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Michael Brown

Michael Brown

Assistant Professor
American intellectual and cultural history, public history, Rochester history, social and political thought

Research interests: American intellectual and cultural history, public history, Rochester history

Michael Brown studies the interactions among ideas and publics in the shaping of twentieth-century American political culture.  He writes, in particular, about the uncertain place of intellectuals in the United States after 1945. His current book project, “Experts, Eggheads, and Elites: Debating the Role of Intellectuals in American Political Culture, 1952-2008,” addresses the origins and uses of claims about American anti-intellectualism and the figure of the public intellectual. This work has been supported by fellowships and grants from the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library, the New York Public Library, and the Wisconsin State Historical Society. 

As a public historian and a faculty affiliate of the Museum Studies Program at RIT, Michael co-curates “Exhibitions across the Curriculum” (e.g. Resistance, Rebellion, and Renewal in Rochester: Narratives of Progress and Poverty in 2015). Along with Rajesh Barnabas, Michael made the film Indigent Burials under Highland Park in 2014 for 43°N 77°W: A Rochester Quarterly

Practicing public history and studying public intellectuals, Michael looks at how these two forms of scholarly intervention in and for publics may illuminate one another.  He presented “Conceptualizing Public Intellectuals from the Vantage Point of Public History” at the 2016 Public Intellectuals Conference in Somerville, MA, and he has published in a variety of venues, including Dissent, Philosophy Now, and Reviews in American History. Michael has also been a columnist for the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle newspaper. 

Michael teaches courses on public history, American history, and local history.  His students’ work has been published in the Democrat and Chronicle’s “Retrofitting Rochester” column, and he has advised several senior theses in the Museum Studies Program.

Michael holds a bachelor’s degree in government from Cornell University; a master’s in philosophy, politics, and social value from the London School of Economics; and a doctorate in history from the University of Rochester, where he was a Dean’s Fellow, a Dean’s Dissertation Fellow, and the recipient of a Commendation for Outstanding Dissertation Award. 


Selected Publications & Exhibitions

“Politics of Style, Politics As Style.”  Review of Feast of Excess: A Cultural History of the New Sensibility, by George Cotkin; Dressing for the Culture Wars: Style and the Politics of Self-Presentation in the 1960s and 1970s, by Betty Hillman; and Born to Be Wild: The Rise of the American Motorcyclist, by Randy D. McBee. Reviews in American History 44 (2016): 653–660.

Co-curator, When Rochester Was Royal: Professional Basketball in Rochester 1945-1957, Rochester Institute of Technology, Sunken Gallery, spring 2016

Co-curator, Kate Gleason, Visionary: A Tribute on Her 150th Birthday, Rochester Institute of Technology, Sunken Gallery, fall 2015

Co-curator, Resistance, Rebellion, and Renewal in Rochester: Narratives of Progress and Poverty, RIT Museum, Rochester Institute of Technology, spring 2015

Articles on Daniel Bell’s The End of Ideology and Lionel Trilling in the Oxford Encyclopedia of American Cultural and Intellectual History, eds. Joan Shelley Rubin and Scott E. Casper (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013)

“In the Flower City, Take Root,” Dissent 57 (Fall 2010): 25-28

“Of Adolescents and The Aristotle,” Philosophy Now 63 (September/October 2007): 52-54