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

Globalizing Gender and Sexuality
WGSS 206

by Taylor Nicolas '15

I have been exceptionally lucky to have Professor Vanessa Agard-Jones for two courses this semester. In Globalizing Gender and Sexuality (WGSS 206), we interrogate the transnational, examining debates about gender and sexuality across borders, cultures, and languages, all the while unpacking “globalized” categories and definitions. As a lens through which to approach the potentially large scope of the course, we have relied upon two case studies: gender and sexuality in Iran, a topic which we opened with President Ahmadinejad’s 2007 later-sensationalized speech at Columbia University where he famously stated, “…in Iran we don’t have homosexuals, like in your country;” and the debates surrounding female genital cutting (FGC) on the African continent.  In each case, we have examined and problematized the liberal rights paradigm and the role of NGOs relying on the writings of Inderpal Grewal, Caren Kaplan, Joan Scott, Chandra Mohanty, and Gayatri Spivak, among others. Deep immersion and an in-depth process of deliberate study around these two issues is balanced by a faster paced method of weekly responses. As part of our weekly “fast critiques” we each make three contributions to our class’ collective tumblr (http://globalizinggendersexuality.tumblr.com): an image, photograph, or other visual representation paired with a quotation from that week’s reading of our choice; a contribution of new/outside/related knowledge that will supplement the reading; and, lastly, an open-ended artifact of one’s choosing. Previously unfamiliar with tumblr, I have appreciated the ability to engage with thinkers and activists responding to these issues around the world, as well as the opportunity to learn from my classmates’ postings.

This year Professor A-J is also teaching the WGSS Senior Colloquium (WGSS 490), where it is not hyperbolic to say that my ways of working (and working well) have been revolutionized: From the Pomodoro method, to the reference software Sente, chapters from Kristin Luker’s Salsa Dancing into the Social Sciences and “writing on-site” as a cohort, my classmates and I have learned to build a council of advisors, with Professor A-J naturally at the helm. Her ability to both hold us accountable but also to adjust to our individual needs and the particularities of our projects keeps us on task and at our most productive. I am not alone when I write that her investment in each of our work has been crucial and consistently goes well beyond what is required.

Professor A-J navigates difficult, complicated topics with deftness and charisma that make our class discussions and activities meaningful. Professor A-J’s previous experience as an elementary and middle school teacher shows, both in her ability to synthesize Spivak into digestible pieces and in the fact that markers and poster board have become classroom staples. Our classroom has also become a safe space where students feel comfortable bringing personal narratives and perspectives to the table. In sum, learning with Professor A-J never ceases to be a challenge and a joy.

Taylor Nicolas is Branford Class of 2015

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