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Tori Barnes-Brus

Tori Barnes-Brus is Associate Professor of Sociology at Cornell College. As a feminist, cultural sociologist, Tori’s scholarship examines the historical and social construction of women’s reproductive health and the ways in which public discourse shapes people’s expectations of women’s reproductive behaviors. She enjoys watching history unfold through the pages of old documents and comparing those findings to the contemporary social world. As a scholar, she continually questions the ways in which the past informs contemporary social inequality. 

Tori earned a Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Kansas. Her doctoral research combined a sociological perspective with historical methods to investigate the discourse and social construction of pregnancy during the late 19th century. Her current project uses the Lydia E. Pinkham Patent Medicine Company (LEPC) as a case study for exploring the cultural construction and commercialization of womanhood and women’s health from the 1870s to the 1950s. Taking the advertisements of the LEPC as the starting point, this case study details business, medical, and social phenomena, illuminating cultural changes in America such as shifts in attitudes towards women’s sexuality, changing expectations of mothering and womanhood, national war, economic depression, and the lingering ineffectiveness of the medical profession to address women’s health concerns.

She has conducted archival research at the Schlesinger Library at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University; the Countway Library of Medicine Center for History of Medicine at Harvard University; the New York Public Library; and the Clendening History of Medicine Library at the University of Kansas. She has analyzed manuscripts from the Gerritsen Collection of Women’s History and the Special Collections of the Lloyd Sealy Library at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Her scholarship has been published in Contemporary Sociology, Qualitative Sociology, Law and Social Inquiry and Social Thought and Research

With Cornell sociology students on a tour of the Little Village Neighborhood of Chicago, after visiting with the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization about urban environmental inequality.

Tori has a long-standing commitment to the liberal arts, which began during her undergraduate education at Cornell College. As an undergraduate she studied sociology and history, realized the importance of interdisciplinarity and collaborative learning, fell in love with the city of Chicago, and first experienced archival research. These passions, along with a dedication to social justice and civic engagement, remain evident in Tori’s teaching. She teaches courses in a broad range of areas such as social class inequality, media, reproductive justice, research methods, deviance and social control, and communities, many of which involve field trips (to local homeless shelters or medical centers) or incorporate public sociology projects such as student-made public service announcements on reproductive health issues. She also regularly teaches a course in Chicago that uses the city as a case study, visiting with local organizations to examine contemporary debates and social policies affecting cities and investigate the interplay between policy implementation and local efforts to make change. She is eager to incorporate these contemporary efforts at addressing social inequality with the historical and archival materials available at the Newberry during the seminar on Novel Action.   

Tori values collective and collaborative learning. She enjoys working with other faculty on courses and with students on independent research. She has collaborated with faculty in biology, English and creative writing, and computer science to help students appreciate topics from multiple disciplinary perspectives. For example, she and Professor Entel have hosted combined courses to allow students to see the connections between 19th century literature and society. Tori also regularly mentors students’ independent projects. She sponsors student research at college and regional conferences and has been an active member of the Iowa Sociological Association, an organization dedicated to the support and public presentation of undergraduate research.

Tori is elated to work with students in the Newberry Seminar as they embrace independent research, work with a community of scholars, and explore the ways in which literature and social movements have integrated to shape our understandings of the world.

Additional information can be found on her Cornell College faculty page.