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Contributors

ABOUT THE EDITORS

CATHERINE M. ORR is Professor and Chair of Women’s and Gender Studies at Beloit College. Her work has been published in Women’s Studies Quarterly, Hypatia, NWSA Journal, and Feminist Collections. She served as National Conference Chair for the National Women’s Studies Association (2006–08). Her research and teaching focuses on disciplinarity, feminist theorizing, whiteness, and popular culture. She enjoys thinking broadly about the productivity and limitations inherent in the life of institutions and disciplines, especially Women's and Gender Studies.

ANN BRAITHWAITE is Associate Professor and Director of Women’s Studies at the University of Prince Edward Island. She is co-author of Troubling Women’s Studies (2004), co-editor of Atlantis: A Women’s Studies Journal, and former President of the Canadian Women’s Studies Association /L’association canadienne des études sur les femmes. Her current research interests include thinking about disciplinarity and how definitions of Women’s and Gender Studies are reflected in curricular decisions, and a new project tentatively titled Women’s Studies without Feminism.

DIANE LICHTENSTEIN is Professor of English and former Chair of Women’s Studies as well as of Interdisciplinary Studies at Beloit College. She co-edited a special issue of Women’s Studies Quarterly (1999) focused on feminist activism and Women’s Studies, and a cluster of essays on “locations” in the NWSA Journal (2005). She has also published Writing Their Nations: The Tradition of Nineteenth-Century American Jewish Women Writers (1992) and articles on U.S. women writers as well as feminist collaborative leadership.

ABOUT OTHER CONTRIBUTORS

AIMEE CARRILLO ROWE is Associate Professor of Communication Studies at California State University, Northridge, and author of Power Lines: On the Subject of Feminist Alliances (2008). She works with ethnographic, popular, literary, and performance-based texts in the fields of Women's Studies, Ethnic Studies, and Cultural Studies. Her current project, Pasando Tiempo: Chicano/a Performance as Recovery, traces how Chicana/o performance resists and rewrites U.S. assimilationist imperatives to generate multiple forms of recovery.

KARLYN CROWLEY is Associate Professor of English and Director of Women’s and Gender Studies at St. Norbert College. She has published Feminism's New Age: Gender, Appropriation, and the Afterlife of Essentialism (2011) as well as articles in publications such as Gastronomica and Stories of Oprah: The Oprahfication of American Culture (2009). Her current research continues her interest in gender essentialism, spirituality, and alternative culture by analyzing natural childbirth and parenting practices.

ASTRID HENRY is Associate Professor of Gender, Women’s, and Sexuality Studies and English at Grinnell College. She is the author of Not My Mother’s Sister: Generational Conflict and Third-Wave Feminism (2004) and has chapters in a number of anthologies including Different Wavelengths: Studies of the Contemporary Women’s Movement (2005) and Catching A Wave: Reclaiming Feminism for the 21st Century (2003). She serves on the Executive Council of the National Women’s Studies Association. Her current book project is a study of contemporary memoirs by U.S. feminists.

MERRI LISA JOHNSON is Associate Professor and Director of the Center for Women’s and Gender Studies at the University of South Carolina Upstate. She has edited or co-edited: On the Literary Nonfiction of Nancy Mairs (2011); Third Wave Feminism and Television (2007); Flesh for Fantasy: Producing and Consuming Exotic Dance(2006); and Jane Sexes It Up: True Confessions of Feminist Desire (2002). She has also published a memoir, Girl in Need of a Tourniquet (2010) and currently serves as president of the Southeastern Women's Studies Association.

WENDY KOLMAR is Professor of English and Director of Women's Studies at Drew University. She has served on the Governing Council and the Program Administrators and Directors Council of National Women’s Studies Association and serves frequently as a program reviewer and consultant for WGS programs around the United States. She is currently working on the supernatural stories of the Anglo-Indian writer, Alice Perrin, and on the fourth edition of Feminist Theory: A Reader.

SUSANNE LUHMANN is Associate Professor of Women’s Studies at the University of Alberta. She is a co-author of Troubling Women’s Studies: Pasts, Presents, and Possibilities (2004) and is currently working on a book manuscript tentatively titled Domesticating the Nazi Past: The Public Life of Familiar Memory.

