Alice Echols

Barbra Streisand Professor of Contemporary Gender Studies and Professor of History and Gender and Sexuality Studies
Pronouns She / Her / Hers Email Office SOS 274 Office Phone (213) 821-0862

Research & Practice Areas

Professor Echols is a specialist in the culture and politics of the U.S. during the 20th century. 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; finance; conservatism and liberalism.

Center, Institute & Lab Affiliations

  • Columbia University Seminar on Women and Society,


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.” Her 2010 book, “Hot Stuff: Disco and the Remaking of American Culture,” probes disco’s “hotness,” by which she means disco’s upending of America’s racial rules and gender and sexual conventions. Music is often understood as merely reflecting societal change, but “Hot Stuff” demonstrates that music can itself enact change.

Echols’s articles have appeared in scholarly journals such as “Social Text,” “Criticism,” and “Socialist Review” as well as in popular publications such as “The Nation,” “The Village Voice,” “LA Weekly,” “Women’s Review of Books,” “BookForum and “ArtForum.” Many of these essays and articles appear in her collected essays, “Shaky Ground: The Sixties and Its Aftershocks.”

Echols’ most recent book, 2017’s “Shortfall: Family Secrets, Financial Collapse and a Hidden History of American Banking” is a departure from her usual scholarly bailiwick of the Sixties.  Here, Echols moves into the early decades of the 20th century with a financial history that reveals much about the history of the American West and the strands of conservatism that have thrived there. Interweaving financial history, the history of the West and the story of her family, “Shortfall” is a micro-history that asks big questions about the relationship between class, property and politics in America.  It was reviewed in the “New Yorker.”

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,” “The Guardian,” 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.”   


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

    • The Barbra Streisand Professor in Contemporary Gender Studies and Professor of English and History, University of Southern California, 08/15/2011 –
    • Professor, American Studies & History, Rutgers, State University of New Jersey, New Brunswick, 2009-2010
    • Associate Professor of English & Gender Studies, University of Southern California, 08/15/2004 – 08/15/2011
  • 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 2010 book, “Hot Stuff: Disco and the Re-making of American Culture,” extends my research into the 1970s, a consequential, 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 2017 book, “Shortfall,” about a Depression-era banking scandal in Colorado, blends financial history, cultural history, and family history as it probes the workings of the American Dream.

    Research Keywords

    Popular Music; Gender and Sexuality; Race and Ethnicity; Liberalism; 20th-Century U.S. History; History of Feminism; The Great Depression;

    Research Specialties

    Professor Echols is a specialist in the culture and politics of the U.S. during the 20th century. 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; finance; conservatism and liberalism.

