Yale Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies
Volume 2, Issue 1
fall 2011
Editor, Geetanjali Singh Chanda
Managing Editor, John-Albert Moseley
Layout Design: Nick Appleby

PhotoWGSS Chair’s Letter, Fall 2011

I write this letter in the middle of the fall semester. You may all remember or know that October and November tend to be very busy times in the life of the University; classes, talks, conferences are in full swing and the intensity of the semester is palpable. And it has been truly an exciting and intense period!

This past week, along with two colleagues, Zareena Grewal (Religious Studies and American Studies) and Shital Pravinchandra (English), we hosted a conference on South Asian Diasporas, in which we explored how our ideas about diasporas and South Asians changed with new research on transnationalisms, Global South-South projects (that is, migration not from Global South to North, but from South Asia to Africa, the Caribbean, Fiji), and the racialization of South Asian Muslims after 9/11.  It was an exciting day and a half of thoughtful papers, new research and intense conversations. Along with scholars from all over the country, Yale faculty, all of them WGSS affiliates, participated by giving papers and serving as discussants for the panels.

What was so exciting about the conference was to hear about research that is changing paradigms in humanities and social science. Diaspora approaches were ground-breaking back in the 1980’s, when critical race studies, gender/sexuality studies, ethnic studies, media and cultural studies changed the work many of us did in the humanities and social sciences. But that was thirty years ago. Now there are more paradigm shifts: South-South research, transnational studies, transgender approaches, digital media technology studies– all these new ideas are suggesting ways to rethink research and teaching for the twenty-first century. This is what makes our research so fascinating and interesting. Engaging with new paradigms, we also hope to bring them to the classroom.

Meanwhile, our graduate student working group and colloquium are also growing in popularity and support. Just in the first week of November, two graduate students presented chapters from dissertations in progress for an audience of about 25-30 faculty and students who gave appreciative and constructive feedback.  These groups were started by WGSS faculty, including previous WGSS Chairs, Margaret Homans and Laura Wexler, to allow graduate students to connect with each other outside of their home departments, and contribute to creating interdisciplinary spaces for WGSS research. This year, our two graduate student coordinators are Andrew Dowe (from African American and American Studies), and Emily Johnson (from History). They have done a wonderful job in organizing these events. Even though we do not have a PhD program in WGSS, many of our faculty and affiliates work with these students, so that WGSS is contributing a great deal to their training. This working group makes doctoral training communal and collegial.

Meanwhile, our undergraduate majors are a terrific group. One of the great pleasures of being at Yale has been the opportunity to work with and teach these outstanding students. In my course this fall, Feminist and Queer Theory, the WGSS juniors are superb. The Program seems to attract some highly motivated and accomplished students who really make their presence felt on campus. In this seminar, they are getting ready to formulate individual projects which they will research next summer before they write their senior essays. Thanks to the Shana Alexander fellowship, we can hope to fund some of these students.

In other Yale news, President Levin has just released the new report on sexual climate and culture at Yale with recommendations to prevent and address sexual misconduct. The Committee charged with the report was made up of Yale alumni, with Margaret Marshall, former chief justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Court as one of its members. The Committee made several recommendations to address sexual misconduct towards students and to streamline reporting and to make transparent more of the actions taken by the University. President Levin’s response was to enable the new university wide committee for reporting sexual misconduct (rather than the confusing set of committees across the university), more awareness and expansion of the work done by SHARE (Sexual Harassment and Assault education center), more training of Title IX coordinators, as well as creation of peer educators for prevention. As for incidents such as the misogynist DKE chants from last fall, the President’s letter suggested that university leaders speak out against these incidents. All in all, some progress has certainly been made, and it will be interesting to see how the students respond to these changes.

As we head for the end of the semester and for the winter break, the days are growing darker and colder, but the classrooms and offices are alive with discussion and conversation. Our excellent staff, Program Manager, John-Albert Moseley and Administrative Assistant, Linda Hase, enable us to create this community and to do our work.  Without them, it would be difficult to carry out much of what we accomplish in teaching, service in the Program and the university. They are a great team that runs the WGSS Program with efficiency and commitment. They are truly the backbone of the Program.

I leave for sabbatical in the spring, and will be back at Yale in the fall of 2012. It’s been a wonderful experience to work with WGSS faculty, students and staff, and I look forward to returning next academic year.

Have a happy winter season,

Inderpal Grewal
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