VIVIAN M. MAY is Associate Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies at Syracuse University and is the author of Anna Julia Cooper, Visionary Black Feminist (2007). She has published articles in journals such as Hypatia, African American Review, Callaloo, and NWSA Journal and serves on the Feminist Formations board. She is working on a book, Intersectionality: Theories, Histories, Practices, to be published by Routledge, and she served as Co-Chair of the 2009 and 2010 National Women’s Studies Association conferences.

LAYLI MAPARYAN is Associate Professor of Women’s Studies and Associated Faculty of African American Studies at Georgia State University. She is the editor of The Womanist Reader (2006) and author of The Womanist Idea (2012). In 2009, she received a Contemplative Practice Fellowship from the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society.  Currently, she is working with the University of Liberia, where she served in 2010 as a Fulbright Specialist to help establish a Gender Studies Program.

MARTHA McCAUGHEY is Professor of Sociology at Appalachian State University, where she also directed the Women's Studies Program. She is the author of The Caveman Mystique: Pop-Darwinism and the Debates over Sex, Violence, and Science (2008) and Real Knockouts: The Physical Feminism of Women’s Self-Defense (1997). She edited the second edition of the Women's Studies Program Administrators' Handbook (National Women’s Studies Association) and has served on the Southeastern Women’s Studies Association Executive Committee.

SCOTT LAURIA MORGENSEN is Assistant Professor in the Department of Gender Studies at Queens University. He is the author of Spaces Between Us: Queer Settler Colonialism and Indigenous Decolonization (2011) and co-editor of Queer Indigenous Studies: Critical Interventions in Theory, Politics, and Literature (2011). His current research projects examine the colonial biopolitics of global AIDS, racism and settler colonialism in Canadian queer politics, and histories of queer men in Women’s and Gender Studies.

BOBBY NOBLE is Associate Professor of English and Sexuality Studies at York University.  He has published Sons of the Movement: FtMs Risking Incoherence in a Post-Queer Cultural Landscape(2006) and Masculinities without Men? (2004), and co-edited The Drag King Anthology (2003). He is currently the Principal Investigator on a new, multi-year, funded study: The Feminist Porn Archive and Research Project.

LAURA PARISI is Assistant Professor of Women’s Studies at the University of Victoria. Her articles have appeared in journals such as Politics and Gender, Journal of Human Rights, and Canadian Foreign Policy. Her current research focuses on the gender mainstreaming practices of human rights and development non-governmental organizations. She recently served as the elected 2011 Program Chair for the Feminist Theory and Gender Studies Section of the International Studies Association.

ALISON PIEPMEIER is Associate Professor of English and Director of Women's and Gender Studies at the College of Charleston. She is the author of Girl Zines: Making Media, Doing Feminism (2009) and Out in Public: Configurations of Women's Bodies in Nineteenth-Century America(2004) as well as co-editor of Catching a Wave: Reclaiming Feminism for the 21st Century (2003). Her current book project examines prenatal testing and selective abortion from the perspective of feminist disability studies. She has served as Regional Representative and Elections Chair on the National Women's Studies Association Governing Council.

JENNIFER PURVIS is Associate Professor of Feminist Theory and Director of Women’s Studies at the University of Alabama. She has written “Grrrls and Women Together in the Third Wave: Embracing the Challenges of Intergenerational Feminism(s)” (2004) and is currently working on a book manuscript focused on queer feminist futurity and alternative modalities of revolt across feminist “generations.” She has served as the Southeast Regional Co-Chair of the National Women’s Studies Association.

KATHERINE SIDE is Associate Professor in and Head of the Department of Women’s Studies, Memorial University of Newfoundland. Her research has been published in NWSA Journal and the Journal of International Women’s Studies. She also publishes on human rights in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. She is President of the Canadian Women’s Studies Association /L’association canadienne des études sur les femmes and past holder of the Margaret Laurence Scholar in Residence in Gender and Women’s Studies, Brandon University.

Overview

PART 1 — FOUNDATIONAL ASSUMPTIONS
The chapters in this first section focus on key terms that have defined the intellectual premises of Women’s and Gender Studies from its inception. “Feminism,” “Interdisciplinarity,” “Methods,” and “Pedagogy” speak to the earliest claims about the field’s intention to stake out a different approach in U.S. and Canadian higher education.

