News & Events

two smiling faculty members looking engaged and happy Feminisms Unbound

Four events in the series:

September 16th, 5:30 - 7:30 PM
November 18th, 5:30 - 7:30 PM
February 10th, 5:30 - 7:30 PM
April 13th, 5:30 - 7:39 PM

This Graduate Consortium in Women's Studies (GCWS) initiative, Feminisms Unbound, is an event series featuring debates that focus on feminist concerns, theories, and practices in this contemporary moment.  This series is intended to foster conversations and community among Boston-area feminist intellectuals and activists. The series, in its open configuration, endeavors to allow the greatest measure of engagement across multiple disciplinary trajectories, and a full array of feminist investments.  

The event organizers, who are also visiting scholars with the GCWS this year, are Kimberly Juanita Brown, Assistant Professor of English and Africana Studies, Mount Holyoke College, Lisa Lowe, Professor of English and American Studies, Tufts University, and Jyoti Puri, Professor of Sociology, Simmons College, have programmed the four events in this series.

Feminisms Unbound 2015-2016 Events

Public Feminisms: Roles, Responsibilities, Challenges
Wednesday, September 16th: 5:30 – 7:30 PM
Location: Building E51 Room 095, MIT Campus

Queer Diasporas and Futurities
Wednesday, November 18th: 5:30 – 7:30 PM
Location: The Moore Room, Building 6 Room 321, MIT Campus

New Terms in Feminist Studies
Wednesday, February 10th: 5:30 – 7:30 PM
Location: The Moore Room, Building 6 Room 321, MIT Campus

A Celebration of Books by GCWS Authors
Wednesday, April 13th: 5:30 – 7:30 PM
Location: The Moore Room, Building 6 Room 321, MIT Campus


Full event details and presenter bios:

Public Feminisms: Roles, Responsibilities, Challenges

Wednesday, September 16th: 5:30 – 7:30 PM
Location: Building E51 Room 095

At a moment when feminism’s relevance to the public sphere seems more urgent but also more contested than ever, this roundtable reflects on the promises and pitfalls of public feminisms. Bringing to bear their expertise, the invited participants address the possibilities of using film, social media, and popular writing as public forms of feminist intervention. In so doing, the discussion complicates questions of feminist engagements, their modalities, their “proper objects,” as well as troubles which feminisms stand in for Feminism proper and what counts as the public sphere. 

Roundtable discussion participants:

Amahl Bishara, Assistant Professor of Anthropology, Tufts University

Amahl Bishara's research revolves around expression, space, media, and settler colonialism. She is currently working on two book projects. The first, tentatively entitled "Permission to Converse: Laws, Bullets, and other Roadblocks to a Palestinian Exchange," addresses the relationship between Palestinian citizens of Israel and Palestinians in the West Bank, two groups that are positioned slightly differently in relation to Israeli settler-colonialism. The second ongoing project examines Palestinian popular politics in a West Bank refugee camp. It examines how Palestinians in this refugee camp strive to resist three authorities, the Israeli occupation, the Palestinian Authority administration, and the United Nations Relief Works Agency through struggles over land, water, bodies, and expression.

She is the author of Back Stories: U.S. News Production and Palestinian Politics (Stanford University Press 2013) and regularly writes for such outlets as Jadaliyya, Middle East Report. She has produced the documentary "Degrees of Incarceration" (2010), an hour-long documentary that explores how, with creativity and love, a Palestinian community responds to the crisis of political imprisonment and has been involved with the production of bilingual Arabic and English children's books about refugee lives, including The Boy and the Wall.

Caroline Light, Director of Undergraduate Studies, Program in Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality, Harvard University

Caroline Light is Director of Undergraduate Studies in Harvard’s Program in Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality. Her doctorate is in U.S. history, with particular focus on gender, race, and sexuality in immigration and consumer culture. She is the author of That Pride of Race and Character: The Roots of Jewish Benevolence in the Jim Crow South, (NYU Press, 2014), which explores how a southern, Jewish benevolent empire emerged in response to the combined pressures of post-Civil War devastation and the simultaneous influx of eastern European immigration. Light is currently working on a critical genealogy of contemporary “Stand Your Ground” (SYG) laws. The book (under contract with Beacon Press) explores the history of deadly self-defense in the United States, and the race and gender implications of our nation’s radical departure from English common law mandates to retreat in the face of danger. 

