Faculty & Staff Directory
Title: Assistant Professor
Areas of Expertise
Modern European History, Modern French History, Women and Gender, Race and Empire
PhD, Brown University
AB, Bowdoin College
Professional Publications & Contributions
Professor Colvin comes to UMass Boston having received her PhD at Brown University and taught at several institutions, including Brown, University of Maryland, and WPI. Broadly speaking, her research looks at gender, politics, and culture in modern France. Her first book, Engendering Frenchness, explores the interconnectivity of voting, gender, and popular culture, demonstrating how a conservative cultural vision of women’s role in society dominated the years immediately after women won the right to vote and ultimately dampening the potential political solidarity they might have achieved.
For her second manuscript, Professor Colvin examines how white French women became the world’s gold standard in terms of beauty, fashion, and thinness. She traces this idealization back to a French government program to put air hostesses on every Air France flight in the hopes of drawing more tourist money to the nation. These hostesses had to conform to very strict regulations in terms of their appearance and behavior. The program was a smashing success, leading the government to place hostesses not just on planes, but into every diplomatic and cultural milieu they possibly could, calling them ‘feminine ambassadors.’ Ultimately, a senior government official called for all women of France to act as these diplomats of femininity at all times, in order to bolster the reputation of France as place of romance, beauty, and sensuality.
In addition to these projects, Professor Colvin has begun work on new research about food culture in France in the 1970s and 1980s. The project aims to look at how, in a nation like France, where food is so important to conceptualizations of national identity, discussions about the culinary landscape take on heightened importance. Thus debates about food are ultimately debates about issues like the role of women in society, the relationship between citizens’ bodies and national health, anxieties about immigration and integration, and fears of Americanization.