Program in Women's Studies

Women's Studies continues to build on its success as an interdisciplinary undergraduate program, providing a framework and community for scholarly inquiry focusing on women, gender, and sexuality. By 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 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 2001-2002, the program was directed by Diana Henderson, associate professor of literature, in the fall and by Elizabeth Wood, associate professor of history, in the spring. During AY2002, the Women's Studies steering committee consisted of Assistant Professor James D. Cain (Literature), Visiting Associate Professor Odile Cazenave (Foreign Languages and Literatures), Associate Professor Sally Haslanger (Philosophy), Professor Henderson (chair, fall), Associate Professor Anne McCants (History), Professor Ruth Perry (Literature), Professor Susan Slyomovics (Anthropology), and Professor Wood (chair, spring). 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, Professor McCants (chair), and Senior Lecturer Wyn Kelley (Literature). The programming committee consisted of Professor Cain, Visiting Professor Cazenave, and Professor Wood. The advisory committee consisted of Professor Ellen Harris (Music), Professor Molly Potter (Brain & Cognitive Science), Professor Bishwapriya Sanyal (Urban Studies and Planning), and Professor Robert Silbey (Chemistry), dean of science.


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 twenty-four subjects during AY2002, with approximately 300 students enrolled. The curriculum was enriched by two new subjects taught by faculty in several units: Liberty, taught by Visiting Professor Annabelle Lever (Political Science), and Gender, Space, and Architecture, taught by Assistant Professor Heghnar Watenpaugh (Architecture).

Women's Studies had two majors this year.

LeeAnn Henn (Women's Studies major), Michèle Oshima (Women's Studies coordinator), Amy Chou (Women's Studies major), and Goce Zojcheski (Women's Studies student).

Assistant Professor Emma Teng (Foreign Languages and Literatures) and Professor 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. In addition, Professor Haslanger was the program's representative 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 three MIT graduate students enrolled.

Programming Highlights

Women's Studies programming reflects a wide spectrum of issues and disciplines, especially since many groups and programs, given the absence of an Institute-wide women's center, seek our cosponsorship of events. In keeping with the interdisciplinary and often holistic focus of our field, Women's Studies was pleased to sponsor or cosponsor the following events this year.

McMillan-Stewart Lectures on Women in the Developing World—"Arabic: The Silenced Father-Tongue," by Leïla Sebbar, and "From the Palace to Prison in Morocco," by Malika Oufkir. Cosponsored with the Graduate Consortium in Women's Studies at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study.

"Women's Health and Human Rights in Afghanistan," by Dr. Lynn Amowitz, Brigham and Women's Hospital and Physicians for Human Rights. The talk recounted her experiences interviewing women in Afghanistan and was hosted by Phoebe Schnitzer, MIT lecturer. Cosponsored with the Kelly-Douglas Fund.

"Song of the Water Saints," a reading by Nelly Rosario (MIT '94) from her first novel. Introduced by Brenda Cotto-Escalera (Theater Arts) and cosponsored with the Program in Writing and Humanistic Studies, Council for the Arts, MITE2S, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Counseling and Support Services, Chocolate City, SHPE, NSBE, and authors@mit.

Brenda Cotto-Escalera (Theater Arts), Nelly Rosario (MIT '94 and novelist), and Ayida Mthembu (dean of counseling and support services).

"Caribbean Women Artists: Expressing/Resisting Globalization"—a panel with artist Marilène Phipps, Brandeis professor Faith Smith, novelist and Harvard lecturer Patricia Powell, novelist and MIT alumna Nelly Rosario, and moderator Odile Cazenave (Foreign Languages and Literatures). Cosponsored with the Kelly-Douglas Fund.

"Third Wave Feminism & Popular Culture: Transforming Activism through Media Production"—a panel with Suheir Hammad, Tammy Rae Carland, Mimi Nguyen, and moderator Anita Chan. Organized by Anita Chan and Cynthia Conti, and cosponsored with Comparative Media Studies, Theater Arts, Council for the Arts, Campus Committee on Race Relations, and LBGT Issues.

"Native American Women Filmmakers"—a panel with Alanis Obomsawin, Arlene Bowman, and moderator Candis Callison. Curated by Candis Callison, produced by Brandy Evans, and cosponsored with the Committee on Campus Race Relations, Council for the Arts, LBGT Issues, and Comparative Media Studies.

Native American Women Filmmakers Video Festival—three screenings featuring 12 films by Native American women filmmakers. Curated by Candis Callison, produced by Brandy Evans, and cosponsored with the International Film Club, AISES, Committee on Campus Race Relations, Council for the Arts, LBGT Issues, and Comparative Media Studies.