Kim Surkan, Lecturer, Women's and Gender Studies Program, MIT

Kim Surkan has taught in the Women's and Gender Studies Program at MIT since 2005. Dr. Surkan does interdisciplinary work in queer, feminist, and new media studies with a humanities focus, and is currently writing a series of articles on technology and the (trans)gendered body.

Moderator: Jyoti Puri, Professor of Sociology, Simmons College

Jyoti Puri is Professor of Sociology at Simmons College and works at the crossroads of sociology, sexuality and queer studies, and postcolonial feminist theory. Her new book, Sexual States: Governance and the Struggle against the Antisodomy Law in India, is forthcoming with Duke University Press (February 2016). She has published books, articles, chapters, and journal special issues on sexuality, state, gender, and nationalism, including Woman, Body, Desire in Post-colonial India (Routledge 1999) and Encountering Nationalism, (Blackwell Publishers 2004). She is a co-editor for the journal, Foucault Studies.     


Queer Diasporas and Futurities

Wednesday, November 18th: 5:30 – 7:30 PM
Location: The Moore Room, Building 6 Room 321

Our roundtable explores the ways in which both "queerness" and "diaspora" each displace normative classifications of sexuality and nationality, with consequences for the imagination of "futurity" in literature, visual culture, and cultural politics. As queerness complicates the boundedness of an ethnic, national or religious collectivity that desires to reproduce its own identity, so may diaspora unsettle the normative white Europeanness of conceptions of same-sex desire. Presenters discuss how diaspora figures both geographical displacement and the crossing of figurative boundaries of person, culture, society, and state, and they elaborate ways that queering describes not only different embodiments of gender and sexuality, but also a skewing of normative epistemology and social organization.

Roundtable discussion participants:

Feng-Mei Heberer, Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow, MIT

Feng-Mei Heberer studied film and comparative literature in Germany, France, China, and the US. Her research explores Asian and Asian diasporic media cultures, in particular how they partake in and represent contemporary conditions of globalization. She is currently working on her book manuscript on Asian diasporic video in North America, Western Europe, and East Asia, examining how these visual works stage and theorize new forms of minoritarian belonging. In addition, Feng-Mei is involved in programming for several Asian diasporic film festivals.

Umayyah Cable, PhD Student, Department of American Studies and Ethnicity, University of Southern California

Umayyah Cable has a BA in American studies from Smith College and is currently a doctoral candidate in the department of American Studies and Ethnicity at the University of Southern California. Her dissertation, Cinematic Activism: Palestinian Cultural Politics in Diaspora, focuses on how and why Palestinian cinema—through films and film festivals—has emerged as a site around which Palestinians in the US organize their social justice activism and assert their diasporic identification with Palestine. Umayyah is the recipient of the USC Graduate School Dissertation Completion Fellowship and was recently cited as an Emerging Diversity Scholar by the National Center for Institutional Diversity.

Fatima El-Tayeb, Professor of Literature, University of California San Diego

Fatima El-Tayeb is a scholar of African and comparative diaspora, critical gender studies, queer of color critique, visual culture studies, and media theory. She is the author of European Others: Queering Ethnicity in Postnational Europe (U Minnesota, 2011) and articles on topics such as queer heterotopia, queer Muslims in Europe, and transnational feminism.  She is also a filmmaker, and with Angela Maccarone, made Alles vird gut/Everything will be fine, (1997). 

Fourth roundtable participant TBD

Moderator: Lisa Lowe, Professor of English, Tufts University

Lisa Lowe works in the fields of comparative literature, comparative colonialisms, and the cultural politics of migration.  She has authored books on orientalism, immigration and globalization. Her most recent, The Intimacies of Four Continents (Duke UP, 2015), is a study of settler colonialism, transatlantic African slavery, and the East Indies and China trades.  With Jack Halberstam, she coedits the book series, Perverse Modernities, for Duke University Press.