  • Section description
  • Points to Ponder

PART 2 — UBIQUITOUS DESCRIPTIONS
This section brings together key terms that have come to dominate how we in Women’s and Gender Studies describe ourselves, especially in relation to others.“Activism,” “Waves,” “Besiegement,” and “Community” point to narratives that are central to how the field consistently positions itself both historically and institutionally.

  • Section description
  • Points to Ponder

PART 3 — EPISTEMOLOGIES RETHOUGHT
“Intersectionality,” “Identity (Politics),” and “Queer” are terms identified here as posing deep challenges not only to how knowledge in Women’s and Gender Studies has been produced, but to how the field has accounted—or not—for complex and intimate sets of relations between identities and knowledges.

  • Section description
  • Points to Ponder

PART 4 — SILENCES AND DISAVOWALS
The four terms brought together in this section, “Discipline,” “History,” “Secularity,” and “Sexuality,” point to a series of unacknowledged assumptions that, their authors argue, Women’s and Gender Studies has alternatively denied, renounced, or failed to recognize as part of the field.

  • Section description
  • Points to Ponder

PART 5 — ESTABLISHMENT CHALLENGES
This last section brings together “Trans-,” “Institutionalization,” and “Transnational” as terms that demand that we (re)consider the institutional arrangements that structure the ways in which we practice Women’s and Gender Studies in the academy.

  • Section description
  • Points to Ponder

PART 1 — FOUNDATIONAL ASSUMPTIONS

The chapters in this first section focus on key terms that have defined the intellectual premises of Women’s and Gender Studies (WGS) from its inception. “Feminism,” “Interdisciplinarity,” “Methods,” and “Pedagogy” speak to the earliest claims about WGS’ intention to stake out a different approach in U.S. and Canadian higher education. That WGS was feminist (as opposed to simply focusing on content about women or gender), that it was interdisciplinary (rather than working within a single traditional discipline), and that it had its own distinctive methodological and pedagogical approaches grounded in new epistemologies that asked new questions in both research and classroom contexts have all constituted the field’s core assumptions for more than forty years. Contributors in this section, then, take up the legacies of these foundational assumptions, mapping their functions in the field at the same time as raising concerns about them.
Each of the terms in this section will be familiar to practitioners of WGS as central to the way we understand the field, so central, in fact, that we seldom stop to think about them anymore. The authors here suggest, however, that simply accepting the current usage of these terms without raising questions about the consequences of that usage has meant WGS has shied away from difficult dialogues about how the discipline might fall short of its own goals. Is feminism the most effective philosophical and political position from which to attain the social justice goals WGS claims as its core mission? Does the claim of interdisciplinarity really enable WGS to accomplish its critiques of knowledge production in the academy?  What alternate possibilities might be opened up by critiquing methods of other disciplines as androcentric or marginalizing already disenfranchised peoples beyond simply advancing an alternative set of methods exclusive to WGS? And what kinds of uninterrogated assumptions about the experiences and identities of WGS students go along with a pedagogical mission aimed at certain kinds of conversion experiences?

POINTS TO PONDER

  1. What are some other ways in which “Feminism,” “Interdisciplinarity,” “Methods,” and “Pedagogy” are evident in the everyday talk of WGS? What assumptions about the field do they point to? Given the arguments of these chapters, how might those be challenged—and changed?
  2. How might Luhmann’s complication of “Pedagogy” as (feminist) liberation converse with Maparyan’s idea that WGS might organize itself around a “liberatory impulse” rather than an ideological rendering of feminism?
  3. Does the “ignorance” associated with Lichtenstein’s reading of “Interdisciplinarity” and the “anxiety” associated with Side’s reading of “Methods” shape a WGS curriculum that undergirds the primacy (and thereby power) of more traditional disciplines? Why or why not?

PART 2 — UBIQUITOUS DESCRIPTIONS

This section brings together key terms that have come to dominate how we in Women’s and Gender Studies (WGS) describe ourselves, especially in relation to others.“Activism,” “Waves,” “Besiegement,” and “Community” point to narratives that are central to how the field consistently positions itself both historically and institutionally. For example, we may (and do) debate what counts as activism or whether and how it is and isn’t recognized as part of our work in the university, but we don’t usually question its role in establishing a unique identity for the field compared to other disciplines. Likewise, we may discuss where a  wave  begins and ends or even who and what gets included in one or another of them, but we rarely challenge the concept itself as a useful one for talking about differences in generations or historical moments in WGS.

