Alice Echols

Barbra Streisand Professor of Contemporary Gender Studies and Professor of History and Gender Studies

Contact Information
Phone: (213) 821-0862
Office: SOS 274


Biographical Sketch

Alice Echols is Professor of History, and the Barbra Streisand Chair of Contemporary Gender Studies at USC. She is the author of four books that have shifted our understanding of the “long Sixties.” Her first, “Daring to Be Bad: Radical Feminism in America, 1967-75,” was a pioneering social and intellectual history of second-wave feminism, one that emphasized its vital but vexed relationship to Black Power and the New Left. In 1990, “Daring” was named a Gustavus Meyers Outstanding Book Winner. Her second book, “Scars of Sweet Paradise: The Life and Times of Janis Joplin,” is a biography of the rock singer and a cultural history of the counterculture and the music scene of which Joplin was a part. It was named one of the “Best Books of 1999” by the “Los Angeles Times.” Echols’s articles have appeared in scholarly journals such as “Social Text,” “Criticism,” and “Socialist Review,” and in popular publications such as “The Nation,” “The Village Voice,” “LA Weekly,” “Women’s Review of Books,” and “BookForum.” Many of them appear in her collected essays, “Shaky Ground: The Sixties and Its Aftershocks.” Her most recent book, “Hot Stuff: Disco and the Remaking of American Culture,” probes disco’s “hotness,” which Echols locates in disco’s upending of America’s racial rules and gender and sexual conventions. Music is often understood as reflecting societal change, but “Hot Stuff” demonstrates that music can itself enact change. Echols has been featured on ABC’s “20/20,” The History Channel’s “1969,” and the BBC’s (and Biography Channel’s) documentary “Southern Discomfort: Janis Joplin.” She has been interviewed at length by the “New York Times,” “The Nation,” and “Salon,” and has appeared on many radio programs, including Britain’s premiere morning talk show, “Today Programme,” and many NPR programs, including “On Point,” "Morning Edition," and “Studio 360.” She is currently at work on a book about a Depression-era banking scandal in Colorado.


  • B.A. History, Macalester College, 1/1973
  • M.A. History, University of Michigan, 1/1980
  • Ph.D. History, University of Michigan, 1/1986

  • Academic Appointment, Affiliation, and Employment History

    Tenure Track Appointments
    • The Barbra Streisand Professor in Contemporary Gender Studies and Professor of English and History, University of Southern California, 08/15/2011-  
    Visiting and Temporary Appointments
    • Visiting Associate Professor, Rutgers University -- New Brunswick, Spring 2007   

    Description of Research

    Summary Statement of Research Interests
    Much of my work--be it on second-wave American feminism and related social movements or my biography of the rock singer Janis Joplin--has aimed to deepen and complicate our understanding of that most contentious period in U.S. history, "The Sixties." My latest book, "Hot Stuff: Disco and the Re-making of American Culture," extends my research into the 1970s, a rich but understudied period of American history. I have always worked in an interdisciplinary fashion, in large part because of my longstanding interest in gender and sexuality studies. Reaching across disciplinary borders allows me to put into productive conversation such fields as, say, African-American popular music and queer studies, business history and gender history. My next book, about a Depression-era banking scandal in Colorado, blends cultural history, social history, and memoir as it probes the workings of the American Dream.
    Research Keywords
    Popular Music; Gender and Sexuality; Race and Ethnicity; U.S. History, 1945-1989; History and Theories of Feminism; The Great Depression; Memoir; Biography
    Research Specialties
    Professor Echols is a specialist in the culture and politics of the U.S. from the post-WW2 era through the 1970's. Her research interests include the popular music and social movements of the long Sixties; the transnational circulation of musical ideas and idioms; gender and sexuality; race and ethnicity; memory, subjectivity, and class in modern American history.