New Terms in Feminist Studies

Wednesday, February 10th: 5:30 – 7:30 PM
Location: The Moore Room, Building 6 Room 321

This panel will feature three feminist scholars who are conceptualizing new and evolving terminologies for the discourse of race, gender, and sexuality studies.  The panelists, each trained interdisciplinarily, will consider the expansiveness of emerging language in the field along with the fraught limitations of contemporary keywords within feminism.  The scholars will offer new terms for contemporary feminist studies, across and beyond disciplinary frameworks.  Specifically, this event will utilize the multi-valent rubrics of digital media, film, and dance to participate in new ways of seeing and thinking through the field.

Roundtable discussion participants:

Moya Bailey, Postdoctoral Fellow, Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program and Digital Humanities, Northeastern University

Moya Bailey is a postdoctoral scholar of Women’s Studies and Digital Humanities at Northeastern University. Her work focuses on marginalized groups’ use of digital media to promote social justice as acts of self-affirmation and health promotion. She is interested in how race, gender, and sexuality are represented in media and medicine. She currently curates the #transformDH Tumblr initiative in Digital Humanities. She is also the digital alchemist for the Octavia E. Butler Legacy Network.

Pooja Rangan, Assistant Professor of English and Film and Media Studies, Amherst College

Pooja Rangan is Assistant Professor of English in Film and Media Studies at Amherst College. Her book, Immediations (Duke University Press, forthcoming 2017) examines the humanitarian impulse in documentary, with a special focus on questions of childhood, animality, ethnicity, and disability. Rangan’s writing has been published in differences, Camera Obscura, Film Quarterly, Feminist Media Histories, South Asian Popular Culture, World Picture, and other anthologies and journals. She serves on the board of the Flaherty Film Seminar. 


Jasmine Elizabeth Johnson, Assistant Professor of African and Afro-American Studies and Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, Brandeis University

Jasmine Elizabeth Johnson is an Assistant Professor of African & Afro-American and Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Brandeis University. A Ford Foundation Diversity Fellow, she earned her Ph.D. in African Diaspora Studies at UC Berkeley and served as the Postdoctoral Fellow in African American Studies at Northwestern University.  Johnson's work examines the politics of black movement including dance, diasporic travel, and gentrification. Interdisciplinary in nature, her work is situated at the intersection of diaspora theory, dance and performance studies, ethnography, and black feminism. Currently, Johnson is working on her book manuscript "Rhythm Nation: West African Dance and the Politics of Diaspora," forthcoming from Oxford University Press.  Johnson is a founding member of The Collegium for African Diaspora Dance. She is also a dancer, and performs internationally.

Moderator: Kimberly Juanita Brown, Assistant Professor of English and Africana Studies, Mount Holyoke College

Kimberly Juanita Brown is Assistant Professor of English and Africana Studies at Mount Holyoke College. Her work gathers at the intersection of contemporary literatures of the black diaspora and visual culture studies. Her book, The Repeating Body: Slavery's Visual Resonance in the Contemporary (Duke University Press) examines the proliferation of imagery emerging after the civil rights movement, and leading to a "failure of seeing" regarding black women's corporeal vulnerabilities. She is currently at work on a second project about images of the dead in the New York Times in 1994. Tentatively titled "Their Dead among Us: Photography, Melancholy, and the Politics of the Visual," the book will consider the place of photography within the sphere of transnational racial unbelonging.


A Celebration of Books of GCWS Authors

Wednesday, April 13th: 5:30 – 7:30 PM
Location: The Moore Room, Building 6 Room 321

Join us to celebrate recently published works on topics in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies.  The event will feature over 30 books published since 2013. The evening will include a book table where you can peruse copies of the featured works and very short book talks by our featured authors.  

The list of authors and books that we will be highlighting includes:


If you have a book you would like to feature at this event, please contact Andi Sutton, GCWS Program Manager, at


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Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 14N-211
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Cambridge, MA 02139
Phone: 617-324-2085