Yale Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies

Volume 7, Issue 2
spring 2017
Editor, Geetanjali Singh Chanda
Managing Editors, Linda Hase & Moe Gardner
Layout Design, Nick Appleby

PhotoWGSS Chair’s Letter

The question of what counts as evidence has become ever more important, given the assaults on expertise and knowledge in the current political climate. While deliberate ignorance (or “sanctioned ignorance,” as Gayatri Spivak once called it) in the face of overwhelming evidence is to be deplored, many of us have long sought to present evidence of power, resistance, struggle and inequality from the viewpoints of those not in power, from women, from non-gender conforming persons, women of color, those marginalized by racial, colonial and postcolonial violence. What resources can we marshal to counter the deliberate assault on evidence and expertise by autocratic and elite authorities and groups?

Many scholars now see the US as a “security state,” that is, a state more devoted to governance through fear and militarism directed against an endless array of enemies rather than to welfare.  Intersectional, postcolonial and transnational approach to the geopolitics of gender reveal the negative effects on our lives – and the lives of people in other regions -- now embedded in endless wars.  The post-Cold War era in the US proliferates wars of all kinds, using ever more punitive methods of incarceration and lethal power. The notion of the “terrorist,” an ambiguous term that is ever shifting and changing with politics and geopolitics, enables racism and fear to proliferate. We know that the notion of security as protection is one that feminist scholars have critiqued for a long time, knowing that protection can be another term for control by some groups (often powerful groups of males) over others (women) through violence. Yet “Security experts” do not generally incorporate gender or sexuality in their analysis, preferring to think about threats and national security undisturbed by considerations of the impacts on groups not in power. Gender and sexuality, in intersectional and transnational analytics, needs to be part of this conversation on security, war and militarism. Our evidence of what the “national security state” is doing and its global/national/transnational impacts is critically important to any conversation about war, race, and immigration.

The consensus of these ‘security experts” is to be critically examined in light of a long history of ignoring the concerns of heterogeneous and disenfranchised communities. Yet the consensus of the climate change scientists is more useful because it has come to understand effects on different communities, on how rising waters and extreme temperatures lead to displacement and migration. Those willing to drop bombs and wage war think nothing about what is implanted on the ground, the poisons in the air and soil, the costs of making and using war and weapons, and the long-term and enduring effects on people and communities. For us in WGSS, these two examples – security expertise and climate change expertise—suggest that it is important to think about evidence with regard to sources (its funding and methods and so on) and, importantly, who might be benefited by research and policy. Our approach in WGSS is one that pays attention to cross-disciplinary and cross-cutting evidence, of examining the impacts on low-income and non-white minoritized and marginalized communities, on women in those communities, on other genders, on seeing how the making of power makes others powerless, on how histories of racism, imperialism and power have created inequalities.

In WGSS and LGBTS, these are questions we engage with, thinking across time and space, and with renewed energy in a time where the country is in the hands of a misogynistic, racist and cynical leadership. It’s been a rough year, but there is the silver lining of renewed commitment to our field by Yale, by the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, and by our faculty, students and staff. Our students, graduate and undergraduate, give us hope with the quality of research they undertake. We been able to make tenure-track appointments in our program and look forward to welcoming new faculty who will add to our Global South courses. We’ve had wonderful visiting professors who have shared their deep learning about Africa and the Middle East in courses that examine the Arab Spring, Human Rights and sexual politics in Africa. Our speakers series on gender and sexuality in the Global South, and our speaker series on race, sex and ethics, brought outstanding scholars to campus who are researching and writing on our most pressing geopolitical problems. Next year, our curricular and extracurricular programming will continue to address contemporary injustices, inequalities, and the crisis over evidence. 

WGSS is a community with intellectual and research passion, working with other critical interdisciplinary programs in the social science and humanities. We are planning exciting programming and courses for next year and we look forward to your engagement and participation in our efforts and your support of our endeavors.

Inderpal Grewal
Chair, WGSS

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