Rebecca Herzig

Professor of Gender and Sexuality Studies


Gender and Sexuality Studies

Pettengill Hall, Room 209


Rebecca Herzig’s scholarship addresses the history and ethnography of science, technology, and medicine, especially histories of race, gender, sexuality, and disability in the modern United States. Her most recent essay, “Hygiene,” appears in the Routledge History of American Sexuality.  Herzig’s current research centers on histories and futures of higher education.

Herzig’s other work includes Suffering for Science: Reason and Sacrifice in Modern America, The Nature of Difference: Sciences of Race in the United States from Jefferson to Genomics (with Evelynn Hammonds) and the series, Feminist Technosciences  (co-edited with Banu Subramaniam).  Herzig’s latest book, Plucked: A History of Hair Removal, was named a “Best Book of the Year” by the Economist magazine and the Science Friday radio program, and a finalist for the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance Literary Award for Nonfiction.

Excerpts from reviews of Plucked:

“The brutal methods of depilation Herzig records are as fascinating as they are horrific…. [U]ltimately Plucked is an important work, not least because it is so very readable.”

— Times Higher Education

“[W]ho gets to decide what torture is? When, Herzig wonders, does a practice cease to be unpleasant and become cruel? Many would answer ‘when it is involuntary’, but that begs a crucial question: What is ‘voluntary’?”

Wall Street Journal

“[A] smart and engaging social history.”

— Globe and Mail (Toronto)

Plucked’s thorough investigation of hair removal’s history makes this consuming read a wake-up call.”

— Bitch

“[A] fascinating new book…very timely.”

— The Times (London)

“Read on. This book is astonishing.”

— Press Herald (Portland)

“[F]ascinating…Rebecca Herzig manages to explore issues of race and gender, class and religion, power and commerce, with both intellectual rigor and a healthy sense of humor.”

— Boston Globe

“To depilate or not has long been discussed as political, but only in light of what the hair itself, or its absence, communicates…[P]ublic discussions about body hair tend to cluster around whether hairiness is unfeminine. Herzig, in contrast, lays bare a global network among petroleum production, migration, and personal grooming decisions—which, in her analysis, are never simply personal but rather interwoven with the economy, the environment, and animals, whose hair removal paved the way for human depilation.”

 — Women’s Review of Books

“[A]n interesting, serious, and meticulously researched contribution to American history, offering a variety of insights around key topics in the evolution of attitudes and practices relating to hair.”

— Journal of American History

“By its title, Plucked would seem to offer a volume of frothy fun (tinged with schadenfreude) about the high cost of fashion glory; it turns out to be eye-poppingly informative, thought-provoking and, almost against the author’s will, frothy fun.”

— Maclean’s