Yale Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies

Volume 6, Issue 1
fall 2015
Editor, Geetanjali Singh Chanda
Managing Editors, Linda Hase & Moe Gardner
Layout Design, Nick Appleby

PhotoWGSS Chair’s Letter

As I write this column in late November, Yale is a place I hardly recognize – and for the best of reasons. 

Less than a month ago, students organized to call on Yale to combat pervasive, intersectional racism on campus, and today I am “cautiously optimistic” (to quote a phrase I have been hearing) that President Peter Salovey’s November 17 response to their demands - including major commitments of resources for new faculty, for a research center, for the student cultural centers, and for student aid and other services - will bring positive and enduring change to campus. 

WGSS-affiliated students and faculty were among those who spoke at a powerful teach-in, “A Moment of Crisis: Race at Yale,” in a packed Battell Chapel, on November 11.  Classic texts of Black feminism and women of color feminisms that are often taught in WGSS classes, such as This Bridge Called My Back and Audre Lorde’s Sister Outsider, were cited and quoted.  Many in the WGSS community also participated in the “March for Resilience” on November 9 that drew national media attention, and in related events before and since. 

WGSS faculty are now working to put into effect President Salovey’s call for more instruction on “race, ethnicity, and other aspects of social identity” starting in spring term 2016.  Intersectionality – the understanding that gender and sexuality are always intertwined with race and ethnicity, class, and much else – characterizes WGSS courses as a bedrock principle. 

I am proud of our students and colleagues who have provided both intellectual and strategic leadership in this very positive movement for change at Yale.

Even before this crisis arose, this has been a busy and exciting fall in WGSS with lectures, seminars, and conferences.  This year’s WGSS programming focus is on Africa: we are excited to be participating in President Peter Salovey’s Africa initiative with a lecture series and a symposium, but there’s been much else on the agenda as well. 

Some highlights: 
  • In August, under the leadership of Laura Wexler, WGSS cosponsored the IARU/FemTechNet DOCC 2015 Summer Workshop, which gathered dozens of participants for four days in New Haven and in cyberspace, in linked chat sessions across 14 time zones. The Workshop planned the Distributed Open Collaborative Course (DOCC) for fall 2015 (WGSS 380: Gender and Sexuality in Media and Popular Culture, co-taught by Laura Wexler and Vanessa Agard-Jones), rolled out a new learning platform in collaboration with Ed-Ex, and made plans for further work and project fundraising.

  • In September, Nadera Shaloub-Kevorkian, Professor of Law and Social Work at Hebrew University and a Palestinian feminist activist, spoke about her new book, Security Theology, Surveillance and the Politics of Fear.
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    October brought a major, day-long symposium reconsidering the role of NGOs in developing countries: “Moral Economies and Political Change: Critical Feminist Engagements with Development, Normalization, and Political Sovereignty,” inspired by Theorizing NGOs: States, Feminisms, and Neoliberalism, by Inderpal Grewal and Victoria Bernal. Click here to see the poster and list of individual talks.

  • October also saw the launch of the WGSS 2015-16 Speaker Series “Gender and Political Economy in Africa,” with a talk by Gretchen Bauer, Professor of Political Science at the University of Delaware, on women’s political leadership in sub-Saharan Africa.  The next event in the series is December 9, when Professor Shireen Hassim visits from the University of Witswatersrand to speak on women in politics in South Africa. Click here to see a poster of the year’s events.

  • Looking ahead: February 26-27 WGSS will cosponsor, under the leadership of Inderpal Grewal and in collaboration with Political Science and the Council on African Studies, a symposium on the Politics of Gender and Sexuality in Africa. This workshop will bring together researchers in political science who focus on key questions emerging from Africa, including the role of gender in political participation, the emergence of women as leaders, discrimination in economic and social relations, and the ongoing issues of migration within Africa and to other parts of the world.

  • Running all year is Laura Wexler and Inderpal Grewal’s team-taught WGSS graduate seminar, (En)visualizing Knowledge: Text Mining, Mapping, Network Analysis, and Big Data.  Funded by a major grant from the Mellon Foundation, this course enables advanced graduate students to learn innovative methods in digital humanities while they study the current revolution in digital communications as it “alters knowledge production . . . and the many and varied practices of everyday life.”
  • WGSS has also collaborated on and benefited from LGBTS programming – see Karen Nakamura’s column for details – including two talks in the “Queer/Crip” series by activist Corbett O’Toole and artist and writer Riva Lehrer; the year-long series “Six Landmark Queer Films” by lesbian filmmakers; a lecture by Gabe Rosenberg titled “How Meat Changed Sex: Intimacy with Animals After Industrial Reproduction;” and the Brudner Prize lectures by Susan O. Stryker.

  • The WGSS Colloquium and Working Group are both running all year, under the excellent guidance of graduate student conveners Ashley James and Dina Omar, including fall term talks by faculty members Elizabeth Alexander, Inderpal Grewal, and Jafari Allen.

  • WGSS senior majors are hard at work on their senior essays and I will have more to say about these extraordinary projects, and the year’s events, in the spring newsletter.

I wish everyone a successful completion of this extraordinary semester, a restful holiday season, and a healthy and happy 2016.

Margaret Homans
Chair, WGSS

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