Photo of Wendy Kozol
  • Professor of Comparative American Studies
  • Affiliate of the Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies


  • BA, Oberlin College, 1980
  • MA, Univ California Los Angeles, 1986
  • PhD, Univ Minnesota Minneapolis, 1990


Wendy Kozol is professor and program director of Comparative American Studies with a concentration in visual culture studies. She joined the Oberlin faculty in 1992, first in the History Department and then in Gender and Women’s Studies Program before moving to her present position. Her research and teaching interests include visual culture studies, comparative feminist theories and methodologies, and militarization, human rights and visual witnessing.

Her most recent book is Distant Wars Visible: The Ambivalence of Witnessing (2014). This latest book examines a range of visual cultures that depict 21st century US military conflicts to consider the politics of spectatorship and empathy shaping visual witnessing practices. Other recent publications include two essays co-authored with Rebecca A. Adelman ’01, “Ornamenting the Unthinkable: Visualizing Survival Under Occupation,” Women’s Studies Quarterly (Spring/Summer 2016); and “Discordant Affects: Ambivalence, Banality, and the Ethics of Spectatorship.” Theory & Event (Fall 2014). 


  • Wendy Kozol writes piece on visual display of militarized force

    June 12, 2020

    Professor of Comparative American Studies Wendy Kozol wrote a piece for Reading the Pictures about the visual display of militarized force used against peaceful demonstrators.

  • Wendy Kozol Publishes

    January 30, 2019

    Professor of Comparative American Studies Wendy Kozol published the paper "Radical Plurality and Visual Witnessing."

  • Wendy Kozol Coauthors Article with Alum

    May 9, 2016

    Wendy Kozol, professor and director of the comparative American studies program, and Rebecca A. Adelman ’01 have published “Ornamenting the Unthinkable: Visualizing Survival under Occupation” in a spring/summer 2016 Women’s Studies Quarterly special issue on survival (pgs. 171-187).

    Confronting survival in visual cultures of war often requires departing from ideological absolutes (for sometimes the work of survival is ugly) and fantasies about resistance (for sometimes the work of survival is primarily utilitarian). Instead, this visual departure opens up alternative critical, political, and spectatorial possibilities. This article considers the interweaving of survival, catastrophe, and ordinariness in the needlepoint artwork of Esther Nisenthal Krinitz to illustrate this potential. Krinitz, who lived through the Nazi occupation of Poland, juxtaposes the luscious materiality and pastoral settings of 36 fabric collage and embroidered panels with a visual narrative of surviving genocidal violence. Arresting both for its virtuosic level of detail and frank rendition of the occupation and attendant traumas, Krinitz’s needlework ornaments the conjunction of the horrific and the quotidian. This jarring combination confronts viewers even as the haptic richness and sensory elegance of her craft pulls us toward spectatorial pleasures.

    Rebecca Adelmann is associate professor of media and communication studies at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, specializing in visual culture, political theory, trauma studies, ethics, and cultural studies of war, terrorism, and militarization.

  • Wendy Kozol Fall Publications

    November 21, 2014

    Wendy Kozol’s new book, “Visible Wars and the Ambivalences of Witnessing,” was published by the University of Minnesota Press in fall 2014. This study brings a new perspective to enduring concerns about the efficacy of conflict photography and other forms of visual advocacy. In the 21st century, visuality has been a pivotal technology in U.S. militarism, as well as in critiques of the nation at war. This book analyzes both mainstream media and alternative visual projects to understand how representations of the U.S. at war navigate in, through, and around national security logics. Visual witnessing, she argues, often remains bound up in national security agendas even as it may stretch beyond those agendas into other terrains of possibility.

    For the past two years, Wendy has also been working with a former student, Rebecca Adelman (OC ’01) on a new project titled “The War In Between.” Their first publication appeared this fall: “Banality: Discordant Affects and the Ethics of Spectatorship.” Theory & Event, vol. 17, issue 3 (2014).

    Wendy also published two other articles this fall: “Witnessing Genocide and the Challenges of Ethical Spectatorship,” Embodied Politics in Visual Autobiography, eds. S. Brophy and J. Hladki (U Toronto P); and “Witnessing Precarity: Photojournalism, Women’s/Human/Rights, and the War in Afghanistan,” in The Violence of the Image: Photography and International Conflict, ed. Liam Kennedy and Caitlin Patrick (I.B. Tauris).