Melissa N. Stein is an assistant professor in the Gender and Women’s Studies Department at the University of Kentucky. Prior to coming to UK, she completed postdoctoral fellowships at the Rutgers University Center for Race & Ethnicity and in the Gender Studies Department at Indiana University. She received her BA from Franklin & Marshall College and her PhD in History from Rutgers University in 2008, specializing in African-American and women’s/gender history. While at Rutgers, Stein was also a graduate fellow at the Institute for Research on Women, an Excellence Fellow at the Institute for Health, Health Care Policy, and Aging Research, and head research assistant at the Center for Race and Ethnicity. Her publications include essays on “Race as a Social Construction” and “Class” in Black Women in America (Oxford University Press, 2005), and on “Misogyny” in The Encyclopedia of Women in World History (Oxford University Press, 2007), and an article, “‘Nature is the author of such restrictions’: Science, Ethnological Medicine, and Jim Crow,” in The Culture of Jim Crow: Rethinking the Segregated South, 1880-1920, edited by Stephanie Cole and Natalie Ring (Texas A&M University Press, 2011).
Stein’s first book, Measuring Manhood: Race and the Science of Masculinity, 1830-1934 (University of Minnesota Press, 2015), is a gendered analysis of scientific racism in nineteenth and early twentieth century America that interrogates biomedical constructions of citizenship, investigates the relationship between racial and sexual sciences, and examines scientists’ attempts to offer medical solutions to the nation’s “race problems.”
She has also begun work on a second book project, tentatively titled (Dis)Membering MOVE: Race, Memory, and the Meaning of Disaster. This project critically examines the 1985 MOVE disaster, in which the Philadelphia police department, with authorization from the mayor, responded to a stand-off with a black liberation group the city was trying to evict from its communal house in West Philadelphia by dropping a firebomb on the roof, burning the house to the ground and killing eleven MOVE members, five of them children. In the process, they also burned down an entire block of the predominantly African-American neighborhood, leaving 61 houses destroyed and 250 people homeless. Though often called a “cult” by the media, the story of MOVE is not nearly as well known today as Ruby Ridge or Waco, and when it is recalled in the national media or consciousness at all, it is typically dis-remembered as a racial event--not unlike Hurricane Katrina more recently. This erasure extends to the academy as well; while the 30th anniversary of the MOVE disaster is approaching, there has been surprisingly little scholarship about it, despite recent interest in race and the police state. The project, then, interrogates the dissonance between national and local memory of MOVE, the ways in which the story was covered then and now, and how media coverage and the incident’s imprint in the popular imaginary conform to and disrupt common racial--and gendered--tropes.
Her teaching and research interests include critical race studies, gender studies, feminist science studies, the body, racial thought, sexuality and queer history, U.S. cultural and intellectual history, African-American history, women's and gender history, and the history of science and medicine.