Yale Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies

Volume 5, Issue 2
spring 2015
Editor, Geetanjali Singh Chanda
Managing Editors, Linda Hase & Moe Gardner
Layout Design, Nick Appleby

PhotoWGSS Chair’s Letter

Now that we’re finally pulling out of an incredibly brutish winter in Connecticut, it is a pleasure to reflect upon all that we have done to keep ourselves busy with conversation and collaboration in gender and sexuality studies at Yale. This semester included two impressive talks in our WGSS speaker series (Gender in Public: Studies in Performance), one by Shane Vogel of Indiana University on the racial features of the American postwar calypso craze in the 1940s, and another by Lynne Gerber of Berkeley who spoke about the ways gay men ‘played church’ at Metropolitan Community Church of San Francisco, 1970 during the last thirty years of the twentieth century.

While those scholars described projects derived from their second book projects, our own graduate students offered their emerging research on a variety of incredible subjects at the WGSS spring 2015 colloquium. Danielle Bainbridge spoke about conjoined black twins Millie and Christine McKoy who traveled the country during the nineteenth century under the stage name “The Carolina Twins”; Jaylah Burrell shared her work on African American journalist, comedy writer, and novelist Fran Ross’s understudied 1974 novel Oreo; Lauren Meyer explored radical feminist and black power activist Florynce “Flo” Kennedy’s unfinished manuscript, “The Pathology of Oppression” (1976); and Tyler Rogers shared stories of bound indigenous women accused of murder in eighteenth-century New England.

WGSS also plays a key role supporting events on campus pertaining to gender studies, including conferences on marriage in India as well as another on South Asian photography, as well as the annual Amy Rossborough Memorial Lecture supported by the Yale Women’s Center which this year celebrated film director, published spoken word poet, and LGBTQ rights activist Sini Anderson. With its limited funds, WGSS tries to encourage intersectional work whenever it can. Gender studies is hardly the sole purview of WGSS: we’re fortunate at Yale to have many colleagues seeking to evaluate the history and sociology by which we organize ourselves through the distinctions of gender. What WGSS provides is a particularly expert locus for these conversations.

Under the direction of Vanessa Agard-Jones in our senior essay seminar (with the ongoing commitment of our Director of Undergraduate Studies, Joseph Fischel), our seniors are finishing papers of range and courage. The Class of 2015 is unusually dedicated to the common work of gender studies, and there is enormous energy and esprit de corps within their cohort. They are writing essays on reproductive biology textbooks, seduction laws, asylum seekers, haredi life, the Violence Against Women Act, bystander intervention, and Internet fan faction. We can’t wait to watch where they go next with their creative energies and scholarly precision.

Finally, this is my last Chair’s Letter. For the last two years I have been honored to serve this community, first as chair of the LGBTS committee in AY 13-14 and then as chair of WGSS in AY 14-15. Starting in July, I’ll begin a three-year term as chair of the Department of Religious Studies. During these past two years, I have learned an incredible amount: about the impressive history of this program and the committed work that people like Inderpal Grewal, Margaret Homans, and Laura Wexler have done to maintain its phenomenal vitality; about the new terrain of scholarship and pedagogy brought by our recently-hired faculty like Joseph Fischel and Vanessa Agard-Jones bring, and how well the curricular ground has been laid by such past and present teachers like Melanie Boyd, Geetanjali Singh Chanda, Maria Trumpler; about the warm and dynamic intellectual and institutional relationship between LGTBS and WGSS, especially in the last year as I’ve worked so closely with Karen Nakamura; about how important it is to find regular opportunities to bring together our large interdisciplinary family for administrative debate, intellectual investigation, and celebration; about how impossible all of our work would be without the wisdom, good humor, and deep feminism of our staff, past and present: Craig Canfield, Moe Gardner, Susan Hart, Linda Hase, and Lauren Gonzalez. This program is at a moment of intellectual growth and incredible energy among our faculty and students. Every day the news reminds us that few subjects strike nearer, and few problems seem more intractable than those emerging from the subjects of gender and sexuality studies. In future years I look forward to joining in however I can to conspire with the ongoing efforts by WGSS to improve the conditions for all those who seek to live freer lives in the present world, and to understand further why it seems so impossible at times to do so. I thank you for your ongoing support, and encourage you to be in touch with our faculty and staff as you develop your own projects in these endeavors.

Katie Lofton
Chair, WGSS

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