Program in Women's Studies

Women's Studies continues to build on its success as an interdisciplinary undergraduate program, and provides a framework and community for scholarly inquiry focusing on women, gender and sexuality. Exploring the places of gender cross-culturally, historically, and artistically, Women's Studies subjects strive to help MIT students better understand various constructions of knowledge and value, and to realize the range of personal and intellectual discoveries made possible by using gender as a category of analysis. The program is also an important resource and support for faculty with an advanced knowledge of gender studies within particular disciplines but interested in learning more across disciplinary lines; moreover, it welcomes faculty who have an emerging interest in the field of Women's Studies.

Program Administration

During 2000–2001, the program was directed by Margery Resnick, Associate Professor of Hispanic Studies. During academic year 2000–2001, the Women's Studies Steering Committee consisted of Associate Professor Sally Haslanger (Philosophy), Professor Jean Jackson (Anthropology), Associate Professor Anne McCants (History), Professor Ruth Perry (Literature), Professor Resnick (Chair), Professor Susan Slyomovics (Anthropology), and Associate Professor Elizabeth Wood (History). Ex-officio members of the steering committee are: Associate Head Librarian and Collections Manager for Women's Studies Marlene Manoff (Humanities Library), and Women's Studies Program Coordinator Michèle Oshima. The Curriculum Committee consisted of Professor Haslanger, Associate Professor Diana Henderson (Literature), Professor McCants (Chair), and Assistant Professor Christine Walley (Anthropology). The Programming Committee consisted of Visiting Associate Professor Odile Cazenave (Foreign Languages and Literatures), Professor Isabelle de Courtivron (Foreign Languages and Literatures), Professor Henry Jenkins (Literature and Comparative Media Studies), Professor Perry (Chair), Professor Slyomovics, and Professor Wood. The Advisory Committee consisted of Professor Ellen Harris (Music), Professor Nancy Hopkins (Biology), Professor Molly Potter (Brain and Cognitive Science), Professor Bishwapriya Sanyal (Department of Urban Studies and Planning), and Professor Robert Silbey (Chemistry).


The Program in Women's Studies offers an undergraduate curriculum consisting of core classes and cross listed subjects from several departments. Students may concentrate, minor and petition for a major departure in Women's Studies. The Program in Women's Studies offered thirty subjects during the academic year 2000–2001, with approximately 400 students enrolled. The curriculum was enriched by the following four new subjects taught by faculty in several units: "Contemporary U.S. Hispanic Literature and Film: Lives in Translation" (Associate Professor Nicolas Wey-Gómez, Foreign Languages and Literatures), "Studies in Poetry: Gender and Lyric in the English Renaissance" (Associate Professor Mary Fuller, Literature), "Women and the Avant-Garde" (Professor Cazenave, Foreign Languages and Literatures), and "Women and Global Culture: Representations of Gender, Race, and Class in Contemporary African Film" (MLK Visiting Scholar Tsitsi Dangarembga, Foreign Languages and Literatures). Women's Studies had two majors this year. Professors Haslanger and Wood advised one student on her Women's Studies thesis research. The other major chose the new option of a two-subject substitution in lieu of a thesis. The curriculum has expanded to such an extent that Professor McCants and Program Coordinator Michèle Oshima overhauled the subject numbering system to allow for continued growth. In addition, Professor Haslanger was the representative for the program to the Graduate Consortium in Women's Studies (GCWS) which she co-chaired. This year, the GCWS offered three graduate level courses and a dissertation workshop, in which one MIT graduate student enrolled.

Programming Highlights 2000–2001

Women's Studies programming reflects the wide spectrum of issues and disciplines involved in the program. Especially given the absence of an Institute-wide Women's Center, many groups and programs also seek our co-sponsorship of events. In keeping with the interdisciplinary and often holistic educational focus of our field, Women's Studies was pleased to sponsor the following events this year.

The program sponsored the McMillan-Stewart Lectures on Women in the Developing World: "Pathways to Human Rights in Morocco" a talk by Fatna Elbouih, Moroccan human rights activist and former political prisoner; and "They'll kill me and I won't see New York again" Turkish architect, filmmaker and former political prisoner Feride Cicekoglu. In conjunction with the Ms. Cicecoglu's lecture, Women's Studies and the International Film Club cosponsored a screening at MIT of Journey of Hope, for which she wrote the screenplay.

