Yale Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies
Volume 3, Issue 1
fall 2012
Editor, Geetanjali Singh Chanda
Managing Editors, Linda Hase & Craig Canfield
Layout Design, Nick Appleby

Reflections from a New Faculty Member

by Joe Fischel


Greetings to the WGSS community! Thank you all for your generosity and warm reception over the past several months of transition. 

I arrived at Yale after spending six years receiving my PhD in Political Science from the University of Chicago, and by way of detour through a postdoctoral fellowship in the Pembroke Center at Brown University.  

My research interests orbit around public law, political theory, and studies of sex and gender.   Those interests converged into my dissertation, Sex and Harm in the Age of Consent, which is currently being developed into a book manuscript.  The manuscript interrogates how the figures of the sex offender and the child, and figurations of consent, organize dominant understandings of sexual harm and freedom in U.S. law and media.

I have initiated a second book project that takes its point of departure from the research of the first.  Until recently, an anomalous Louisiana law made some sex workers sex offenders.   I approach the post-Katrina enforcement of the law and its politicization from multiple perspectives—ethnographic, critical race theory, urban studies, and feminist and queer analysis—to examine contemporary formations of sex and governance.  

But what I am really doing at the moment is teaching, and teaching two beautifully rewarding courses:  Introduction to LGBT Studies and Theory & Politics of Sexual Consent.  The former surveys nodal tensions in studies of sexuality and gender, with particular attention to the productive ambivalences between these very terms (sexuality, gender).   The latter examines the transformative force of sexual consent in arenas of theory, politics, law, and culture.  The alchemy of curiosity, passion and precision that undergraduates bring to the classroom makes for a spectacularly and intellectually generative environment.  

In the spring, I will offer a course titled Sexuality & Social Justice, in which students will be asked to volunteer for a local nonprofit service or advocacy group, and then reflect on their experiences through our (mostly political philosophic) materials. I’ll also teach a junior seminar, Theory & Method, where I will have the privilege to work with students as they develop their senior essays. 

I am so delighted, and humbled, to be a new member of the WGSS faculty and of the Yale and New Haven community.  I’m always happy to meet for coffee, and will never turn down a suggestion for good New Haven eats.
Find us on