Caroline Light

Caroline Light

Director of Undergraduate Studies; Senior Lecturer on Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality
caroline light

Caroline Light is the Director of Undergraduate Studies in Harvard’s Program in Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality. She has a doctorate in history, with particular focus on gender, race, and sexuality in the U.S. South. Her research explores the ways in which race, gender, and region have shaped collective memory and archival silence. Light's first book, That Pride of Race and Character: the Roots of Jewish Benevolence in the Jim Crow South (NYU Press, 2014) illuminates the experience of southern Jewish assimilation through the lens of benevolent outreach to reveal how gendered and racialized performances of elite, white cultural capital served as a critical mode of survival for a racially liminal community of southerners.

Her recent research addresses the historic and legal origins of national “gun culture” and the weaponization of self-defense. Her book, Stand Your Ground: A History of America’s Love Affair with Lethal Self-Defense (Beacon Press, 2017) provides a critical genealogy of our nation’s ideals of armed citizenship. Beginning with the centuries-old adage “a man’s home is his castle,” she tracks the history of our nation’s relationship to lethal self-defense, from the duty to retreat to the “shoot first, ask questions later” ethos that prevails in many jurisdictions today. Ultimately, she contends that the contemporary appeal to “stand your ground” masks its exclusionary commitment to security for the few at the expense of the many.


Courses Taught in Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality:


WOMGEN 1283 Love's Labors Found: Uncovering Histories of Emotional Labor  (Cross-listed with EMR)

GENED 1065 Outside, Looking In:  On Race, Gender, and (not) Belonging in the U.S.

GENED 1073 Guns in the U.S.: A Love Story

WOMGEN 97 Sophomore Tutorial

WOMGEN 1200 Feminism in Historical Contexts

WOMGEN 1238 Consuming Passions

WOMGEN 1424 American Fetish: Consumer Culture Encounters the Other

WOMGEN 2040 The Secret Sex Life of Anthropological Objects

GENED 1065 Outside, Looking In:  On Race, Gender, and (not) Belonging in the U.S.