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Feminisms Unbound

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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, GCWS affiliated faculty Kimberly Juanita Brown, Visiting Scholar in Gender Studies, Pembroke Center, Brown University, Lisa Lowe, Professor of English and American Studies, Tufts University, and Jyoti Puri, Professor of Sociology, Simmons College,  have programmed four topic-based discussions in this series.

Feminisms Unbound 2014-2015 Events

The Intellectual Lives of Feminisms
Wednesday, September 17th: 5:30 – 7:30 PM
Location: Building E51 Room 095, MIT Campus

Sexualities, States, Governance
Wednesday, November 12th: 5:30 – 7:30 PM
Location: The Moore Room, Building 6 Room 321, MIT Campus

The Dark Room: Race and Gender in the Visual Archive
Wednesday, February 11th: 5:30 – 7:30 PM
Location: The Moore Room, Building 6 Room 321, MIT Campus

 A Celebration of Books by GCWS Authors
Wednesday, April 8th: 5:30 – 7:30 PM
Location: The Moore Room, Building 6 Room 321, MIT Campus


Full event details and presenter bios:

The Intellectual Lives of Feminisms

Wednesday, September 17th: 5:30 – 7:30 PM
Location: Building E51 Room 095

Feminist concerns multiply, as gender and sexuality continue to be ever more significant sites of power and privilege across the academic disciplines and in different social spheres. This inaugural roundtable features interdisciplinary scholars discussing the current stakes of feminist intellectual production and critique: from feminist critiques of racialized sexualities to feminist reinventions of family, from the politics of visibility to the persistent critiques of identity, inclusion, and normative individualism.
Roundtable discussion participants:

Aliyyah Abdur-Rahman, Associate Professor of English and African and Afro-American Studies, Brandeis University

Aliyyah Abdur-Rahman's research interests include 19th- to 21st-century American and African American literature and culture, gender and sexuality studies, and theories of race and racial formation. She is the author of Against the Closet: Black Political Longing and the Erotics of Race (Duke UP, 2012). She publishes widely on topics ranging from the relation of sexuality and social order in slave narratives to the impacts of Civil Rights retrenchment on black familial formation and function in the current, putatively “post-racial,” moment. A two-time winner of the Darwin T. Turner award for the best essay of the year in African American Review, she has received fellowships from the Ford Foundation, the Mellon Foundation, the American Association of University Women, and the Woodrow Wilson Foundation, among others.  In 2014-2015, she will be a visiting professor at the Graduate School of North American Studies at the Freie Universität of Berlin, where she will undertake research on a new book, tentatively titled Millennial Style: The Politics of Experiment in Contemporary African Diasporic Culture.

Suzanna Danuta Walters, Professor of Sociology and Director of the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program, Northeastern University

Suzanna Danuta Walters’ work is centered on questions of gender, sexuality, family, and popular culture and she is a frequent commentator on these issues for the media. Among her many publications are Lives Together/Worlds Apart:  Mothers and Daughters in Popular Culture (U California 1992), Material Girls: Making Sense of Feminist Cultural Theory (U California, 1995), All the Rage: The Story of Gay Visibility in America (U Chicago, 2001) and The Tolerance Trap: How God, Genes, and Good Intentions are Sabotaging Gay Equality (NYU, 2014).  Additionally, in 2004, Walters founded the first Ph.D. program in gender studies at Indiana University, where she was a Professor of Gender Studies and held positions in Sociology and Communication and Culture.

Jack Halberstam, Professor of English and American Studies and Ethnicity, and Director of the Center for Feminist Research, University of Southern California

Jack Halberstam works in the areas of popular, visual, and queer culture with an emphasis on subcultures. His publications include: Skin Shows: Gothic Horror and the Technology of Monsters (U Minnesota, 1995), In a Queer Time and Place: Transgender Bodies, Subcultural Lives (NYU, 2005), The Queer Art of Failure (Duke UP, 2011), Gaga Feminism: Sex, Gender, and the End of Normal (2012), among others.  In Female Masculinity (Duke UP, 1998), Halberstam argued that female masculinities are forms of social identity and cultural practice whose performances demonstrate the constructedness of masculinity, and which destabilize the relation of masculinity to male embodiment. Halberstam coauthored with Del LaGrace Volcano a photo/essay book, The Drag King Book (1999), with Ira Livingston, an anthology, Posthuman Bodies (1995), and with David Eng and José Esteban Muñoz, a special issue of Social Text, titled What’s Queer about Queer Studies Now? (Duke UP, 2005). 