Film colloquia cosponsored by Comparative Media Studies—screening/discussion of Mickey Mouse Monopoly with filmmaker Chyeng Sun; Australian filmmaker Karen Hughes; and Native American Canadian filmmaker Alanis Obomsawin.

A Woman's Work Is Never Done—a large-scale, site-specific art installation by long-time collaborators Merry Conway and Noni Pratt. Their projects have a large community element, and this work was sited in a neighborhood in Jamaica Plain. Cosponsored with MIT's Office of the Arts, the Women's Industrial and Educational Union, and The Bostonian Society.

Talks on "Vanishing Security: Changing Cultural Practices Among War-Displaced Southern Sudanese Women in Khartoum," by Dr. Rogaia Abusharaf, Tufts University, and "Identification and Analysis of the Tools Used in Sexual and Gender Based Violence Field Research," by Cari Clark, Harvard University. Cosponsored with the Inter-University Committee on International Migration.

Talks on "Women, Human Rights and Globalization," by Hilary Charlesworth, Australian National University, and "Women Refugees Applying for Asylum: Successes and Emerging Challenges," by Deborah Anker, Harvard Law School. Cosponsored with the MIT Program on Human Rights and Justice.

Linda Tillery and the Cultural Heritage Choir in Performance at MIT. Cosponsored with the President's Office; Office of the Arts; Center for the Study of Diversity in Science, Technology, and Medicine; and Committee on Campus Race Relations.

"Is the Western Man's Harem More Enjoyable than the Moslem One?" by Fatema Mernissi. An Emile Bustani Lecture.

"Journey to a Hate Free Millennium." Cosponsored with LBGT Issues.

"What Is Marriage For?" by EJ Graff. Cosponsored with LBGT Issues and the Graduate Consortium in Women's Studies.

"Dilemmas of Gender, Work and Family in the 21st Century"—a panel with Jody Heymann, Harvard School of Public Health, Theda Skocpol, Harvard University, and moderator Ann Bookman, MIT Workplace Center. Cosponsored with the Political Science Department.

"French Family Policy: Challenging U.S. Models of Work and Family," by Jeanne Fagnani, National Center for Family Allocations, France. Cosponsored with the MIT Workplace Center and MIT France.

"The Politics of Welfare Reform"—a panel with Diane Dujon, former welfare recipient, Anne Paulsen, Massachusetts legislator, and moderator Mindy Fried, MIT lecturer.

"Autonomy and Freedom from Fear," by Susan Brison, Dartmouth College. Cosponsored with the Linguistics and Philosophy Department, the dean of humanities, arts, and social sciences, and the dean for graduate students.

"The Right Wing Attack on Affirmative Action"—a panel with Jean Hardisty and Nikhil Aziz, Political Research Associates, and moderator Mindy Fried.

Breast Cancer Information—a talk/session cosponsored with MIT Hillel, AEPhi, WILG, Undergraduate Association, MIT Medical, and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

Electrical Work—IAP class on Home Repair for Women.

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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 Elizabeth Wood (History) published "The Trial of the New Woman: Citizens-in-Training in the New Soviet Republic," in Gender & History. She was nominated for the New Directions Fellowship of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and received a National Research Competition award from the National Council for Eurasian and East European Research. She delivered the conference paper "Shaming Boys Who Smoke Cigarettes: Agitation Trials in the Late 1920s" at the American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies in November 2001.

Professor Evelyn Fox Keller (STS) delivered a guest lecture in the Gender and Society series at Cambridge University. She is on the editorial boards of Women's Review of Books and Hypatia, A Journal of Feminist Philosophy, and is co-chair of the University of California Systemwide Council on Women's Studies. She wrote the chapter "Making a Difference in Science" in Feminism in Twentieth Century Science, Technology, and Medicine, edited by Angela N. H. Creager, Elizabeth Lunbeck, and Londa Schiebinger, and gave the keynote address at the annual meeting of the University of Wisconsin System Women and Science Curriculum Reform Institute.

Professor Evelynn Hammonds (STS) co-authored the Reports of the Committees on the Status of Women Faculty at MIT and served on the program committee of the Berkshire Conference of Women's Historians. She was a panelist on "Defining Women's Health" at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, May 2002; the keynote speaker at the Spelman College Phi Beta Kappa Induction Ceremony, April 2002; the inaugural speaker in Drew University's Women's Studies Visiting Scholar Series, February 2002; and a panelist on "Balancing the Equation: Where Are Women and Girls in Science and Technology?" at Barnard College, February 2002. She is a member of the advisory committee for the "Race, Gender and the Sciences at Historically Black Colleges" Curriculum Development Project at Spelman College, and an associate editor of Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society. Professor Hammonds organized the National Initiative on Minority Women Scientists and Engineers meeting held at MIT, January 2002.

