Caroline Light is the Director of Undergraduate Studies in Harvard’s Program in Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality. She has a doctorate in history, with particular focus on gender, race, and sexuality in the U.S. South. Her research explores the ways in which race, gender, and region have shaped collective (mis)memory and archival silence. Light's first book, That Pride of Race and Character: the Roots of Jewish Benevolence in the Jim Crow South (NYU Press, 2014) illuminates the experience of southern Jewish assimilation through the lens of benevolent outreach to reveal how gendered and racialized performances of elite, white cultural capital served as a critical mode of survival for a racially liminal community of southerners.
Her recent book, Stand Your Ground: A History of America’s Love Affair with Lethal Self-Defense (Beacon Press, 2017) provides a critical genealogy of our nation’s ideals of armed citizenship. Beginning with the centuries-old adage “a man’s home is his castle,” she tracks the history of our nation’s relationship to lethal self-defense, from the duty to retreat to the “shoot first, ask questions later” ethos that prevails in many jurisdictions today. Ultimately, she contends that the contemporary appeal to “stand your ground” masks its exclusionary commitment to security for the few at the expense of the many.