Department of History

Colin Johnson

  • Associate Professor, Department of Gender Studies
  • Adjunct Associate Professor, Department of History
  • Adjunct Associate Professor, Department of American Studies
  • Faculty Affliliate, Human Biology Program


  • A.B. at University of Chicago, 1996
  • M.A. at University of Michigan, 1997
  • Ph.D. at University of Michigan, 2003

Contact Information

Memorial Hall West, Mezzanine 10
(812) 855-6702


Colin Johnson

For the past ten years my research has focused on the history of gender and sexuality in the non-metropolitan United States during the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century. I am particularly interested in the history of gender non-conformity and same-sexual behavior during this period. My first book, Just Queer Folks: Gender and Sexuality in Rural America, deals with this topic by examining a number issues including the relationship between turn-of-century American agriculturalists and the eugenics movement; sex education and moral reform campaigns in rural areas; homosexuality among migrant agricultural workers; the experience of gender and sexual eccentrics in small-towns; drag, homoeroticism and queer masculinity in the Civilian Conservation Corps; and female masculinity in American farm women. Although it is still in the very early stages of development, my second project focuses on the history of “anti-social” behavior in the United States, particularly forms of social attrition and withdrawal characteristic of solitary figures such as the shut-in, the hermit and the recluse. In addition to the history of gender and sexuality, additional areas of interest include 19th and 20th century US regional literature, the history of agriculture and the environment, queer theory, psychoanalytic theory, and the history of science and technology. Before coming to Indiana University I held fellowships at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History, The Johns Hopkins University's Program for the Study of Women, Gender and Sexuality and the University of Michigan's Institute for Research on Women and Gender.

Selected Awards

  • GBLT Spirit Award (2013)
  • Indiana University Trustees' Teaching Award (2010, 2012)
  • Faculty Fellow, IU Human Biology Program (2006-07)
  • Postdoctoral Fellow, Program for the Study of Women, Gender and Sexuality, Johns Hopkins University (2003-04)

Research Interests

  • Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century U.S. Social and Cultural History
  • LGBTQ History/History of Gender and Sexuality
  • Rural Social and Cultural History
  • History of Agriculture and the Environment

Courses Recently Taught

  • Concepts of Gender
  • Queer Historicism
  • Researching Gender Issues
  • Cultural Politics of Sexuality in Twentieth Century
  • Gender, Culture and Society
  • History of Feminist Thought and Practice
  • Gay Histories/Queer Cultures
  • Gender, Geography, Sex and Space

Publication Highlights


Just Queer Folks: Gender and Sexuality in Rural America.  Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2013.  Published as part of TUP's Sexuality Studies series, Janice Irvine and Regina Kunzel, eds.


“Homosexuals from Haystacks: Gay Liberation and the Specter of a Queer Majority in Rural California, circa 1970” in Subalternity and Difference: Investigations from the North and the South, Gyanendra Pandey, ed.  London: Routledge, 2011. 41-56.

“Casual Sex: Towards a ‘Prehistory’ of Gay Life in Bohemian America.” Interventions: International Journal of Postcolonial Studies 10.3 (November 2008): 303-320. Reprinted as “Casual Sex: Subaltern Sexuality ‘On the Road’ in Early Twentieth Century America” in Subaltern Citizens and Their Histories: Investigations From India and the United States, Gyanendra Pandey, ed.  London: Routledge, 2010. 63-76.

“Homosexuals in Unexpected Places? An Introduction.” American Studies 48.2 (Summer 2007): 5-8.

“Camp Life: The Queer History of ‘Manhood’ in the Civilian Conservation Corps, 1933-1937.” American Studies 48.2 (Summer 2007): 19-36.  Winner of the Stone-Suderman Prize given by the Mid-America American Studies Association in recognition of the best essay published each year in the journal American Studies.

“Rural Space: Queer America’s Final Frontier” The Chronicle of Higher Education 52, no. 19. (13 January 2006): B15-16.

“Urban, Suburban, and Rural Geographies.” Encyclopedia of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender History in America. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2004. 217-222.