Professor Susan Slyomovics (Anthropology), an elected fellow of the American Folklore Society, wrote the review "Malika Oufkir, Stolen Lives: Twenty Years in a Desert Prison" in Boston Review of Books. She serves on the advisory board of Women and Performance: A Journal of Feminist Theory and won an NEH fellowship and a Radcliffe Institute/Bunting Fellowship for 2002-2003.

Professor Ruth Perry (Literature) published "Jane Austen and British Imperialism" in Monstrous Dreams of Reason, edited by Mita Choudhury and Laura Rosenthal, and "Engendering Environmental Thinking: A Feminist Analysis of the Present Crisis" in the Yale Journal of Criticism, reprinted in Women, Science and Technology (Routledge, 2001). She was a panelist on "Graduate Teaching as a Way of Generating New Knowledge" at the Conference on the Ph.D. in Women's Studies, October 2001. She delivered the keynote address "The Importance of Aunts" at the Eighteenth-Century Studies conference in Halifax, Nova Scotia, November 2001, and gave the talk "Enlightened Brothers" at the Conference on Enlightenment Masculinities at the University of London, May 2002. Professor Perry also served on the SHASS Committee on Gender Equity.

Professor Diana Henderson (Literature) served as acting director of the Women's Studies Program in the fall. She also served on the SHASS Committee on Gender Equity. She won the Levitan Prize.

Professor Mary Fuller (Literature) published "Images of English Origins in Newfoundland and Roanoke" in Decentering the Renaissance: Canada and Europe in Multidisciplinary Perspective, edited by Germaine Warkentin and Carolyn Podruchny.

Professor James D. Cain (Literature) delivered the conference paper "Unnatural History: Neo-Platonic Gender Categories and the Abuse of Nature in the Topographia Hibernica of Gerald of Wales" at the Politics and Aesthetics of Gender in the Middle Ages conference of the Illinois Medieval Association, February 2002. His paper "Sexy Beast: Gerald of Wales, the Wild Cow-boys of Ireland, and the Transmutation of Platonic Nature" was accepted for the Modern Language Association meeting, December 2002.

Professor Sally Haslanger (Philosophy) gave the keynote address "Social Geographies: Gender Identity, Racial Identity, Mixed Identities" at the Nordic Women in Philosophy annual conference, Reykjavik, Iceland. She gave another keynote, entitled "You Mixed? Racial Identity without Racial Biology," at the graduate student conference at Kent State University. Her paper "Gender, Race: (What) Are They? (What) Do We Want Them To Be?", published in Noûs, was selected as one of the 10 best articles to appear in 2000 by the Philosopher's Annual and was reprinted in volume 23 (2001). Professor Haslanger received the Scots Philosophy Club Centenary Fellowship at St. Andrew's University in Scotland, which entails the delivery of a series of lectures on gender and race this summer. She hosted the Society for Women in Philosophy, Eastern Division conference at MIT in April 2002. She co-organized the Workshop on Gender and Philosophy, consisting of monthly dinner meetings with presentations of work in progress by feminist philosophers in the Boston area ( She is a member of the editorial board for the APA Newsletter on Feminism and Philosophy and refereed a special issue on "Feminist Science Studies" for Hypatia, A Journal of Feminist Philosophy, for which she is the associate editor. She serves on the editorial boards of the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (online) and the Studies in Feminist Philosophy book series, published by Oxford University Press. Her ACLS fellowship is funding a project entitled "Embodied Meanings: Ontology and the Social Construction of Gender and Race."

Professor Emma Teng (Foreign Languages and Literatures) served on the National Advisory Board for The Women's History Museum.

Professor Thomas DeFrantz (Theater Arts) gave the invited lecture "Postcolonial Dancing Bodies" at the University of Minnesota.

Professors Brenda Cotto-Escalera (Theater Arts) and Heather Richardson (History) and Lecturer Margaret Burnham (Political Science) are all leaving the Institute as of June 2002.

Future Plans

Professor Wood will serve as the program director through AY2003. She is 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-areas particularly appropriate to Women's Studies at MIT.

Elizabeth A. Wood
Program Director
Associate Professor of History

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


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