Lauren Berlant works on the aesthetics and affects of intimate, political relations in the United States from the 19th century to the present: in particular, formal and informal modes of social belonging or citizenship. These attachments are organized according to political, racial, sexual, or economic status; they are forged in everyday life; they take shape in public, aesthetic forms that seek to reorganize norms of recognition in domains of what’s personal and collective. She also works on the public circulation of affective disturbances like trauma, love, optimism, and political depression.
She is the author of Cruel Optimism (2011); The Female Complaint: The Unfinished Business of Sentimentality in American Culture (2008); The Queen of America Goes to Washington City: Essays on Sex and Citizenship (1997); and The Anatomy of National Fantasy: Hawthorne, Utopia and Everyday Life (1991). She has edited books on Intimacy (2000) and Compassion (2004). Her collaborative work includes Comedy, an Issue (with Sianne Ngai, 2017); Sex, or the Unbearable (with Lee Edelman, 2014); Our Monica, Ourselves (with Lisa Duggan, 2001); “Sex in Public” (with Michael Warner, 1998); and “Queer Nationality” (with Elizabeth Freeman, 1992). Her current work is on the social worlds built variously on ambivalence, humorlessness, and flat affect.
She works as a co-editor of Critical Inquiry, is the director of LGBTQ projects at the Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality, and is a senior fellow of The Chicago Center of Contemporary Theory. She is also, with Catherine Sullivan, co-director of the project Infrastructures of the Comedic, or ComLab.