Ariel Eisenberg

Assistant Professor of History


I teach a wide variety of topics, including gender and sexuality, LGBTQ identities and movements, cities, the environment, disability, and medicine. What unites my teaching, though, is a focus on social history: The history of “everyday people,” and how their actions, values, and the cultures they created shaped the world. Though I am primarily a historian of the 20th Century United States, the topics I teach often extend beyond those chronological and geographical borders, running the gamut from the 1700s to the present and across the world.

What I like most about teaching is learning with and from students. I don’t see teaching as a one-way street; in my classes, students are expected – required, actually – to be active participants in the learning process through large and small group discussions, writing and creative projects, and even sometimes leading portions of the class. We work together to analyze the meaning and significance of scholarship and primary sources, to identify, debate, and revise historical narratives, and to better understand the world and our place in it. 


My forthcoming book, “Save Our Streets and Shelter Our Homeless,” analyzes how Americans in the 1980s came to understand homelessness as a crisis with the homeless person at its center. I show how the homeless crisis emerged as Americans came to understand “the homeless” as a new and alarming demographic in rapidly changing cities. The widespread and visible presence of “the homeless” disturbed the popular narrative of resurgent U.S. cities, and instead embodied rising economic inequality, the feminization of poverty, the criminalization of communities of color, and the deinstitutionalization of mental hospitals. The sight of people sleeping and begging on busy sidewalks and the scent of urine in the street became focal points for public unease, and conflicts over the spaces “the homeless” occupied were moments when the term – and the people it represented – became newly intelligible. In short, “the homeless” became a new demographic and cultural category in the 1980s; this book explains how and why that happened.

My future research will focus on the history of HIV and AIDS in the U.S. South from the 1980s to the present. I will examine how the AIDS epidemic unfolded in a region largely neglected by scholars, national activists, and the federal government. I am centrally interested in how Southerners – and especially African Americans, who continue to comprise a disproportionate percentage of the people diagnosed with HIV and AIDS – made sense of a disease popularly associated with white gay people in northern cities. This work will bring together histories of health and medicine and sexuality, and move discussions about race, religion, public policy, and activism in the South into the Reagan Era and beyond.


“Save Our Streets and Shelter Our Homeless”: The Origins of the Homeless Crisis in Urban America (forthcoming; under contract with University of North Carolina Press).

“Homelessness and the Politics of Anti-Shelter Protests in New York City,” Journal of Urban History (2017).

Review of Homelessness in New York City: Policymaking from Koch to de Blasio, by Thomas J. Main, and Family Poverty and Homelessness in New York City, by Ralph da Costa Nunez and Ethan G. Sribnick, Reviews in American History (2017).

Conference Presentations

“‘The Authentic Homeless’: Neighborhood Groups and the Struggle for Affordable Housing on the Lower East Side, 1988-1991,” Urban History Association biennial conference, Chicago, IL, October 13-16, 2016.

“Homeless Shelters, Neighborhood Protests, and the Changing Spatial Politics of 1980s New York City,” Organization of American Historians annual conference, Atlanta, GA, April 10-13, 2014.

“‘Where Misery is a Way of Life’: Homeless Families and the Welfare Hotel Scandals of the 1980s,” Urban History Association biennial conference, New York, NY, October 27, 2012.

“Derelict Bodies: Protesting the Homeless in New York City, 1981-1982,” Conference of the Program for Gender and Women’s History, Madison, Wisconsin, March 16, 2012.

 “‘I Was A Political Prisoner’: Joyce Brown, Mental Illness, and the Civil Liberties of the Homeless,” Newberry Library, Chicago, Illinois, May 5, 2012.

“‘I Found Christopher Street…And Then I Just Kept Walking’: Community and Contested Space on the Greenwich Village Piers, 1970-2001,” Urban History Association biennial conference, Houston, Texas, November 8, 2008.

Fenced OUT: Race, Class, Sexuality and Surveillance on Manhattan’s Hudson Riverfront,” Association for Asian American Studies conference, New York, New York, April 6, 2007.

Invited Lectures

“Doing Queer History in the Archives,” MARBOut LGBTQ History Month, Kennesaw State University, October 26, 2016.

United in Anger: A History of ACT UP Screening and Talk-Back Session,” Zuckerman Museum of Art, Kennesaw State University, March 29, 2016.

“Pee Politics: Creating Safe and Accessible Restrooms at KSU,” Gender and Women’s Studies Department, Kennesaw State University, November 2, 2015.

“‘Because We Are Homeless’: Homeless Mothers’ Activism and Family Homelessness in the 1980s,” Kennesaw State University, April 13, 2015.

“Preferred Gender Pronouns and Trans-Inclusive Teaching,” Provost’s Initiative for Faculty Development, Oklahoma State University, October 2, 2014.


Ph.D., University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2014
M.A., University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2008
B.A., Barnard College, 2004