Tag Archive for Feminist Gender and Sexuality Studies

Ulysse’s Essay Says U.S. Foreign Food Aid Policy Undermines Farmers in Haiti

Gina Athena UlysseIn her latest essay on The Huffington PostProfessor of Anthropology Gina Athena Ulysse takes on the matter of U.S. foreign food aid policy vis-a-vis Haiti, which she writes is undermining farmers in the Caribbean nation. She focuses on mamba, the Kreyòl word for peanut butter, which she fondly recalls being made by locals when she was growing up in Haiti.

“To me, mamba is as quintessentially Haitian as basketball is (North) American. Now, it faces risks as another charitable gift of food aid undermines Haitian autonomy by threatening to bench local farmers’ peanuts production, our cultural practices, and even our tastes,” she writes. “This is not our first time. Haiti has been tripped up by the U.S. before.”

Ulysse quotes retired Wesleyan Professor of Sociology Alex Dupuy, who puts this in historical context: “First, the U.S. destroys Haitian agriculture by compelling the then Aristide government to lower tariffs to a level lower than anywhere else in the Caribbean, and then exports its own subsidized agricultural goods (rice, cereals, chickens, etc.) to the country, as former President Clinton acknowledged with crocodile tears. Now, it is dumping its subsidized peanuts on Haiti and undermining the ability of Haitian farmers to increase peanut production. The hypocrisy never stops, and Haiti’s own sycophantic government officials are all too willing to abide them in their destructive policies for the crumbs they get in return.”

Ulysse concludes by urging President Barack Obama to “address this foul play” and “avoid another post-presidential apology that Haiti’s people and fragile economy can actually do without.”

Ulysse also is professor of feminist, gender and sexuality studies.

Chronicle Publishes Excerpt from Crosby’s New Memoir

The Chronicle of Higher Education has published an excerpt from a new memoir by Christina Crosby, professor of English, professor of feminist, gender and sexuality studies. The book, A Body, Undone: Living On After Great Pain, is due out later this month from NYU Press.

Crosby tells the story of how her life changed after a bicycle accident in 2003, just after her 50th birthday, left her paralyzed. According to the publisher, “In A Body, Undone, Crosby puts into words a broken body that seems beyond the reach of language and understanding. She writes about a body shot through with neurological pain, disoriented in time and space, incapacitated by paralysis and deadened sensation. To address this foreign body, she calls upon the readerly pleasures of narrative, critical feminist and queer thinking, and the concentrated language of lyric poetry. Working with these resources, she recalls her 1950s tomboy ways in small-town, rural Pennsylvania, and records growing into the 1970s through radical feminism and the affirmations of gay liberation.”

Read the excerpt here.

 

Ulysse: ‘Ode to Haiti’s Neo-Comedians’

Gina Athena UlysseGina Athena Ulysse, professor of anthropology, professor of feminist, gender and sexuality studies, writes an “Ode to Haiti’s Neo-Comedians” in The Huffington Post about Haiti’s recently cancelled election runoff. The title of her essay refers to Graham Greene’s The Comedians, a book whose description read: “Set in Haiti, amid an atmosphere of brutal force and terror-ridden love, three desperate people work out their strange destinies.”

Ulysse writes:

Relevance of The Comedians is apparent in Haiti’s recently cancelled election runoff that was set for this past Sunday. Indeed, until then, the outgoing president Michel Martelly, a chap with dictatorial tendencies who leads the “Bald Headed Haitian Party”—insisted on proceeding with business as usual. His would-be successor, Jovonel Moïse the so-called leading candidate, is eager to turn Haiti into a “banana republic,” a discursive play on his plantain plantation commerce. The opposition, Jude Celestin, boycotted the event and penned an op-ed disavowing the impending masquerade as a total farce. The masses who continue to suffer were being forced once again to absorb this electoral crisis and participate in a “selection,” as they say in the local parlance. It is hard to discern which is more comic and/or tragic in these instances.

“Surely you jest,” I say to myself in a mocking tone as elders decry, “the country has lost its dignity,” knowing full well that my late grandmother would use expletives.

McAlister Authors New Paper on the Militarization of Prayer in America

Professor of Religion Elizabeth McAlister is the author of a new paper, “The Militarization of Prayer in America: White and Native American Spiritual Warfare” published Jan. 4 in the Journal of Religious and Political Practice.

In the article, McAlister examines how militarism has come to be one of the generative forces of the prayer practices of millions of Christians across the globe. She focuses on the articulation between militarization and aggressive forms of prayer, especially the evangelical warfare prayer developed by North Americans since the 1980s. Against the backdrop of the rise in military spending and neoliberal economic policies, spiritual warfare evangelicals have taken on the project of defending the United States on the “spiritual” plane. They have elaborated a complex theology and prayer practice with a highly militarized discourse and set of rituals for doing “spiritual battle” and conducting “prayer strikes” on the “prayer battlefield.” The research draws on ethnographic fieldwork at an intensive spiritual warfare boot camp organized by a group of Native Americans who have founded a training base in Oklahoma dedicated to training recruits in the theology and practical strategy of spiritual warfare.

