Joseph Plaster

Currently Director of the Winston Tabb Special Collections Research Center and Curator in Public Humanities at Johns Hopkins University. Plaster’s research and teaching combine archival, ethnographic, oral history, and public humanities methods to examine the world-making practices of marginalized publics in the United States, with a focus on intersections of gender, sexuality, and race. He has launched several award-winning, multi-year public humanities projects, including the Peabody Ballroom Experience, a collaboration between Johns Hopkins University and the queer and trans people of color who make up Baltimore’s ballroom scene. He is part of a team that in 2020 won a $4.4 million grant from the Mellon Foundation to launch Inheritance Baltimore: Humanities and Arts Education for Black Liberation. In 2010, he was awarded the American Historical Association’s Allan Bérubé Prize for Polk Street: Lives in Transition, a project that drew on oral histories to intervene in debates about gentrification, homelessness, sex work, queer politics, and public safety in the polarized setting of gentrifying San Francisco. This project interpreted more than seventy original oral histories in relation to contemporary neighborhood change and conflict. Outcomes included a multimedia exhibit, radio documentaries, historical narratives, and a series of neighborhood dialogues and events. From 2010-2012, Plaster developed a historical reenactment project, Vanguard Revisited, which introduced the history of queer street youth political organizing to marginally housed youth in the Tenderloin. 

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