Yale Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies
Volume 4, Issue 1
fall 2013
Editor, Geetanjali Singh Chanda
Managing Editors, Linda Hase & Craig Canfield
Layout Design, Nick Appleby

PhotoWGSS Chair’s Letter

As the days get shorter and colder, we are busy. Classes, students, meetings, visitors, conferences – and our own research agendas—keep us occupied. Often there is little time to do one’s own research, even though we probably spend the most time thinking about it. Travelling to conferences can give us some time to think about research, put together a paper, or go to an archive or interview someone, run a test, and learn about the research in our fields. But too often we know very little about the research our colleagues carry out, especially since many of them are not based in WGSS. Sometimes we may only come to learn of a colleague’s research serendipitously when we read it in the process of faculty promotions and hiring new faculty.

How to rectify this gap in knowing about the research of our colleagues? How to tell broad groups of students across many departments and programs about what we do in the time that we are not teaching or advising or in meetings? How to share what we do every summer?

Last spring we decided that in the fall we would organize a symposium entitled “Keywords in Gender and Sexuality” which would showcase the cutting edge research being carried out by colleagues throughout Yale. Our wonderful colleague who works on Japan, Karen Nakamura, told us about the “PechaKucha” format –20 slides, 20 seconds each—that would enable us all to present on one day and make the presentations exciting and enjoyable. 

One of the challenges of being Chair is making this research visible to the Yale community in New Haven and elsewhere. Too often, it is thought that we work only on issues of equality or equity, or on sexual violence or violence against women. These are important topics and we do work on these issues. But our mandate is broader and wider. We are interested in how societies create differences through gender and sexuality in a diverse and changing world. Panels discussed key terms that allowed us to present very different kinds of research from interdisciplinary gender and sexuality studies, history, histories of science, law, public health, anthropology, political science, literature and film studies. Key terms included “Islam and Gender,” “Science and Medicine”, “Global Health/Global Poverty,” Bodies/States/Norms/Police” “Messy Sex,” “Image/Text/Context,” and “ Transnational/Transdisciplinary/Interdisciplinary.” It was a full house! Deputy Provost Emily Bakemeier and Dean Mary Miller started us off in the morning with a warm welcome to all, and President Peter Salovey attended our closing reception.

The semester continued with other activities. We hosted activist Zainab Salbi, founder of Women for Women International, for a lunch in collaboration with the Yale Law School, sponsored by the Gruber Program for Global Justice and Women’s Human Rights. WGSS students and faculty participated in an intense conversation with the visitor. The WGSS lecture series brought Mimi Sheller from Drexel University to talk about global “mobilitiies” as a paradigm for research and a lecture by Neferti Tadiar, a scholar and faculty from the Barnard College Gender Studies department. We collaborated with the South Asian Studies Program to bring two scholars to lecture on gender and Muslim women. Our DUS, Professor Joseph Fischel hosted a dinner with our majors and another dinner for prospective majors. Graduate student coordinators, Heather Vermeulen and Andrew Dowe organized colloquia and workshops with the graduate students in the WGSS Certificate program. And, along with the LGBTS faculty committee, WGSS participated in the Brudner lecture and prize (given this year to author and playwright, Cherríe Moraga). We are planning other collaborative events for the spring semester. It’s been a full semester!

In the midst of all our programming, we have also been involved in conversations about grading at Yale.   The WGSS faculty council had a meaningful discussion about grading, and we concluded that our focus as educators should be on learning.  We support risk-taking and aim to create a desire to learn in our students. We encourage students to rewrite and rework ideas and papers in order to produce the best work possible. We believe that with appropriate effort from the instructor, TFs, and writing staff, it is possible and even desirable that all students in a seminar be able to produce quality work by the end of the semester.

We carry the excitement and energy of these events and lectures to our classes and to our projects. Our research enlarges and strengthens the community of scholars at Yale. The courses we teach give our students the knowledge and critical thinking to change the world to be a better place, to contribute to Yale and to the world. We hope you can join us in that mandate and become a part of this terrific WGSS community.

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