    Affiliations with Research Centers, Labs, and Other Institutions

    • Columbia University Seminar on Women and Society

    Conferences and Other Presentations

    Conference Presentations
    • "’Sensational Glue’: Community, Commodities, Identities Forty Years Later"", After Homosexual: The Legacies of Gay Liberation, Keynote Lecture, Melbourne, Australia, La Trobe University in conjunction with Victoria U, Invited, Spring 2012   
    • "Re-thinking the Countercultures of the Long Sixties ", Culture and Counterculture: Origins, Practices, and Conceptualizations, Keynote Lecture, Paris, Paris West University Nanterre, Invited, Spring 2012   
    • "Making Bodies Matter: Moves and Movements ", Moving Music/ Sounding Dance, Keynote Lecture, Philadelphia, PA, The Society for Ethnomusicology, Invited, Fall 2011   
    • "Tearing the Roof Off...: Funk and the Commercial", Experience Music Project Pop Conference, Talk/Oral Presentation, UCLA, The Experience Music Project , Invited, Spring 2011   
    • "Bringing It All Back Home: A Story of the Great Depression", Oral History Association Annual Conference , Talk/Oral Presentation, Atlanta, GA, Invited, Fall 2010   
    • "Disco and African-American Popular Music", Revealing Race, History and Identity in Music, Roundtable/Panel, New Brunswick, NJ, Rutgers University -- The Center for Race & Ethnic, Invited, Spring 2010   
    • "Soul Music in the Land of Somewhere Else: Writing Disco into the History of African-American Music", Emerging Directions in African and African-American Diaspora Studies, Talk/Oral Presentation, New Brunswick, NJ, Center for Race and Ethnicity, Rutgers University, Invited, Fall 2009   
    • "Dancing Machine: Disco and the Remaking of Gay Identity", Don’t Fence Me In: Borders, Frontiers, Diasporas -- 2009 Conference, Talk/Oral Presentation, University of California, San Diego, Int'l Association For the Study of Popular Music, Invited, Spring 2009   
    • "My Country is the Whole World? Women’s Liberation", New World Coming: The Sixties and the Shaping of Global Consciousness, Keynote Lecture, Paper, Kingston, Ontario Canada, Queens University, Invited, 2007-2008   
    • "The Legacy of Ellen WIllis' Radicalism", Forging a Radical Political Future, Talk/Oral Presentation, New York City, Cooper Union & The Left Forum, Invited, 2007-2008   
    • "Bad Girl: Donna Summer and the Sexual Politics of Disco", The Berkshire Conference on the History of Women, Talk/Oral Presentation, Minneapolis, MN, Berkshire Conference of Women's Historians, Invited, Spring 2008   
    • "Moving and Knowing: Embodied Knowledge on the Disco Dance Floor", Symposium: "How Do We Keep Knowing?", Keynote Lecture, College Station, Texas , The Melbern G. Glasscock Center for Humanities Res, Invited, Spring 2008   
    • "Superhypermost: Janis Joplin and the Closing of the 'Girl Gap' in Rock 'n' Roll", 1968 Revisited, Talk/Oral Presentation, Athens, OH, 1998 Baker Conference -- Ohio University, Invited, Spring 1998   
    • "Women and Music", Huntington Library Women's Studies Series, Roundtable/Panel, The Huntington Library, Pasadena. CA, Invited, Spring 1996   
    • "A Few Thousand Cats and a Few Hundred Chicks -- Panel on Biography: The Writing of Lives", Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies Conference, Talk/Oral Presentation, New York City, CLAGS/CUNY Graduate School & History Department , Invited, Fall 1995   
    • "Engendering the Sixties", Organization of American Historians, Roundtable/Panel, Atlanta, GA, OAH, Invited, Spring 1994   
    • "Relationship of the Women's Movement to the New Left", "Toward a History of the 1960's", Roundtable/Panel, Madison, WI, The State Historical Society of Wisconsin and the , Invited, Spring 1993   
    • ""History and Politics: Writing the History of the Women's Liberation Movement" ", What Ever Happened to Women's Liberation?: Rethinking the Origins of Contemporary Feminism, Talk/Oral Presentation, Los Angeles, CA, UCLA History and Women's Studies Departments, Invited, Spring 1991   
    • "Come and Get These Memories: Making Sense of the Historiography of the 60s", Contemporary Social Movements & Cultural Politics, Talk/Oral Presentation, Paper, Santa Cruz, CA, University of California, Santa Cruz, Invited, Spring 1991   
    • "Women's Liberation and The Sixties", American Studies Association , Talk/Oral Presentation, New Orleans, La., ASA, Invited, Fall 1990   
    • "Constructing the Woman-Identified Woman", Organization of American Historians, Talk/Oral Presentation, Washington D.C., OAH, Invited, Spring 1990   
    • "Respondent on Roundtable: Writing the History of Women's Liberation--Echols's Daring to Be Bad", The Berkshire Conference of Women Historians, Roundtable/Panel, New Brunswick, NJ, Berkshire Conference, Invited, Spring 1990   
    • "Women Power and Women's Liberation: Exploring the Relationship Between the Women's Liberation Movement and the Antiwar Movement", Charles DeBenedetti Memorial Conference on the Vietnam Antiwar Movement, Talk/Oral Presentation, Paper, Toledo, Ohio, History Department, University of Toledo, Invited, Spring 1990   
    • "Feminism and Femininism", American Political Science Association, Talk/Oral Presentation, Washington D.C., APSA, Invited, Fall 1986   
    • "The Taming of the Id: Feminist Sexual Politics, 1965-81", Barnard College's "The Scholar and the Feminist IX Conference: Towards a Politics of Sexuality", Keynote Lecture, Paper, New York City, Barnard College, Invited, Spring 1982   