Political Science Lecturer Margaret Burnham reported on her fact-finding tour of Israel/Palestine (specifically West Bank, Gaza, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Bethlehem, Nazareth, and Hevron).

"Whose Human Rights in Africa? an Interdisciplinary Dialogue on Gender and Power" panel featuring Monique Ilboudo, secretary of human rights in Burkina Faso and novelist, Paula Fray, editor for the Saturday Star in Johannesburg, South Africa, and current Neimann Fellow at Harvard, and Moroccan activist and former political prisoner Fatna Elbouih, was moderated by Professor Burnham and cosponsored with Political Science.

"Gender and Human Rights in Africa through the Arts" panel featuring Monique Ilboudo, novelist from Burkina Faso involved in the Rwanda project, Veronique Tadjo, Ivory Coast author, painter, and poet on recent work in Rwanda, Anne-Laure Folly, Togolese documentarian on making documentaries on women, and Tsitsi Dangarembga, Zimbabwean author and filmmaker on her experence there, moderated by Professor Cazenave and cosponsored with the Office of the Arts and Comparative Media Studies.

African Film Festival cosponsored with the African Students Association, International Film Club, FL&L, and CB/BS featured screenings of Guelwaar (Ousmane Sembene, Senegal, 1992), La Vie est Belle (Mweze Ngangura and Benoît Lamy, Belgium/Congo, 1987), La Petite Vendeuse de Soleil (Djibril Diop Mambety, Senegal, 1999), Sango Malo (Bassek Ba Kobhio, Cameroon, 1991), documentary Women of Angola aka Les Oubliees (Anne-Laure Folly, Togo, 1997), and Everyone's Child (Tsitsi Dangarembga, Zimbabwe 1996).

Women's Studies co-sponsored the Center for Bilingual/Bicultural Studies program "Bilingual, Bicultural, and Biracial Identity and Creativity in Contemporary Africa" panel featuring Tsitsi Dangarembga, Anne-Laure Folly, and Veronique Tadjo moderated by Professors Cazenave and de Courtivron.

MIT Poetry Slam emceed by Lisa King, featured guest poet Letta Neely and was cosponsored by MIT Program in Women's Studies, DeFlorez Fund for Humor, Student Life Now, and the Council for the Arts. Prior to the event, Women's Studies and the International Film Club cosponsored a screening of Slam Nation and residence-based poetry presentations at pika, East Campus, ADP, and La Casa. This momentum led to additional spring events: Ill Vibes at Chocolate City; the MIT Poetry Slam team creation; and the MIT Poetry Slam-Off emceed by Gavin Greer. The MIT Team squared off against three teams from the community: The Cantab, Lizard Lounge, and Worcester.

"Tres Vidas" was the world premiere of a new chamber music theater work for singing actress and chamber music trio (The Core Ensemble). The piece is based on the lives of three legendary Latin American Women: renowned Mexican painter Frida Kahlo, Argentine poet Alfonsina Storni, and Salvadoran peasant-activist Rufina Amaya. Cosponsored with the Office of the Arts and Music and Theater Arts.

"Dancing Through Disruptions: Notions of 'Classical Antiquity,' Postcolonial Fractures, and Complex Footwork," Dr. Ananya Chatterjea, a prominent dance theorist and practitioner on the faculty of the Department of Theater Arts and Dance at the University of Minnesota was cosponsored by the Council for the Arts at MIT, Women's Studies, and Theater Arts.

"Making the Workplace Family-Friendly: Who is Responsible?" a panel featuring speakers Kathy Cassavant, Secretary-Treasurer, Massachusetts AFL-CIO Kathy Hazzard, former HR Manager, John Hancock Financial Services and currently independent consultant on employers and domestic violence Lois Shaevel, Work/Life and Diversity Manager, MBTA was moderated by Lecturer Mindy Fried (Women's Studies) and cosponsored by Women's Studies and the Kelly-Douglas Fund.

