Benjamin Zender

BA Syracuse University. MA, University of Massachusetts and Northwestern University. PhD, Northwestern University. Zender is a multidisciplinary teacher, researcher, and performer who explores why we collect, care for, and publicly exhibit objects. In their current research, they collect stories of queer, trans, and women of color archivists who curate grassroots archives. This work showcases libraries, museums, and archives as key sites for understanding how marginalized communities build knowledge, history, and community in a world that is ambivalent about their survival. They join SLC as a Public Humanities Fellow, developing public workshops, exhibits, and events with the Yonkers Public Library. SLC, 2023–

Undergraduate Courses 2023-2024

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Studies

Feminist and Queer Waves: Reading Canon in Context

Sophomore and Above, Seminar—Fall

In Waves, we’ll move backward through feminist and queer time, as we revisit “classic” pieces within their original historical contexts. We will locate theory in place and time, naming how they respond to specific political, intellectual, and social exigencies. Our goal is to read these texts with close attention and care, asking how they reflect the urgent desires and needs of multiple overlapping communities. The texts represent a large breadth of topics, disciplines, and values of feminist and queer thought and are far from exhaustive history of any of these conversations. Likewise, our authors—folks such as Joshua Chambers-Letson, Saidiya Hartman, Martin Manalansan, Jennifer Nash, Claudia Rankine, Gayle Rubin, Eve Sedgwick, and Barbara Smith—each write from the specifics of their own experience, offering frequently contradictory arguments about the way the world does—and should—work. Together, we’ll build narratives about queer and feminist theoretical history that honor these complexities. We’ll build a co-authored public website that will house a timeline, theory cloud, and a digital exhibit of images from your archival research. You’ll be responsible for curating discussion for one class period. For your final conference work, you’ll conduct an independent project at either the Yonkers Public Library or the Sarah Lawrence College Archives, with an optional opportunity to help curate a final community event in spring 2024. As an interdisciplinary theory course, expect to draw on theory from gender and sexuality studies; LGBT studies; and Africana studies.



Public Humanities in Practice: The Yonkers Public Library

Intermediate/Advanced, Small seminar—Spring

Prerequisite: one or more of the following: previous participation in community organizing, Feminist and Queer Waves (fall 2023), permission of the instructor

In this small workshop meeting at the Yonkers Public Library (YPL), we’ll plan a series of writing workshops for Yonkers-area community members and a final event celebrating SLC’s yearlong collaboration with the YPL. We’ll work directly with Yonkers-area community members and YPL staff to develop workshops themed around topics like oral history, autobiographic performance, family heirlooms, and grassroots archives. The final live event will share work from these writing workshops and the fall 2023 class, Feminist and Queer Waves. You’ll develop a theme, co-author a curatorial statement, develop a small exhibit of archival materials from YPL and SLC, and invite members of our overlapping communities. This small class welcomes former students from Feminist and Queer Waves, as well as those who are invested in publicly- engaged pedagogy, community organizing, and museum and archival curation.