    Other Presentations
    • "Rethinking the 1970s Through Disco", Public Lecture, Humanities Center, Northeastern University, Boston, MA, Spring 2011   
    • "The Politics of Disco", Panel Discussion: "Popular Music and Social Movements" , Humanities Center, Northeastern University, Boston, MA, Spring 2011   
    • "Takin' It to...the Dance Floor: Rethinking America in the Disco Years", Invited Lecture, The University of Michigan Department of History, Ann Arbor, MI, Fall 2010   
    • "The Incredible Lightness of Being: 1970's Disco", Invited Lecture in the Music School's Popular Music Colloquium, Princeton University - The Music School, Princeton, NJ, Fall 2010   
    • "The Men We've Been Waiting For", Public Reading of "Hot Stuff", English Department -- St. Olaf College , Northfield, MN, Fall 2010   
    • "Shall We Dance? Gay Male Sociability in the Disco Years", Invited Lecture, UCLA Mellon--Sawyer Seminar, Los Angeles, CA, Spring 2010   
    • "Whitened-Up Blown-Dry Hetero Pop? Re-thinking Saturday Night Fever", Invited Lecture, Women’s and Gender Studies, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ, Fall 2009   
    • "The Disco Years ", Invited Lecture, American Studies & History, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ, Fall 2008   
    • "Hot Stuff: Feminism and Sexual Liberation in the Age of the Disco Diva", invited lecture, Northeastern University, Boston, MA, 2007-2008   
    • "James Brown and the Genealogy of Disco", invited talk, Fordham University, New York, New York, 2007-2008   
    • "More, More, More: Disco and the Re-making of Gay Masculinity", invited lecture, Department of English -- Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ, 2007-2008   
    • "Upside Down: Disco and the Re-making of American Culture", Invited Lecture, Department of English -- University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA, Fall 2003   
    • "Facing the Music: Rock Culture and the Question of Sixties Exceptionalism", Invited Lecture: American Culture & Politics Speaker Series, Oregon University, Eugene, OR, Spring 2002   
    • "Janis Joplin, Bisexuality and Bohemia", Invited Lecture, Women's Studies Program--Scripps and Pomona Colleges, Claremont, CA, Fall 2000   
    • "Janis Joplin: Panel on Biography: Life in Music", The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, L.A. Times & UCLA, Los Angeles, CA, Spring 2000   
    • "Closing the "Girl Gap': Janis Joplin and '60s Rock and Roll", Invited Lecture, New York University -- Departments of History and Gender Studies, New York City, Spring 1999   
    • "Sex, Drugs and Rock 'n' Roll: Reflections on Janis Joplin and the 1960's", Invited Lecture, University of Minnesota -- Department of English, Minneapolis, MN, Spring 1998   
    • "Janis Joplin and the Politics of Liminality", Invited Lecture, University of Cincinnati -- Women's Studies Program, Cincinnati, OH, Fall 1997   
    • "Janis Joplin and the Politics of Liminality", Invited Lecture, Departments of Women's Studies & History -- University of California, Irvine, Irvine, CA, Spring 1996   
    • "Biography as Cultural History: Janis Joplin, Race-Bending, Sexual Ambiguity and the 1960's", Invited Lecture, University of Southern California -- Department of History, Los Angeles, CA, Fall 1995   


    • Echols, A. (2010). Hot Stuff: Disco and the Remaking of American Culture. New York, New York: WW Norton.
    • Echols, A. (2002). Shaky Ground: The Sixties and Its Aftershocks, published by Columbia University Press. New York: Columbia University Press.
    • Echols, A. (1999). Scars of Sweet Paradise: The Life and Times of Janis Joplin published by Metropolitan Books, an imprint of Henry Holt. New York City: Henry Holt.
    • Echols, A. (1989). Daring to be Bad: Radical Feminism in America, 1967-75. Mpls. MN: University of Minnesota Press.