Moderator: Lisa Lowe, Professor of English and American Studies, Tufts University

Lisa Lowe works in the fields of comparative literature, American Studies, Asian American Studies and the cultural politics of colonialism and migration.  She has authored books on orientalism, immigration and globalization. Her current work, The Intimacies of Four Continents, is a study of settler colonialism, transatlantic African slavery, and the East Indies and China trades, as the conditions for modern liberalism, forthcoming from Duke University Press in 2015. 


Sexualities, States, Governance

Wednesday, November 12th: 5:30 – 7:30 PM
Location: The Moore Room, Building 6 Room 321

Bringing together three interdisciplinary and leading edge scholars, this roundtable aims to promote a dialogue on the intimacies of sexuality and the complexities of governance. Historical and ongoing questions of how sexualities are governed in a variety of cultural contexts, the ways in which regulating sexuality impacts state institutions and governance practices, and the constitutive effects of gender, race, colonialism, nationalism will guide the discussions. Participants will inflect these discussions with critical insights from Anglophone literature in the Caribbean, constitutional law in the United States, and questions of radical resistance to U.S. imperialism.

Roundtable discussion participants:

Faith Smith, Associate Professor of African and Afro-American Studies, Women’s and Gender Studies, and English, Brandeis University

Faith Smith’s research and writing addresses the intellectual and literary history of the Caribbean, with a particular focus on Anglophone literature.  She also does work on popular culture, gender and sexuality, African diaspora aesthetics, African American literature, and postcolonial literature. Her publications include: Creole Recitations: John Jacob Thomas and Colonial Formation in the Late 19th-Century Caribbean (2002), Sex and the Citizen: Interrogating the Caribbean (2011), as well as numerous articles in journals and edited collections. She is currently working on the book manuscript, Whose Modern? Caribbean Cultural and Intellectual Formation, 1880-1915.

Libby Adler, Professor of Law, Northeastern University

Libby Adler teaches constitutional law, sexuality, gender, and the law, and family law. She has written extensively on sexuality, gender, family and children, including foster care, and draws heavily from queer and critical theory. She is a co-editor of the casebook Mary Joe Frug’s Women and the Law (4th ed.). She also has written about contemporary legal issues arising out of Nazism.

C. Heike Schotten, Associate Professor of Political Science and Affiliated Faculty, Women’s and Gender Studies, University of Massachusetts, Boston

C. Heike Shotten’s area of research lies at the unlikely intersection of Nietzsche studies, queer theory, and revolution.  She is particularly interested in thinking through what she calls “revolutionary desire” – the longing for radical social and political change – and studies its rhetorical and philosophical expressions within the history of political thought as well as within feminist and queer theory.  Her first book, Nietzsche’s Revolution: Décadence, Politics, and Sexuality (Palgrave, 2009), examined Nietzsche’s revolutionary desire and its connection with contemporary queer theory; her current work investigates the meaning of revolutionary desire in the 21st century, amidst both the demise of the sovereign nation-state and the rise of neoliberalism and a diffuse, global, U.S. empire.  Professor Schotten's articles have appeared in Politics & Gender and differences:  A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies.  She is currently at work on a book manuscript that uses queer theory to interrogate theories of sovereignty and imagine radical resistance to U.S. imperial power.   

Moderator: Jyoti Puri, Professor of Sociology, Simmons College

Jyoti Puri is Professor of Sociology at Simmons College. She writes and teaches at the crossroads of sociology, sexuality and queer studies, and postcolonial feminist theory. Her books include, Woman, Body, Desire in Post-colonial India (Routledge 1999) and Encountering Nationalism, (Blackwell Publishers 2004). She has also co-edited special issues of journals and published numerous articles and book chapters. Her current book, Sexual States: Governance and Anti-Sodomy Law in India’s Present, is under contract with Duke University Press. She is the recipient of fellowships and grants, including a Rockefeller Research Fellowship and a Fulbright Senior Research award. She served as Chair of the Section on Sex and Gender for the American Sociological Association and is currently a co-editor for the journal, Foucault Studies


