at Oberlin College,” thesis-length historical narrative written under the direction of Prof. Carol Lasser, 2001, revised 2007.