    Book Chapter
    • Echols, A. (2009). "Across the Universe: Re-thinking Narratives of Second-Wave Feminism". Toronto/Between the Lines Press: New World Coming: The Sixties & the Shaping of Global Consciousness.
    • Echols, A. (1994). "'Nothing Distant About It:' Women's Liberation and Sixties Radicalism," in David Farber, ed., The Sixties: From Memory to History, pp. 149-74, University of North Carolina Press, 1994; reprinted in Joan Tronto, Kathy Jones, and Cathy Cohen, eds., Women Transforming Politics: An Alternative Reader, pp. 456-476, New York University Press. pp. pp. 149-174. Chapel Hill, NC: *The Sixties: From Memory to History* University of North Carolina Press.
    • Echols, A. (1984). "The Taming of the Id: Feminist Sexual Politics, 1968-83," published in *Pleasure and Danger: Exploring Female Sexuality*. pp. 50-72. New York City: *Pleasure and Danger: Exploring Female Sexuality* -- published by Routledge.
    • Echols, A. (1983). "The New Feminism of Yin and Yang," in *Powers of Desire: The Politics of Sexuality*. pp. 440-59. New York City: Powers of Desire: The Politics of Sexuality published by Monthly Review Press.

    Book Review
    • Echols, A. (2010). "Feminist Mothers and Daughters: A Review of Christine Stansell's The Feminist Promise". Women's Review of Books, Wellesley Centers for Women. pp. 2. "Feminist Mothers and Daughters"
    • Echols, A. (2008). "Blasts from the Past," A Review of Cathy Wilkerson’s Flying Close to the Sun and Carol McEldowney’s Hanoi Journal 1967 in The Women’s Review of Books. Women's Review of Books--Wellesley College. Women's Review of Books

    • Echols, A. (2008). "Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes," Forum on Stephen Whitfield’s "How the Fifties Became the Sixties" in *Historically Speaking*. Boston, MA. Historically Speaking: The Bulletin of the Historical Society: Boston University. The Historical Society, Boston University

    Journal Article
    • Echols, A. (2009). "The Land of Somewhere Else: Refiguring James Brown in Seventies Disco". Criticism: A Quarterly of Literature & the Arts. Vol. 50 (#1), pp. 19-41.
    • Echols, A. (1995). 'We Gotta Get Out of This Place:' Notes Toward a Re-Mapping of the Sixties," in Socialist Review; Reprinted in Marcy Darnovsky, Barbara Epstein, and Richard Flacks, eds., *Cultural Politics and Social Movements,* pp. 110-130, Temple University Press, 1995. Socialist Review--. pp. 9-33.
    • Echols, A. (1983). "Cultural Feminism: Feminist Capitalism and the Anti-Pornography Movement". Social Text, published by Duke University Press. Vol. 7, pp. 34-53. Social Text

    Magazine/Trade Publication
    • Echols, A. A Whole New Thing: The Transatlantic, Cross-Racial Roots of Early Disco in The Journal of Music. The Journal of Music. Vol. v. 1, pp. 5 pages. "A Whole New Thing"