A series of events on welfare included: "The Politics of Welfare Reform" with Representative Ann Paulsen and Diane Dujon; and "Reclaiming our Lives, our Voices: Women's Experiences of Poverty, Welfare, and New Beginnings" a panel of former welfare recipients moderated by Lecturer Manjari Mehta (Anthropology).

"Feminism at the Millennium" a talk by Katha Pollitt was cosponsored by New Words, a Women's Bookstore.

"The Political Aesthetics of Destruction: Re- Presenting Beirut, 1975–1995" by Miriam Cooke was cosponsored with History, Theory and Criticism, Anthropology Program, and the Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture.

"New Environmental Initiatives and Gender: An Analysis of Community Forestry in South Asia" talk by Bina Agarwal on Environmentalism was cosponsored with the Department of Urban Studies and Planning.

"The Rights Attack on Affirmative Action" Jean Hardisty, President and Nikhil Aziz, Research Analyst, both of Political Research Associates an independent not-for-profit research center.

Women's Studies provided the on-campus publicity for the groundbreaking Race in Digital Space three-day conference on identity in the digital realm. This was collaboratively produced by the University of Southern California, MIT, the University of California at Santa Barbara and New York University through the Comparative Media Studies Program. More information about this conference can be found online at

Women's Studies co-sponsored several of the Comparative Media Studies colloquia: "Fantastic Voyage: Fluidity and Blurred Boundaries in Men's Fantasies with Pornography" Mike Putnam; "Ceci N'est Pas Une Jeune Fille: Serious Play, Mimesis and Learning to Grow Up Female" Gerry Bloustein, Australian feminist ethnographer/videomaker; "Fan Fiction on the Internet: New Venues for Women Writers and Readers" Sharon Cumberland; "Anime Identities: Japanese Anime and the American Audience" Susan Napier, a visiting scholar at Harvard. In addition, Women's Studies cosponsored the following Communications Forums: "Intellectual Property and the Internet" primary speaker Rosemary Coombe, a feminist anthropologist, and "Female Entrepreneurship" Marney Morris, the founder of Animatrix, a leading web design studio, and Denise Brosseau, the founder of the Forum for Women Entrepreneurs.

"Queer Diasporas, Psychic Diasporas: Space and the World of Wong Kar Wai" by David Eng, Visiting Professor at Harvard (on leave from Columbia), was cosponsored by Women's Studies, Comparative Media Studies, Literature and Foreign Languages and Literatures. Screenings of Chungking Express and Happy Together in conjunction with this talk were cosponsored by MIT Program in Women's Studies and the International Film Club.

Women's Studies cosponsored Loni Ding's discussion of her films and the screenings of her documentary film series "Ancestors in the Americas" Part I: Coolies, Sailors, and Settlers: Voyage to the New World and Part II: Chinese in the Frontier West: An American Story, with Counseling and Support Services, and the Campus Race Relations Committee.

Screening of Gendernauts by Monika Treut was cosponsored by MIT Program in Women's Studies and Comparative Media Studies.

Women's Studies cosponsored the IAP oversubscribed subject "Home Repair for Women: Electrical Work" led by Bev Stohl, Ri Romano and Joe Fagone with ESG.

Women's Studies cosponsored the workshop: "Asian Girl Chronicles/Exploration through Photography" led by Carolyn Chen. The results of the workshop were "The Asian Girl Chronicles display in Lobby 10" and "The Asian Girl Chronicles reception/discussion" both of which were supported and made possible by MIT Council for the Arts, Campus Committee on Race Relations, Women Studies, Theater Arts, Architecture, Comparative Media Studies.

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Research, Publications, and Service

The Women's Studies Faculty continued their active contributions to their individual fields. Most of their accomplishments are listed in the reports of their home departments, so special attention is given here to achievements relating to work on gender.

Professor Evelyn Fox Keller (STS) delivered a guest lecture at Cambridge University in their "Gender and Society" series. Associate Professor Evelynn Hammonds (STS) delivered the talk " Feminism, Science, and Diversity: Challenges and Tensions" as a part of the Voices of Public Intellectuals: Feminisms and Science in Civil Society series at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, which was broadcast on National Public Radio. Professor Hammonds served as Associate Editor of Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society. She also received a grant of $190K from the Ford Foundation to organize a National Initiative on Minority Women Scientists and Engineers.

