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

PhotoWGSS Chair’s Letter

This fall has been an exciting and full semester. We are growing in the numbers of majors as we come to have a stable faculty. Student majors are attracted and reassured by the presence of a growing faculty and courses that they can choose from, learn from, rely on and talk about year after year. As we now have a committed faculty who are here and care about the students, our popularity increases. Two more reasons for growing enrollments and majors: outstanding courses, and a sense of community. Besides our WGSS faculty we also have affiliate faculty across the university who are providing exciting teaching and mentorship. Our faculty and staff (Craig Canfield and Linda Hase our administrative support) are critical to the smooth running of the program.

The effect of increased faculty strength is also visible in the numbers of doctoral students (based in disciplines across social sciences and humanities) who are choosing to become WGSS Qualification students, that is, doing extra coursework, research, and presentations that will give them expertise in WGSS. Currently, we have almost 40 students affiliated with the WGSS Qualification program, and our graduate working groups and colloquium series are an interesting and stimulating fora for students to showcase emerging research and discuss cutting edge scholarly works. These students believe that feminist and queer research is critical for their training to be future scholars and professors. This generation of graduate students does not compartmentalize gender and LGBT research as separate endeavors from their disciplinary training. They understand gender as inextricable from other forms of social differences, such as race or religion, and taking graduate seminars with WGSS faculty provides them with essential training for a variety of college and university teaching positions as well as other professions.

Since I arrived at Yale in the fall of 2009, my mandate has been to grow WGSS in international research and to add to Yale's expertise in global issues. Our current search in transnational migration will move us further in that direction. We are looking for an assistant professor whose research examines migration across what is called "Global South," that is, how gender and sexuality are critical for vast movements, in contemporary and historical frameworks, of people who as refugees, migrants, tourists, travellers, traders, moved within and across Latin America, Africa, Asia or the Caribbean. We know, for instance, that most refugees at the present time move to neighboring countries, and that those coming to the "west" are a small fraction of global refugees. Thus we wish to focus on those who cross various national boundaries. Understanding how gender and sexuality function in these movements in the Global South is important and will add valuable expertise to our Program. I look forward to sharing the results of our search in future newsletters.

Meanwhile, we continue organizing events and lectures to share research from visiting scholars and our faculty within the Yale community. In early October, we co-sponsored a panel on "Gender, Race and Sexuality in the 2012 Elections" with campus student groups (Women's Center, MECHA, and BSAY). It was standing room only as our faculty, Professors Crystal Feimster, Laura Wexler, Albert Laguna and Jennifer Klein, along with Professor Robert Corber (chair of WGSS at Trinity College) talked about their research in relation to election politics. Each brought unique insights from their research that we had not seen in the media. For instance, Professor Klein talked about the history of women, organizing, and welfare; Professor Feimster told us why, given the history of African American women and slavery, a politician from the South could say that raped women cannot get pregnant; Professor Wexler discussed the photographs of President Obama; and Professor Laguna discussed how the "Hispanic vote" continues, in every election cycle, to be presented to us as "new."

As I listened to the panel and saw the room full of undergraduates who thought it important to attend this event at 8 PM on a Wednesday night during mid-term week, I had living proof of how important WGSS is to the university. Where else and who else would do this? Our faculty came to talk late in the evening (for some leaving their children in childcare) about matters they care about passionately – how and why the intersections of gender, sexuality, race, and class remain so integral to how we live, our everyday lives and our connections to the world. WGSS is not simply about "social" issues, but also about economic and political ones. That is why WGSS research and teaching is central to citizenship in a democratic society, and also, perhaps more importantly, to understanding those who are excluded from citizenship on the basis of gender, class, and sexuality.

We need your support and help for these endeavors. The Shana Alexander Foundation has stepped up to enable undergraduate research by providing grants for our students for summer research. This has been a great boon for the students, and we are so appreciative that the Foundation, and its director, Lisa Alter, provides resources for producing leaders in gender and women's research. Yet, we could and are eager to do more. Only then can we influence Yale to give women's and gender issues the attention that they deserve. We are working on this and seek your input about expanding our resources. We value your ideas in all areas and look forward to hearing from you. Do keep in touch.

Have a great holiday season – and thank you for your support of Yale WGSS.

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