The Dark Room: Race and Gender in the Visual Archive

Wednesday, February 11th: 5:30 – 7:30 PM
Location: The Moore Room, Building 6 Room 321

In the intellectual tributary that is critical race theory, all is connected.  Whether the task is elucidating the gendered trajectory of imperialism and violence in the United States, examining indigenous art forms in Latin America, or probing the interstices of Caribbean cultural production in the 20th century, critical race theorists have always engaged the world of the visual.  Bringing together scholars invested in the work of critical race studies as visual culture offers a unique vantage point through which to imagine the future of visual culture studies. The Dark Room is an interdisciplinary working group of scholars interested in theories of visuality and theories of racial formation.   In this roundtable each feminist scholar will select an image and interpret it in relation to its archive.

Roundtable discussion participants:

Nikki A. Greene, Assistant Professor of Art, Wellesley College

Nikki A. Greene is an Assistant Professor in the Art Department at Wellesley College. She received her Ph.D. in Art History from the University of Delaware in 2010. Her book project tentatively titled, “Rhythms of Glue, Grease, Grime, and Glitter: The Body in Contemporary African American Art,” featuring Romare Bearden, David Hammons, Renée Stout, and Radcliffe Bailey, considers the intersection between the body, African American identity, and the aural/musical possibilities of the visual. Her most recent articles include, “The Feminist Funk Power of Betty Davis and Renée Stout” in American Studies Journal (Fall 2013); and “Romare Bearden and the Hand of Jazz,” in the edited volume, Permeable Boundaries: Music and Visual Art (2014).

Sandy Alexandre, Associate Professor of Literature, MIT

Sandy Alexandre’s research spans the late nineteenth-century to present-day black American literature and culture. Her first book, The Properties of Violence: Claims to Ownership in Representations of Lynching (Mississippi 2012), uses the history of American lynching violence as a framework to understand matters concerning displacement, property ownership, and the American pastoral ideology in a literary context. She is currently writing a second book, Up From Chattels: Thinghood in an Ethics of Black Curation, which will take as its point of departure the premise that the former, enforced condition of black Americans as fungible merchandise can haunt, inform, and morally energize their own relationships to material objects. She has published articles in Mississippi Quarterly, Signs: Journal of Women in Culture & Society, Modern Drama, The Journal of American Drama and Theatre, and Criticism.

Irene Mata, Associate Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies, Wellesley College

Irene Mata is Associate Professor in the Women’s and Gender Studies Department at Wellesley College, where she teaches courses in Chican@/Latin@ literature and culture. Her research interests include the analysis of gender, labor, immigration, and representation in contemporary cultural productions and how current globalization projects have impacted the lives of women on the U.S./Mexico border area.  Her forthcoming book, Domestic Disturbances:  Re-imagining Narratives of Gender, Labor, and Immigration (UT Press Fall 2014), suggests a new way of looking at Chicana/Latina immigrant stories, not as a continuation of a literary tradition, but instead as a specific Latina genealogy of immigrant narratives that more closely engage with the conditions of immigration occurring in our current historical moment.

Marcia Chatelain, Assistant Professor of History, Georgetown University

Marcia Chatelain researches a wide array of issues in African-American history and and teaches about African-American migration, women's and girls' history, and food studies. Specifically, her work focuses on girls and girlhood in the Great Migration era, as well as the development of black food cultures and civil rights. Her book, forthcoming from Duke University Press in 2015, is South Side Girls: Growing Up in the Great Migration, and she has published in the journals Diplomatic History and Journal of Illinois History, among others.  She is currently researching a book about race and fast food.

Moderator: Kimberly Juanita Brown, Visiting Scholar in Gender Studies, Pembroke Center, Brown University

Kimberly Juanita Brown's research gathers at the intersection of critical race theory and visual culture studies.  Her book (forthcoming from Duke University Press), The Repeating Body: Slavery’s Visual Resonance in the Contemporary examines the proliferation of imagery, literary and visual, emerging after the Civil Rights Movement, and contributing to a “failure of seeing” regarding black women’s corporeal vulnerabilities.  She is currently at work on a second project examining images of the dead on the cover of the New York Times in 1994.  Her second book project, Their Dead Among Us: Photography, Melancholy, and The Politics of the Visual will explore the photographic dispossession of the body of the other and patterns of exclusion engendered by these ocular practices.


