Yale Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies
Volume 4, Issue 2
spring 2014
Editor, Geetanjali Singh Chanda
Managing Editors, Linda Hase & Craig Canfield
Layout Design, Nick Appleby

PhotoLGBT Studies Chair’s Letter

Our semester began with a very sad goodbye to our friend and colleague, Sam See. As spring finally arrives in New Haven, I see around me everywhere bits of colorful life, and I think of Sam’s great ability to see the world in its contradiction and complexity. At his January memorial service, his friend Paige McGinley read a passage from Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species: “Whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.” It is hard to continue in our work in LGBTS without Sam, without his humor, his persistent presence, and his seriousness. But we do, and we must, with ongoing gratitude that we did know him, and his phenomenal visions of forms most beautiful and most wonderful.

Our semester quickly became an incredible flurry of events, each rich with provocation. We hosted two major conferences this spring, both supported by the James C. Mandelbaum Resource Fund. The first, “power/sex: consent, constraint, context” included a series of excellent papers that encouraged the audience to think, again, about whether we’re clear on the right terms for consent in our conversations about sex (we’re not, yet). The second, “Queer Life After DOMA: The Triumph of Gay Marriage in an Age of Family Values,” explored the histories and connections between conservative religion and LGBT rights movements in the United States.

In addition to these two larger gatherings, we also had several presentations by visiting speakers and fellows. With WGSS, we hosted a visit by Gautam Raghavan, who is the White House Liaison to the LGBT and AAPI communities. We supported several Pride Month events through the Bruce L. Cohen Fund, including a screening of Out Here, a documentary about a queer farmer, as well as a performance by DarkMatter called “Rainbows Are Just Refracted *White* Light.” 

Through the generosity of the Wallace-Sexton Fund, LGBTS also supported Pride Month through the hosting of an undergraduate conversation about black female sexuality with Nessette Falu. Our 2013-2014 Sarah Pettit Fellow, Nessette is a Ph.D. candidate in Socio-cultural Anthropology and a graduate certificate student at the Center for Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Rice University.  But this description of Nessette hardly captures the multifaceted person who we have come to know through her time with us. Nessette has training as an economist; as a physician’s assistant; and as a minister. As a practicing anthropologist, Nessette brings all of this professional, intellectual, and spiritual experience into intimate conversations with women seeking physical and mental care in complicated political economies. Her work speaks to the necessary interrelation between global health initiatives and local networks of fictive kin, between how we understand our physical bodies and our capacities as state citizens. In early April, Nessette presented a paper titled, “Social Hospitality: Lesbicas Negras’ Ethical Practices in Brazilian Gynecology” as the Sarah Pettit Fellowship Lecture in LGBT Studies. As she prepares to conclude her year in New Haven, I want to thank her, on behalf of the entire WGSS and LGBTS community at Yale, for her warm and insightful presence on our campus.

We have several conferences and conversations already planned for next year, including the awarding of the Brudner Prize to Richard Dyer on September 24, 2014; a panel on the culture of sexuality in contemporary Russia (including the great journalist Masha Gessen) on October 28, 2014; and a spectacular two-day event titled “Queering Anthropologies” to be held Valentine’s Day weekend in 2015. Please continue to check our web site for updates about our events, and as always, feel free to contact me if you have ideas about ways LGBTS can contribute to issues of interest to you.

With great gratitude to our faculty committee, our students, and our donors—

Kathryn Lofton
Chair, LGBTS

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