Participant Info

First Name
Janet M.
Last Name
University of Texas at Austin
Website URL
transnational American history, American Studies, cultural history, social history, social thought, Gilded Age and Progressive Era, animals, environmental history, social movements
Additional Contact Information (this is the best way to reach me when I am traveling)

Personal Info

About Me

JANET M. DAVIS is Distinguished Teaching Professor and Fellow of the Trice Professorship in Plan II Honors at the University of Texas at Austin. She received her BA in History from Carleton College with magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa honors in 1986. After working in the airline industry for several years, she received her PhD in History from the University of Wisconsin in 1998. She has taught American Studies and History at The University of Texas at Austin since Fall 1998 and currently serves as Associate Director of the Plan II Honors Program. Davis is the author of The Gospel of Kindness: Animal Welfare and the Making of Modern America (2016); The Circus Age: Culture and Society under the American Big Top (2002); and the editor of Circus Queen and Tinker Bell: The Life of Tiny Kline (2008), by Tiny Kline. The Gospel of Kindness received the inaugural Presidents’ Book Prize from the Society of Historians of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era in 2018, as well as an Outstanding Title Award from Choice in 2017. The Circus Age won a Robert Hamilton Award in 2004, an Outstanding Title Award from Choice in 2003, and was a finalist for the George Freedley Memorial Award from the Theatre Library Association in 2003. Her article, “Cockfight Nationalism: Blood Sport and the Moral Politics of American Empire and Nation Building,” won the 2014 Constance Rourke Prize from the American Studies Association for the best article published in American Quarterly. Her opinion pieces have been published in the New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, Newsday, the Austin American-Statesman, Truth-Out, and the Smithsonian Magazine. Davis regularly works as a public humanities consultant for film, television, festival, and museum projects. She has received fellowships from FLAS VI in Hindi, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Association of University Women, and the University of Texas at Austin. Davis is the recipient of the multiple teaching awards at the University of Texas, including The University of Texas System Regents’ Outstanding Teaching Award in 2016. She was inducted into the Academy of Distinguished Teachers in Fall 2017.

Recent Publications

(Past Five Years):


The Gospel of Kindness: Animal Welfare and the Making of Modern America. New York: Oxford University Press, 2016.

Selected Articles:

“’Pain is the only School-Teacher’: The Jack London Club and the Politics of American Animal Performance, 1918-1945.” Invited submission to The Journal of Early Visual Popular Culture 15 (3), 2017,  DOI:

“Moral, Purposeful, and Healthful: The World of Child’s Play, Bodybuilding, and Nation-Building at the American Circus.” In Emily S. Rosenberg and Shanon Fitzpatrick (Eds.), Body and Nation: The Global Realm of U.S. Body Politics in the Twentieth Century (42-60). Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press, 2014.

“Cockfight Nationalism: Blood Sport and the Moral Politics of American Empire and Nation Building,” American Quarterly 65 (3) special issue, “Racism, Speciesism, Sexism,” edited by Claire Jean Kim and Carla Freccero, (549-574), 2013.

“Bird Day: Promoting the Gospel of Kindness in the Philippines during the American Occupation.” In Mark Lawrence, Erika Bsumek, and David Kinkella (Eds.), The Nation-State and the Transnational Environment (181-206), New York: Oxford University Press, 2013.

Invited Newspaper Articles:

“Five Myths About the Circus,” Washington Post, March 30, 2017, print, March 31, 2017,

“America’s Big Circus Spectacular Has a Long and Cherished History,” Smithsonian Magazine and Zocalo Public Square, March 22, 2017,

“Farewell, Ringling Bros., But the Circus Isn’t Dead,” CNN, January 17, 2017,

“A Bittersweet Bow for the Elephant: Ringling Will Retire Its Elephants and an American Tradition.” New York Times, Sunday Review, SR9, March 8, 2015,

Other Recent Newspaper Essays:

“How Texas, Animal Protectionism, and the ASPCA Are Intertwined,” Austin American-Statesman, April 20, 2016,

“Donald Trump Is the New P. T. Barnum,” with Erika Bsumek, Truthout, April 13, 2016,

Media Coverage
American Experience on PBS, "The Circus" (four-hour series, airing in Fall 2018)--advisor and will appear on screen; "Mabel, Mabel, Tiger Trainer," currently in theaters, appearing on screen; Smithsonian Folklife Festival--advisor and speaker, June/July 2
Country Focus
United States from a transnational perspective
Expertise by Geography
Asia, Caribbean, India, United Kingdom, United States
Expertise by Chronology
19th century, 20th century
Expertise by Topic
Colonialism, Diplomacy, Environment, Family, Food History, Gender, Human Rights, Material Culture, Medicine, Migration & Immigration, Military, Race, Religion, Rural & Agrarian History, Science, Sexuality, Sports, Women, World War I, World War II