    Multimedia Scholarship and Creative Works

    • Radio Interview, Morning Edition," NPR, Extended Interview about my book, Scars of Sweet Paradise: The Life and Times of Janis Joplin, 1999-2000   
    • Documentary Interview Subject, The BBC's Janis Joplin Documentary, "Southern Discomfort", 2002-2003   
    • Documentary Interviewee & consultant: ABC News, "Janis Joplin", 2000-2001   
    • Television: Featured Author--Judith Regan Show, "Janis Joplin" , 1999-2000   
    • Documentary Interview Subject: BBC & Biography Cha, "Janis Joplin", 1999-2000   
    • Interview, "Back Talk: Alice Echols" -- Author Interview with C. Smallwood, The Nation , Spring 2010   
    • Interview, "Disco Fever Returns: An Interview with author Alice Echols," Salon, Spring 2010   
    • Radio Interview, Interview about "Hot Stuff" on "Today Programme," BBC, Spring 2010   
    • Radio Interview, Interview about "Hot Stuff" on Boston NPR Affiliate, WBUR "On Point", Spring 2010   
    • Radio Interview, Interview about "Hot Stuff" on Kurt Andersen's NPR Program "Studio 360", Spring 2010   
    • Radio Interview, Interview about "Hot Stuff" on New York City NPR affiliate WNYC's "Soundcheck", Spring 2010   
    • Radio Interview, Interview about "Hot Stuff" on "The Michelangelo Signorile Show," Sirius Radio, Spring 2010   
    • Documentary Interview, Interview with the Austin, Texas NPR affiliate, KUT, for the documentary "Texas Music Matters: Janis Joplin" , Spring 2010   
    • Documentary Interview, FIlmed Interview for the History Channel's program, "1969", Spring 2009   

    New Courses Developed

    • Literature & Related Arts: The 1970s, English Department, "It seemed like nothing happened" is a typical description of the 1970s. "It seemed like nothing good happened" is another. To many pundits, the 1970s remain an era of political quiescence and cultural regression, one encapsulated all too neatly in its polyester, platforms, hot tubs, and disco music. Increasingly, however, scholars have observed that it was during the seventies that the part of the sixties canonized (or demonized) as "The Sixties"--the sexual revolution, feminism, and civil rights--actually had its greatest impact. In English 472 we will explore the distinctiveness of the 1970s, especially as regards the period’s films, literature and music. Were the 70’s an Ice Age, the era of the Big Chill? Were they a time of backlash, malaise or existential despair? How did identity formation develop in this period? And how have nostalgic accounts of the era rendered it?, Fall 2008   
    • Visual and Popular Culture, English, I developed this class in order to address an under-explored area in the English Department's curriculum: aural or sound studies. Interdisciplinary and drawing on foundational work in literary criticism, American Studies, cultural studies, Anthropology, and History, this class examines the ways that people use music to create meaning for themselves, and the cultural fall-out that sometimes follows from these musical engagements. Students become acquainted with a range of theoretical writing on popular culture including work that calls into question widely held ideas about the natural antagonism between art and commerce, subcultures and mass media., Fall 2005   

    Honors and Awards

    • USC Endowed Professorship, Barbra Streisand Professor of Contemporary Gender Studies and Professor of English, Gender Studies and History, 8/16/2011-5/15/2016  
    • General Education Course Innovation Award, 2006-2007   
    • Gustavus Meyers Outstanding Book Award-Daring to Be Bad, 1990-1991   
    • ACLS Grant-in-Aid Fellowship, 1990  
    • The Horace H. Rackham Distinguished Dissertation Award, The University of Michigan, 1987  
    • University Fellowship, The University of Michigan, 1986  
    • Center for Gender Research Fellowship, 1985  
    • Rackham Dissertation Grant, The University of Michigan, 1984  

    Service to the University

    Administrative Appointments
    • Chair, Gender Studies Program, 08/15/2011-08/15/2014  
    • Director, The Center for Feminist Research, 08/15/2011-08/15/2014  

    • Member, Provost Libraries Committee of the Academic Senate, 2011-2012   
    • Member, English Department Graduate Admissions, 2008-2009   
    • Member, Executive Committee, English Department, 2008-2009   
    • Member, Steering Committee, Gender Studies, 2008-2009   
    • Co-Chair, Graduate Admissions, American Studies, 2007-2008   
    • Member, Executive Committee, English Department, 2005-2006   

    Media, Alumni, and Community Relations
    • Organizer- 2011-12 Streisand Professor Lecture Series, Gender Studies & Center for Feminist Research, Spring 2011   

    Service to the Profession

    Editorships and Editorial Boards
    • Associate Editor, Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, 09/2009-  

    Professional Memberships
    • American Studies Association, 2004-  
    • American Historical Association, 2010-2011   
    • Modern Language Association, 2010-2011   
    • International Association for the Study of Popular Music, 2009-2010   
    • Oral History Association, 2009-2010   

  • USC Dornsife Department of English
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