Professor Slyomovics (Anthropology) coedited a volume with Suad Joseph: Women and Power in the Middle East (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2001) that includes a coauthored "Introduction" and article, "Sex, Lies, and Television: Moroccan and Algerian Caricatures of the Gulf War." She also published an interview with Fatna Elbouih and her translation of Fatna Elbouih, Hadith al-Atama, (excerpts appearing in MERIP/Middle East Report, Spring 2001, number 218, pp. 42-43). The interview with Fatna El Bouih and an article on political prisoners in Morocco that can be found online at by clicking on the magazine issue "Morocco in Transition."

Associate Professsor Diana Henderson (Literature) published the article: "The Disappearing Queen: Looking for Isabel in Henry V" in Shakespeare and his Contemporaries in Performance edited by Edward Esche (Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2000: 339-355). She delivered the invited lecture: "Gender Gaps: Recasting history or the same old story in Shakespeare in Love?" at University of Pittsburgh, February 23, 2001. Professor Henderson served as Co-Chair of the Women and Culture in Early Modern Europe seminar at The Humanities Center, Harvard University.

Professor Haslanger (Philosophy) won an ACLS fellowship for 2001-2002 for a project entitled: "Embodied Meanings: Social Construction and the Ontology of Race and Gender." She was appointed as Associate Editor of Hypatia, A Journal of Feminist Philosophy, 2001–2005. Professor Haslanger presented the following papers: "Social Geographies: Gender Identity, Racial Identity, Mixed Identities," for Greater Philadelphia Philosophy Consortium, November 2000; "You Mixed? Racial Identity without Racial Biology" at the University of Chicago, April 2001, and at Smith College, March 2001. She signed a contract for Theorizing Feminisms: North American Approaches in Context (textbook in feminist theory, co-edited with Elizabeth Hackett), forthcoming from Oxford University Press, 2002.

Associate Professor Thomas DeFrantz (Theater Arts) sponsored the visit and presentation by Ananya Chatterjea. In addition to her public presentation, they worked on a performance project called, "Remembering Our Feet: A Dance Collaboration Across Cultures" exploring affinities and differences between classic American dance (tap dance) and classical Indian dance (Kathak). The Theatre Offensive, whose mission is to present the diverse realities of gay and lesbian lives, is presenting a workshop production of Queer Theory! by Professor DeFrantz. According to Theater Offensive, Queer Theory! offers "burlesque showstoppers, biting satirical comedy and giddy original songs all poking fun at how academics cannibalize our 'queer body' to the point where we've been deconstructed beyond all recognition." Professor DeFrantz was on the plenary keynote panel at SDHS entitled "Dance Studies, Gay and Lesbian Studies, and Queer Theory" including Susan Manning (chair), Valerie Briginshaw, Susan C. Cook, and Ann Daly. He performed his original piece My Digital Body at the "Race in Digital Space" Conference in April at MIT.

Associate Professor Justine Cassell (Media Arts and Sciences) received the prestigious Edgerton Award. She served on the Advisory Board for the Institute for Women and Technology at Xerox PARC. She published the chapter: "Gender Differences and HCI" in J. Jacko and A. Sears (eds.), The Handbook of Human-Computer Interaction (Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum); and delivered talks at the University of Maryland, Center for Women and Technology (Baltimore, Maryland. October 24, 2000) and at the University of Vermont for the Women's Studies Program (Burlington, VT. February, 2000).

Future Plans

Professor Henderson will serve as acting director through January 2002. Then Professor Wood will assume the directorship. Both directors are interested in working to widen faculty participation in the program across the Institute, and to strengthen the sense of intellectual community within Women's Studies on campus. We hope more of our subjects can be offered on a regular basis by MIT faculty. The program will continue to pay special attention to the international, comparative study of gender and to the roles of women in science and technology, as areas particularly appropriate to Women's Studies at MIT.

Diana Henderson

More information about the Women's Studies Program can be found online at

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