The authors of these chapters argue that there are costs or consequences to how particular versions of these concepts have become acceptable while alternatives have not. How does the activist mandate actually work against the political engagement of WGS in the world outside of its disciplinary borders? What narratives of the field’s historical foundations does the wave metaphor reinforce and which ones does it push aside? What understandings of the field’s institutionalizaton and position in the academy, to say nothing of its intellectual work, does the besiegement narrative foster? How do the expectations of community—both within and outside of WGS—denigrate the work that WGS practitioners actually do?

POINTS TO PONDER

  1. How do the assumptions outlined in the chapters about “Activism,” “Waves,” and “Community” together ground ideas about what WGS is or should be about? What (and who), according to these authors, might be left out of WGS because of those assumptions?
  2. What are some ways in which the “Besiegement” narrative solidifies or feeds into related narratives about the need for “Community” inside of the academy and/or “Activism” on the outside of it? What happens to WGS if these narratives of “Community” and “Activism” are relinquished?
  3. Is there a construct we might devise to understand the history of WGS that does not use “Waves,” perhaps another metaphor that more accurately or less problematically describes its history? What might be some possibilities—and limitations—in any new metaphor? 

PART 3 — EPISTEMOLOGIES RETHOUGHT

“Intersectionality,” “Identity (Politics),” and “Queer” are terms identified here as posing deep challenges not only to how knowledge in Women’s and Gender Studies (WGS) has been produced, but to how the field has accounted—or not—for complex and intimate sets of relations between identities and knowledges. Through their use in WGS, these terms have worked to draw our attention to the idea that starting from the experiences of particular groups of people, especially those who are marginalized by particular forms of structural inequalities, reveals that there are different “truths” about the world, and different ways of knowing. Thus, these terms have highlighted the idea that knowledge is always partial, situated, ever changing, and most of all, subject to relations of power. As such, these are terms that have both helped raise a number of questions about the assumed subject(s) of the field and demanded that we think more carefully about what, or more particularly who, is overlooked, ignored, or lost in any claims to knowledge, especially knowledge produced in WGS contexts.

Asking questions such as “which women?,” “who are women?,” and “why focus only on women?,” all identified perceived absences in early WGS, and challenged the field to rethink how it conceptualized knowledge all together. However, what intrigues the authors in this section is that even these terms that signal both difference from and inclusion in more recent WGS practices too often continue to render some knowledges overlooked or unintelligible. These authors thus turn their gaze back onto WGS itself, noting how its own attempts to correct past oversights require further investigation. When are claims to thinking intersectionally not actually inclusive? Why are the knowledges that emerge from the recognition (and politicization) of certain identity formations so often oversimplified in the field’s renderings of itself? How do the most radical questions grounded in the field’s pasts become all but incoherent to current WGS practitioners? 

POINTS TO PONDER

  1. How would the core knowledges of WGS shift if “Intersectionality,” “Identity (Politics),” or “Queer”—as outlined by their authors—operated as a central epistemological framework? What specific practices or intellectual assumptions would be challenged—and changed?
  2. What are some of the ways to account for the paradox of nominal inclusion and frequent lack of impact on knowledge produced that the chapters on “Intersectionality” and “Identity (Politics)” identify? What do both chapters challenge about the assumed relationship between identities and knowledge in WGS?
  3. How might WGS heed Purvis’ call to embrace “homelessness” in pedagogical, administrative, and institutional contexts? What would a “homeless” WGS have to give up—and what would it gain?

PART 4 — SILENCES AND DISAVOWALS

The four terms brought together in this section challenge Women’s and Gender Studies (WGS) practitioners to continue to think about the absences and oversights in the field, this time focusing especially on underlying constructs that have not been, and perhaps cannot be or must not be, spoken of in WGS. Terms such as “Discipline,” “History,” “Secularity,” and “Sexuality” bring to the forefront a series of unacknowledged assumptions that, their authors argue, WGS has alternatively denied, renounced, or failed to recognize as part of the field. Much as with the foundational assumptions or ubiquitous descriptions terms, the argument here is that these terms also structure the field: what is gained—as well as lost—by denying WGS’s status as a discipline? How does an inattention to the complexity of the field’s pasts limit the kinds of questions WGS practitioners raise in the present? In what ways does the field’s assumed secularity work against its goals for inclusivity? What are alternative ways of talking about sexuality in the field that can account for the nuances and complexities of locations, and move beyond simple binaries of pleasure and danger? 