  • Conference Presentations

    • The Case for Regulation: Colorado Depression-Era Banking Talk/Oral Presentation, Invited, University of Colorado Colorado Springs, Spring 2018
    • Using Family History to Explore Class in Late 19th C America , C19 -Fifth Biennial ConferenceTalk/Oral Presentation, Invited, Albuquerque, NM, Spring 2018
    • Capitalism, Failure & Forgetting: A Case Study from Colorado , Western History AssociationTalk/Oral Presentation, Invited, San Diego, Fall 2017
    • In Conversation with Echols & Ross Talk/Oral Presentation, Huntington-USC Institute on California & the West, Invited, Pasadena, California, Fall 2017
    • That Unlocked Louis Vuitton Trunk , Symposium: Hidden in Plain Sight: Family Secrets & American HistoryTalk/Oral Presentation, Harvard University – Radcliffe Institute for Advan, Invited, Boston, MA, Fall 2017
    • Disco as Hot Stuff , BibliodiscothequeTalk/Oral Presentation, Library of Congress, Invited, Spring 2017
    • Orphans in the Storm: The Building & Loan Crisis of the 1930s , Colloquium on Political EconomyTalk/Oral Presentation, Center for the Study of Work, Labor and Democracy, Invited, UC Santa Barbara, Fall 2016
    • Un-Wonderful Lives: The Building and Loan Crisis of the Inter-War Years , Histories of Capitalism 2.0 ConferenceTalk/Oral Presentation, Cornell University, Invited, Cornell, NY, Fall 2016
    • Janis Joplin , Modern Language AssociationRoundtable/Panel, Invited, Austin, TX, Spring 2016
    • When Pleasure and Danger Turned Contagious: Rethinking the U.S. Feminist Sex Wars of the Late 20th Century , Transforming ContagionKeynote Lecture, Arizona State University, Invited, Phoenix, AZ, Fall 2015
    • “Power Ballads and Blurred Lines: Songs from the Boundaries of Fun , American Studies AssociationTalk/Oral Presentation, Invited, Los Angeles, CA, Fall 2014
    • Putting Popular Music Studies in Dialogue with LGBTQ Studies , Series on Public Dissonances: Challenging Conventions of Sexuality and Gender in Popular MusicTalk/Oral Presentation, Davidson College, Invited, Davidson, NC, Fall 2013
    • The Great Depression: Family History & National History , Western History WorkshopLecture/Seminar, The Autry National Center, Invited, Los Angeles, CA, Spring 2013
    • What Does It Mean to Study Popular Music? , International Association for the Study of Popular MusicRoundtable/Panel, Invited, Austin, TX, Spring 2013
    • Personal Politics and the Women’s Liberation Movement: The Case of Shulamith Firestone , A New Insurgency: The Port Huron Statement in Its Time and OursTalk/Oral Presentation, University of Michigan, Invited, Ann Arbor, MI, Fall 2012
    • ’Sensational Glue’: Community, Commodities, Identities Forty Years Later” , After Homosexual: The Legacies of Gay LiberationKeynote Lecture, La Trobe University in conjunction with Victoria U, Invited, Melbourne, Australia, Spring 2012
    • Re-thinking the Countercultures of the Long Sixties , Culture and Counterculture: Origins, Practices, and ConceptualizationsKeynote Lecture, Paris West University Nanterre, Invited, Paris, Spring 2012
    • Making Bodies Matter: Moves and Movements , Moving Music/ Sounding DanceKeynote Lecture, The Society for Ethnomusicology, Invited, Philadelphia, PA, Fall 2011
    • Tearing the Roof Off…: Funk and the Commercial , Experience Music Project Pop ConferenceTalk/Oral Presentation, The Experience Music Project , Invited, UCLA, Spring 2011
    • Bringing It All Back Home: A Story of the Great Depression , Oral History Association Annual Conference Talk/Oral Presentation, Invited, Atlanta, GA, Fall 2010
    • Disco and African-American Popular Music , Revealing Race, History and Identity in MusicRoundtable/Panel, Rutgers University — The Center for Race & Ethnic, Invited, New Brunswick, NJ, 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 StudiesTalk/Oral Presentation, Center for Race and Ethnicity, Rutgers University, Invited, New Brunswick, NJ, Fall 2009
    • Dancing Machine: Disco and the Remaking of Gay Identity , Don’t Fence Me In: Borders, Frontiers, Diasporas — 2009 ConferenceTalk/Oral Presentation, Int’l Association For the Study of Popular Music, Invited, University of California, San Diego, Spring 2009
    • My Country is the Whole World? Women’s Liberation , New World Coming: The Sixties and the Shaping of Global ConsciousnessKeynote Lecture, Queens University, Invited, Kingston, Ontario Canada, 2007-2008
    • The Legacy of Ellen WIllis’ Radicalism , Forging a Radical Political FutureTalk/Oral Presentation, Cooper Union & The Left Forum, Invited, New York City, 2007-2008
    • Bad Girl: Donna Summer and the Sexual Politics of Disco , The Berkshire Conference on the History of WomenTalk/Oral Presentation, Berkshire Conference of Women’s Historians, Invited, Minneapolis, MN, Spring 2008
    • Moving and Knowing: Embodied Knowledge on the Disco Dance Floor , Symposium: “How Do We Keep Knowing?”Keynote Lecture, The Melbern G. Glasscock Center for Humanities Res, Invited, College Station, Texas , Spring 2008
    • Superhypermost: Janis Joplin and the Closing of the ‘Girl Gap’ in Rock ‘n’ Roll , 1968 RevisitedTalk/Oral Presentation, 1998 Baker Conference — Ohio University, Invited, Athens, OH, Spring 1998
    • Women and Music , Huntington Library Women’s Studies SeriesRoundtable/Panel, Pasadena. CA, Invited, The Huntington Library, Spring 1996
    • A Few Thousand Cats and a Few Hundred Chicks — Panel on Biography: The Writing of Lives , Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies ConferenceTalk/Oral Presentation, CLAGS/CUNY Graduate School & History Department , Invited, New York City, Fall 1995
    • Engendering the Sixties , Organization of American HistoriansRoundtable/Panel, OAH, Invited, Atlanta, GA, Spring 1994
    • Relationship of the Women’s Movement to the New Left , “Toward a History of the 1960’s”Roundtable/Panel, The State Historical Society of Wisconsin and the , Invited, Madison, WI, 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 FeminismTalk/Oral Presentation, UCLA History and Women’s Studies Departments, Invited, Los Angeles, CA, Spring 1991
    • Come and Get These Memories: Making Sense of the Historiography of the 60s , Contemporary Social Movements & Cultural PoliticsTalk/Oral Presentation, University of California, Santa Cruz, Invited, Santa Cruz, CA, Spring 1991
    • Women’s Liberation and The Sixties , American Studies Association Talk/Oral Presentation, ASA, Invited, New Orleans, La., Fall 1990
    • Constructing the Woman-Identified Woman , Organization of American HistoriansTalk/Oral Presentation, OAH, Invited, Washington D.C., Spring 1990
    • Respondent on Roundtable: Writing the History of Women’s Liberation–Echols’s Daring to Be Bad , The Berkshire Conference of Women HistoriansRoundtable/Panel, Berkshire Conference, Invited, New Brunswick, NJ, 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 MovementTalk/Oral Presentation, History Department, University of Toledo, Invited, Toledo, Ohio, Spring 1990
    • Feminism and Femininism , American Political Science AssociationTalk/Oral Presentation, APSA, Invited, Washington D.C., 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, Barnard College, Invited, New York City, Spring 1982

