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 2024-2025

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Studies

Black Feminist and Queer of Color Sexualities and Genders

Open, Seminar—Fall

LGST 3206

This is an introductory queer and feminist studies course that centers the intellectual work of theorists within the traditions known as Black Feminism and Queer of Color Critique with the US academy. Each week, we will take up a key debate or concern within the interdisciplinary field of women, gender, and sexuality studies, pairing influential works from the past alongside contemporary scholarship. We’ll visit work by scholars including, but not limited to, Sara Ahmed, Gloria Anzaldúa, Joshua Chambers-Letson, Barbara Christian, Cathy Cohen, the Combahee Collective, Roderick Ferguson, Alexis Pauline Gumbs, Saidiya Hartman, Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, Vivian Huang, E. Johnson Patrick, Audre Lorde, Cherríe Moraga, José Muñoz Esteban, Jennifer Nash, C. Snorton Riley, Hortense Spillers, and Patricia Williams. Some topics will include survival, loss, care, “the academy,” archives, identity politics, respectability, and language. Conference projects will be based on archival research at the Sarah Lawrence College Archives. Students will meet every two weeks at the SLC library in one of four conference groups organized around overarching topics of concern and debate from the class, including “identity and intersectionality,” “institutionality and the academy,” “violence, resistance, and care,” and “emotion.” Alongside individual seminar projects, these four research groups will each produce a co-authored archival “finding aid,” a guide for future scholars who visit the SLC Archives.


Queering the Library: Yonkers Public Library Practicum

Advanced, Small seminar—Spring

LGST 4010

Prerequisite: permission of the instructor

In this practicum-style class—meeting weekly at the Yonkers Public Library (YPL) Riverfront Branch—we will pursue projects that will directly support efforts at the library to build and publicize an LGBTQ+ archival collection. Class readings will discuss the risks, challenges, and rewards of building queer history through archival collections, especially in the context of a public institution like YPL. For conference work, students will participate in one of three group projects at YPL. The Oral History Project group will run public dialogue circles on LGBTQ+ issues in Yonkers and conduct oral histories to be housed in YPL’s public digital archives. The archives acquisition project will build physical and digital collections at the library and develop archival finding aids to assist patrons with archival research. The exhibition group will develop a small exhibition at YPL, sharing Yonkers and Westchester-area history and showcasing existing materials in YPL’s archival collection, including materials developed by the first two project groups. Students will ideally have have some level of experience with queer studies as an academic discipline, archival research, or applied work at nonprofits or other archives, libraries, and/or museums.


Previous Courses

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.