A Celebration of Books of GCWS Authors

Wednesday, April 8th: 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: 

Ping-Ann Addo: Creating a Nation with Cloth: Women, Wealth, and Tradition in the Tongan Diaspora (Berghahn Books, 2013)

Gannit Ankori: Frida Kahlo (University of Chicago Press, 2013)

Rosalind Barnett and Caryl Rivers: The New Soft War on Women: How the Myth of Female Ascendance is Hurting Women, Men – and Our Economy (Tarcher/Penguin, 2015)

Nancy Bauer: How to Do Things With Pornography (Harvard University Press, 2015)

Linda Blum: Raising Generation Rx: Mothering Kids with Invisible Disabilities in an Age of Inequality (NYU Press, 2015)

Sari Edelstein: Between the Novel and the News: The Emergence of American Women’s Writing (University of Virginia Press, 2014)

Shoshanna Ehrlich: Regulating Desire: From the Virtuous Maiden to the Purity Princess (SUNY Press, 2014)

Janet L. Freedman: Reclaiming the Feminist Vision: Consciousness-Raising and Small Group Practice (McFarland, 2014)Jill Greenlee: The Political Consequences of Motherhood (University of Michigan Press, 2014)

Shahla Haeri: Law of Desire: Temporary Marriage in Shi’i Iran (Revised Edition) (Syracuse University Press, 2014)

Karen Hansen: Encounter on the Great Plains: Scandinavian Settlers and the Dispossession of Dakota Indians, 1890-1930 (Oxford University Press, 2013)

Hilde Hein: Museums and Public Art: A Feminist Vision

Sharlene Hesse-Biber: Waiting for Cancer to Come: Genetic Testing and Women’s Medical decision Making for Breast and Ovarian Cancer (University of Michigan Press, 2014)and Feminist Research Practice: A Primer (2nd Edition) (Sage Publications, 2013)

Holly Jackson: American Blood: The Ends of the Family in American Literature, 1850-1900 (Oxford University Press, 2014)

Carla Kaplan: Miss Anne in Harlem: The White Women of the Black Renaissance (Harper Perennial, 2013)

Sue Lanser: The Sexuality of History: Modernity and the Sapphic, 1565-1830 (University of Chicago Press, 2014)

Sue Lanser and Robyn Warhol: Narrative Theory Unbound: Queer and Feminist Interventions (Ohio State University Press, 2015)

Sarah Leonard: Fragile Minds and Vulnerable Souls: The Matter of Obscenity in Nineteenth-Century Germany (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2015)

Caroline Light: That Race of Pride and Character: The Roots of Jewish Benevolence in the Jim Crow South (NYU Press, 2014)

Lisa Lowe: The Intimacies of Four Continents (Duke University Press, 2015)

Elizabeth Maddock Dillon: New World Drama: The Performative Commons in the Atlantic World, 1649-1849 (Duke University Press, 2014)

Bruno Perreau: The Politics of Adoption: Gender and the Making of French Citizenship (MIT Press, 2014)

Sarah Pinto: Daughters of Parvati: Women and Madness in Contemporary India (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2014)

Lois Rudnick: The Suppressed Memoirs of Mabel Dodge Luhan: Sex, Syphilis, and Psychoanalysis and the Making of Modern American Culture (University of New Mexico Press, 2012)

Roberta Salper: Domestic Subversive: A Feminist’s Look at the Left (Anaphora Literary Press, 2014)

Harleen Singh: The Rani of Jhansi: Gender, History, and Fable in India (Cambridge University Press, 2014)

Emma Teng: Eurasian: Mixed Identities in the United States, China, and Hong Kong, 1842-1943 (University of California Press, 2013)

Berna Turam: Gaining Freedoms: Claiming Space in Istanbul and Berlin (Stanford University Press, 2015)

Suzanna Walters: The Tolerance Trap: How God, Genes, and Good Intentions are Sabotaging Gay Equality (NYU Press, 2014)

Monica White Ndounou: Shaping the Future of African American Film: Color-Coded Economics and the Story Behind the Numbers (Rutgers University Press, 2014)

Judith Wilt: Women Writers and the Hero of Romance (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014)



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