    Other Presentations

    • Rethinking the 1970s Through Disco, Public Lecture, Boston, MA, 2010-2011
    • The Politics of Disco, Panel Discussion: “Popular Music and Social Movements” , Boston, MA, 2010-2011
    • Takin’ It to…the Dance Floor: Rethinking America in the Disco Years, Invited Lecture, Ann Arbor, MI, 2010-2011
    • The Incredible Lightness of Being: 1970’s Disco, Invited Lecture in the Music School’s Popular Music Colloquium, Princeton, NJ, 2010-2011
    • The Men We’ve Been Waiting For, Public Reading of “Hot Stuff”, Northfield, MN, 2010-2011
    • Shall We Dance? Gay Male Sociability in the Disco Years, Invited Lecture, Los Angeles, CA, 2009-2010
    • Whitened-Up Blown-Dry Hetero Pop? Re-thinking Saturday Night Fever, Invited Lecture, New Brunswick, NJ, 2009-2010
    • The Disco Years , Invited Lecture, New Brunswick, NJ, 2008-2009
    • Hot Stuff: Feminism and Sexual Liberation in the Age of the Disco Diva, invited lecture, Boston, MA, 2007-2008
    • James Brown and the Genealogy of Disco, invited talk, New York, New York, 2007-2008
    • More, More, More: Disco and the Re-making of Gay Masculinity, invited lecture, New Brunswick, NJ, 2007-2008
    • Upside Down: Disco and the Re-making of American Culture, Invited Lecture, Los Angeles, CA, 2003-2004
    • Facing the Music: Rock Culture and the Question of Sixties Exceptionalism, Invited Lecture: American Culture & Politics Speaker Series, Eugene, OR, 2001-2002
    • Janis Joplin, Bisexuality and Bohemia, Invited Lecture, Claremont, CA, 2000-2001
    • Janis Joplin: Panel on Biography: Life in Music, The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, Los Angeles, CA, 1999-2000
    • Closing the “Girl Gap’: Janis Joplin and ’60s Rock and Roll, Invited Lecture, New York City, 1998-1999
    • Sex, Drugs and Rock ‘n’ Roll: Reflections on Janis Joplin and the 1960’s, Invited Lecture, Minneapolis, MN, 1997-1998
    • Janis Joplin and the Politics of Liminality, Invited Lecture, Cincinnati, OH, 1997-1998
    • Janis Joplin and the Politics of Liminality, Invited Lecture, Irvine, CA, 1995-1996
    • Biography as Cultural History: Janis Joplin, Race-Bending, Sexual Ambiguity and the 1960’s, Invited Lecture, Los Angeles, CA, 1995-1996
  • Book