Each of these terms in many ways intersects with other terms thus far in this book. “Discipline,” for instance, obviously connects to “interdisciplinarity,” but also to “feminism” and “activism” in that it asks why WGS has long claimed not to be a discipline yet acted as if all academic (and other) feminist work anywhere constitutes the field. “History” looks at the ways in which WGS has, and has not, rendered versions of a past in its structure and curriculum, clearly linking with discussions in “waves” and “pedagogy,” and questioning the consequences when the present is reflected as more complex and nuanced than the past. The long unacknowledged presumption that WGS is “secular” has, its author contends, structured the field in its relationships to (only particular versions of) “feminism,” with repercussions for the goals explicated in “intersectionality” and “identity (politics).” And while “sexuality” could clearly be inserted into many other sections in this book, its presence in this section highlights its author’s argument that WGS has conceptualized this term in such narrow ways, often reverting to the simple binary between pleasure and danger and thereby rendering silent other possibilities, and other necessary narratives.

POINTS TO PONDER

  1. In what ways can we “read” silences in WGS disciplinary contexts? Does every silence need to be spoken of and remedied? Can all silences ever be broken, and what they reveal be included in WGS? 
  2. How might the refusal of WGS to call itself a discipline perpetuate the endless deferral of difficult questions such as those posed by “History,” “Secularity,” and “Sexuality?” How do these chapters use core assumptions of WGS to expose these silences and demand their redress as necessary to the future(s) of the field?
  3. Does an academic discipline need a history? How does a past “matter”; that is, what impact do alternate views of WGS “pasts” have on the field?

PART 5 — ESTABLISHMENT CHALLENGES

This last section brings together “Trans-,” “Institutionalization,” and “Transnational,” terms that demand that we (re)consider the institutional arrangements that structure the ways in which we practice Women’s and Gender Studies (WGS) in the academy. They each start with an observation about how WGS is practiced in university contexts and draw attention to the field’s various forms of “complicity” in its institutional demands—pedagogically, administratively, and intellectually. In doing this, though, they also lay bare some of the consequences for the field, noting especially the exclusions reflected and questions never asked by way of these arrangements. How, for example, has WGS fomented a form of gender panic in the midst of its own revolutionary questions about gendered identities? How has the oft-told tale of the field’s institutionalization in the academy and its subsequent loss of political effectiveness actually kept us from telling another story of institutionalization, one that emphasizes the racialized scripts in play between white women, women of color, and white men in that structure?  What has the trend to “internationalize” WGS meant for its abilities to maintain its critical edge within the contexts of the increasingly globalized university that rewards capital’s demand for flexible subjectivities?

As with all the terms thus far, the three here could easily be combined with others from this book, highlighting other conversations and overlaps. Here, though, they work together to challenge a variety of practices in the field, from assumptions about “(in)appropriate” bodies and identities, to intellectual and pedagogical practices that all belie the stated aims of WGS. In some ways bouncing off of other ubiquitous descriptions of the field, such as “activism,” “besiegement,” or “community,” these terms also refuse easy binaries of inside/outside academe but instead explore how WGS operates institutionally in complex and even paradoxical ways. Each offers a challenge to WGS’ institutional arrangements, and asks: how else could we “do” WGS? What would the field look like intellectually and institutionally if arranged around another set of questions, narratives, and mandates? What happens when particular bodies, ideas, and practices seem too far (for some people) from WGS? Or too close (for some people) to the university? WGS, these authors argue, cannot escape accounting for its own positioning in contemporary institutions of higher education as well as for what has had to be shunted aside in its current arrangements in those contexts.

POINTS TO PONDER

  1. In what ways do “Trans-,” “Institutionalization,” and “Transnational” speak to WGS’ difficulties in resisting “the colonizing function” of the institutions of which it is a part? How do they complicate simple notions of complicity with or resistance to dominant structures and discourses?
  2. How do “Trans-” and “Institutionalization” challenge the focus on “women” in WGS? What do their arguments suggest about the field’s identity, and its possible future(s)?
  3. How does “Trans-“ as a method help us rethink the nationalist discourses that, as “Transnational” argues, ironically undergird the university’s contemporary mission to “internationalize?”