Ashley Barnes-Gilbert (she,her,hers) is a lecturer in Women’s and Gender Studies.
She studies and teaches queer history and theory. She received her PhD from the Program in Gender and Women’s History at the University of Wisconsin-Madison as the George L. Mosse Scholar of LGBTQ History.
Her dissertation, titled “River Town Brothel Culture: Sex Worker Mobility, Policing, and Agency 1870 to 1940,” explores the mediated agency of sex workers in the economic and social worlds of Memphis, St. Louis, and Kansas City. Linked by the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers, these cities are geographically connected and are key sites of migration for workers moving westward. She argues that river town sex workers were cultural producers and consumers who challenged and contributed to the creation of mainstream culture—and particularly to complex articulations of gender, sexual, and racial structures in this important region and era of U.S. history. “River Town Brothel Culture” contributes to several fields, including gender and women’s history, history of sexuality, and labor history.
Her current research explores the queer worlds of historic brothels and the historical memory of sex work. Overall, the aim of her work is to demonstrate the layers of construction obfuscating queer history, especially when only certain lives have been deemed valuable based on heteronormativity.