Yale Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies

Volume 5, Issue 1
fall 2014
Editor, Geetanjali Singh Chanda
Managing Editors, Linda Hase & Moe Gardner
Layout Design, Nick Appleby

Thrilled to be here!

by WGSS Assistant Professor, Vanessa Agard-Jones

Vanessa Agard-Jones, Assistant Professor in WGSS

WGSS Community,

I’m thrilled to have joined this faculty, and to be learning so much about—and from—the wide-ranging networks of people who call this campus’ WGSS and LGBT Studies Programs home.

As a graduate of Yale College, I’m particularly gratified to return to a place that has long intrigued and challenged me. My undergraduate years were a powerful time of intellectual encounter (in the Mellon Mays program), physical exertion (as an outside-center on the women’s rugby team), and activist engagement (as a member of Prism, Critical Resistance New Haven, and the Tenure Action Coalition). When I graduated in 2000 I took on the directorship of Oakland’s Prison Activist Resource Center and later spent three years teaching in Atlanta Public Schools. I have most recently finished a long scholarly journey, earning an M.A. in African American Studies at Columbia University and a joint Ph.D. in anthropology and French Studies at New York University. 

Through my teaching this semester, I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know WGSS students who are both at the beginnings and at the ends of their sojourns with us. In Globalizing Gender and Sexuality, I have been exploring methods of slow critique with a brilliantly inquisitive cohort of mostly first- and second-year students who are engaged in unpacking transnational debates about gender and sexuality. In the Senior Colloquium, I have had the honor of working with our eight accomplished majors on the development of their senior essays, and have been thinking with them about how their interventions will shift our conversations in feminist and queer theory for generations to come. Come Spring I will offer courses in feminist science and technology studies, including an undergraduate seminar on Gender, Justice and the Environment and a graduate reading seminar about Porous Bodies.

On the research front, I’m writing a book about chemical entanglement in Martinique, the French territory in the Caribbean where I’ve done research for the past seven years. There, narratives about the origins of gender transgression and same-sex desire have shifted recently to include a story about their relationship to bodily contamination by a pesticide once used widely on the island’s banana plantations. As a source of rising levels of estrogen-like chemicals in the environment, the pesticide kepone has been linked to both male infertility and prostate cancer. Concerns about the effects of this contamination have been heightened by uncertainty about the range of its impacts, and popular responses have included panic about male effeminacy and intersex births as well as critiques of the postcolonial dynamics that drive uneven exposure. My book traces local anxieties about the relationship of racialized and gendered bodies to their environments and explores how contemporary debates about sovereignty on the island are articulated through the prism of this contamination.

Let’s have tea! I’m eager to chat about my research and teaching, about the winding paths that brought me back to New Haven, and more importantly— I would love to hear about your own journeys as well.

Vanessa Agard-Jones (aka Prof. A-J)
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