Yale Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies

Volume 6, Issue 2
spring 2016
Editor, Geetanjali Singh Chanda
Managing Editors, Linda Hase & Moe Gardner
Layout Design, Nick Appleby

PhotoWGSS Chair’s Letter

New energy and excitement fill the Yale campus this spring, as students and faculty work together to respond in creative and enduring ways to the call for more intersectional courses and a more diverse faculty.  These efforts move Yale closer to its potential as an inclusive global university.  President Salovey’s announcement of new resources to diversify the faculty and the inauguration of the Center for the Study of Race, Indigeneity, and Transnational Migration create new opportunities for WGSS to provide leadership in the intersectional study of gender and sexuality.  WGSS faculty and graduate students collaborated with other programs to create the Martin Luther King Day teach-in on “Keywords in Critical Ethnic Studies” that opened the semester and oriented students towards intersectional ways of studying race and ethnicity.  New courses this spring and in 2016-17 on such topics as “Race, Gender, and Sexuality in the Global South” and “Indigenous Feminisms” – taught by PhD students Andrew Dowe and Tyler Rogers, who are in the WGSS certificate program – extend the reach of WGSS methods and subject matter in the curriculum.  And new courses on “Transgender Cultural Production” and “Performativity and Social Change” have been added this spring as well, thanks to Visiting Lecturer T. L. Cowan.  Plans are underway for a more long-term expansion of WGSS’s intersectional and transnational curriculum.

This semester has also seen exciting symposia, lectures, and workshops organized by WGSS/LGBTQ faculty and students, in collaboration with many other campus entities including the Digital Humanities Laboratory; the School of Forestry; the MacMillan Center for International & Area Studies and the Councils on African Studies and on Southeast Asia Studies; the Native American Cultural Center; and – among others - the Departments of History, Political Science, Sociology, and African American Studies.
Throughout the semester, newly formed LGBTQ Faculty and Graduate Student Workshops have been meeting, funded by FLAGS (Fund for Lesbian and Gay Studies), for reading and discussion on such topics as Disability Studies, Afrofuturism, Black Feminism, and transgender/queer student life.  The WGSS Colloquium and Working Group have continued their lively programming of work-in-progress talks by faculty and graduate students, under the leadership of graduate coordinators Ashley James and Dina Omar and DGS Jill Campbell (see poster).  In May, under the direction of former faculty member Karen Nakamura, the Sarah Pettit Doctoral Fellowship in Lesbian Studies inaugurates the first biennial dissertation-writing workshop for PhD students from outside Yale; this year’s theme is “Freaks.”

WGSS undergraduate majors spoke concisely and eloquently about their senior essays at the festive annual seniors’ presentation day in December.  With the help of DUS Inderpal Grewal’s inspiring leadership, they have all now – in April - completed their essays.  Their topics range widely, from a nineteenth-century Russian gender outlaw to contemporary African gender politics to activism at Yale in the 1980s; from debates about the culture and politics of pornography to issues of race, gender, and sexuality around the borders of the U.S. health care system.  Despite or because of the wide range of their topics, the seniors have built a strong cohort through constructive debate and mutual support. 
Some of these projects benefited from research support provided by generous donors to WGSS and to LGBTS through the Solomon Research Fellowships in LGBT Studies, the Bruce L. Cohen Fund Research Awards, and the Shana Alexander Research Fellowship in WGSS.  Thanks also to the great generosity of these donors, several undergraduates have won competitive grants for 2016 summer research.  Project topics range from Latina garment workers in Los Angeles to the gender non-conforming “muxes” of Oaxaca, Mexico, and from the effects of cross-sex hormone therapy on mice to the “gross indecency” laws in the former British empire. 

WGSS and LGBTS are very much indebted to these donors and to those who have funded the end-of-year prizes that allow us to recognize excellent undergraduate scholarship: the Lily Rosen Prize in Women’s Health, the Steere Prize in Women’s Studies, the GALA Senior Essay Prize, and the Elga Wasserman Award.

Thank you as ever to Maureen Gardner and Linda Hase, the WGSS administrative team in our suite of offices on the third floor of WLH, and to business manager Linda Relyea, for getting us smoothly through another year.  This efficient and creative team has arranged everything from the most delectable hors d’oeuvres for our receptions to the most complicated financial spreadsheets; they impeccably produce both our lovely and visually striking posters and the humble yet crucial details of speakers’ travel schedules – and much more.

Finally, I end on a note of sadness as well as celebration: Vanessa Agard-Jones, Assistant Professor of WGSS, who began teaching at Yale in 2014, will leave for a position at Columbia University at the end of this term.  She has dazzled Yale students with her brilliant, committed teaching and has made a name for herself as a generous leader and collaborator through her contributions to African American Studies, to the MacMillan Center, and to many other interdisciplinary endeavors, including her symposium “Toxic: Exposure, Entanglement, and Endurance,” the first-ever collaboration on this scale between WGSS and the School of Forestry.  WGSS students, faculty, and staff will sorely miss her extraordinary presence as a colleague and teacher.

Margaret Homans
Chair, WGSS

Find us on