    • Echols, A. (2019). Daring to Be Bad: Radical Feminism in America 30th Anniversary Edition. University of Minnesota Press.
    • Echols, A. (2017). Shortfall: Family Secrets, Financial Collapse, and a Hidden History of American Banking. New York City: The New Press.
    • Echols, A. (2011). Hot Stuff: Disco and the Remaking of American Culture paperback edition. (Vol. paperback edition) New York City: W.W. Norton.
    • 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 Chapters

    • Echols, A. (2015). “Shulamith Firestone, Social Defeat, and Sixties Radicalism”. A New Insurgency: The Port Huron Statement…. University of Michigan Press.
    • 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. (2009). “Across the Universe: Rethinking Narratives of the Long Sixties”. New World Coming: The Sixties & the Shaping …. Ontario: Between the Lines Press.
    • 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. (2018). Dance Music Sex Romance: Review of Ann Powers’ “Good Booty”. Journal of Popular Music Studies.
    • Echols, A. (2017). When the Anti-Feminists Roared Back: Review of Margaret Spruill’s Divided We Stand. Democracy.
    • 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. (2016). “Tangled Up in Pleasure and Danger”. Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society. Vol. 42 (1)
    • 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
    • Echols, A. (1979). “The Demise of Female Intimacy in the 20th Century”. University of Michigan Occasional Papers in Women’s Studies.

    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”
    • Literature & Related Arts: The 1970s, English Department, Fall 2008
    • Visual and Popular Culture, English, Fall 2005
    • Radio Interview, Morning Edition,” NPR, Extended Interview about my book, Scars of Sweet Paradise: The Life and Times of Janis Joplin, 1999-2000
    • Television: Featured Author–Judith Regan Show, “Janis Joplin” , 1999-2000
    • Documentary Interview Subject: BBC & Biography Cha, “Janis Joplin”, 1999-2000
    • Documentary Interviewee & consultant: ABC News, “Janis Joplin”, 2000-2001
    • Documentary Interview Subject, The BBC’s Janis Joplin Documentary, “Southern Discomfort”, 2002-2003
    • Documentary Interview, FIlmed Interview for the History Channel’s program, “1969”,
    • Interview, “Back Talk: Alice Echols” — Author Interview with C. Smallwood, The Nation ,
    • Interview, “Disco Fever Returns: An Interview with author Alice Echols,” Salon,
    • Radio Interview, Interview about “Hot Stuff” on “Today Programme,” BBC,
    • Radio Interview, Interview about “Hot Stuff” on Boston NPR Affiliate, WBUR “On Point”,
    • Radio Interview, Interview about “Hot Stuff” on Kurt Andersen’s NPR Program “Studio 360”,
    • Radio Interview, Interview about “Hot Stuff” on New York City NPR affiliate WNYC’s “Soundcheck”,
    • Radio Interview, Interview about “Hot Stuff” on “The Michelangelo Signorile Show,” Sirius Radio,
    • Documentary Interview, Interview with the Austin, Texas NPR affiliate, KUT, for the documentary “Texas Music Matters: Janis Joplin” ,
    • USC Endowed Professorship, Barbra Streisand Professor of Contemporary Gender Studies, 2016/05/15-2021/08/15
    • USC Endowed Professorship, Barbra Streisand Professor of Contemporary Gender Studies and Professor of English, Gender Studies and History, 2011/08/16-2016/05/15
    • 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
  • 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
  • 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
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