The University of Massachusetts Amherst
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Kirsten Leng

Associate Professor

Kirsten Leng

W417 South College

Kirsten Leng received her PhD in History and Women’s Studies from the University of Michigan in 2011. Before coming to the University of Massachusetts Amherst, she held a postdoctoral position with the Sexualities Project at Northwestern University (SPAN), and an ACLS New Faculty Fellowship with the Institute for Research on Women, Gender, and Sexuality and the Department of History at Columbia University. Her areas of interest include the history of gender, sexuality, and feminism; feminist and critical theory; the history of sexual knowledge and formation of sexual subjectivities; and the rhetorics of political claims-making and legitimation. Her current research examines the gender politics involved in the creation of sexual scientific knowledge in the early twentieth century, focusing on developments emerging from turn-of-the-century Berlin and Vienna. In addition to drawing attention to women's neglected intellectual contributions to the formation and development of sexual science, her work highlights the political importance, uses, and implications of sexual science for sexually marginalized groups.


Sexual Politics and Feminist Science: Women Sexologists in Germany, 1900-1933. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2017

“When Politics Were Fun: Recovering a History of Humor in U. S. Feminism,” Synoptique: An Online Journal of Film and Moving Image Studies 5, no. 1, special issue on “Humorous Disruptions” (

“The Personal Is Scientific? Subjectivity and Objectivity in Women’s Sexological Work,” History of Psychology 8, no. 3 (August 2015): 238-251.

“Cultural Difference and Demands for Progress: The Meaning of Ethnology in Early Twentieth Century German Sex Reform Politics,” Journal of the History of Sexuality 25, no. 1 (January 2016): 62-82.

“Magnus Hirschfeld’s Meanings: Analyzing Biography and the Politics of Representation,” German History 35, no. 1 (February 2017): 96-116.

“Permutations of the Third Sex: Sexology, Subjectivity and Anti-Maternalist Feminism at the Turn of the Twentieth Century,” Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 40, no. 1 (Fall 2014), 227-254

“Sex, Science and Feminism: Johanna Elberskirchen Interprets The ‘Laws of Life,’ 1896-1904,” Journal of Women’s History 25, no. 3 (Fall 2013), 38-61

“An ‘Elusive’ Phenomenon: Feminism, Sexual Science, and the Female Sex Drive, 1880-1914,” Special Issue of Centaurus, An International Journal of the History of Science and Its Cultural Aspects 55, no. 2 (May 2013), 131-152

Courses Recently Taught

  • Theorizing Gender Race and Power
  • Sex and Science: The Power of Knowledge
  • Biology of Difference
  • Sex and European Feminism
  • Sex and the 1970s
  • History of Race and Sexuality in the U.S.