Despite their hyper-aggressive rhetorical and ideological stance, members of this network in fact practice self-sacrificial rituals of fasting, holiness and submission to the Holy Spirit. Native prayer warriors are using spiritual warfare prayer to assert a privileged place for themselves in Christian life as heirs of God’s authority over the stewardship of North American land and as central to the project of repairing sinful pasts both on and off the reservations, reconciling present racial conflict, and defending the land in spiritual battle against new immigrant invasions by foreign, demonic forces.

McAlister also is professor of American studies, professor of African American studies, professor of Latin American studies, and professor of feminist, gender and sexuality studies.

Elizabeth McAlister on the State of Vodou in Haiti Today

Elizabeth McAlister

Elizabeth McAlister

Professor of Religion Elizabeth McAlister spoke to The Guardian about the state of the Vodou religion in Haiti today.

“Most Americans don’t know that they don’t know what Vodou really is,” said McAlister, who specializes in Haitian Vodou.

The article describes the actual practice of Vodou, and discusses its critical place in Haiti’s history as the first black republic. And turning to McAlister for her expertise, it addresses Vodou’s stance on homosexuality.

“Many, many gays and lesbians are valued members of Vodou societies,” explains McAlister, who has devoted years to researching LGBT in Haitian religion. “There is an idea that Vodou spirits that are thought to be gay ‘adopt’ and protect young adults who then become gay.”

“Vodou ‘does gender’ totally differently than the Christian tradition,” McAlister explains. After all, Vodou has gender fluidity at the core: men might become mediums for female spirits, women for male spirits. “But Christians, especially evangelicals, have zero flexibility for this; they see homosexuality as a sin, period.”

Stigmatized as a primitive, or even wicked religion, Vodou is inherently progressive and inclusive, McAlister continues.

“Vodou tends to be radically unjudgmental,” she explains. “The alcoholic, the thief, the homeless, the mentally ill, all of these people are welcomed into a Vodou temple and given respect.”

In reality, McAlister emphasizes, Vodou is far more similar to a close-knit church community than most Americans could ever imagine.

McAlister is also professor of African American studies, professor of American studies, professor of feminist, gender and sexuality studies, and professor of Latin American studies.

“Mass Incarceration: Feminists Respond” Focus of FGSS Symposium Nov. 6

Feminist, Gender and Sexuality Studies will host its annual symposium on Nov. 6. This year’s topic is “Mass Incarceration: Feminists Respond.” The event is free and open to the public.

“As Angela Davis has written, state punishment is not marginal, but central, to feminist concerns,” said Victoria Pitts-Taylor, professor and chair of Feminist, Gender and Sexuality Studies, of the program’s theme. “To begin with, the number of incarcerated women has been growing rapidly, with over one million women in the U.S. in jail, prison, on probation or on parole, and with black women the fastest growing group of those imprisoned. But beyond this, the practices of intensive policing and mass incarceration of people of all genders are devastating whole communities, especially those of poor people of color.

Gruen Named Faculty Fellow at Tufts’ Center for Animals

Lori Gruen

Lori Gruen

This month, Lori Gruen accepted a three-year appointment as a Faculty Fellow at Tufts’ Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine’s Center for Animals and Public Policy. Gruen is the William Griffin Professor of Philosophy, professor of feminist, gender and sexuality studies, and professor of environmental studies at Wesleyan. She also coordinates Wesleyan Animal Studies.

The mission of the Tufts University’s Center for Animals and Public Policy (CAPP) is to conduct and encourage scholarly evaluation and understanding of the complex societal issues and public policy dimensions of the changing role and impact of animals in society. As a Faculty Fellow, Gruen will explore human-animal relationships with Tufts students by teaching classes, mentoring student research, leading service activities, and presenting public seminars under CAPP sponsorship. She’ll continue teaching at Wesleyan during this three-year term.

The title of Faculty Fellow is awarded by the Dean of Cummings School to participants who have shown a deep and consistent commitment to the Center’s efforts in graduate and veterinary education, research, service and outreach.

Gruen’s research lies at the intersection of ethical theory and practice, with a particular focus on issues that impact those often overlooked in traditional ethical investigations (e.g. women, people of color, non-human animals). She has published extensively on topics in animal ethics, ecofeminism, and practical ethics more broadly, and is currently thinking about intersections of race, gender, and species and chimpanzees.

 

 

Jennifer Tucker Talks Gun Control in Boston Globe op-ed, on WNPR’s ‘Scramble’

Jennifer Tucker

Jennifer Tucker

Associate Professor of History Jennifer Tucker is the co-author of an op-ed in the Boston Globe titled, “What the Clean Air Act can teach us about reducing gun violence.” Tucker and co-author Matthew Miller of Northeastern University write, “The recent scandal over Volkswagen’s polluting engines vividly illustrates the contrast between the way Americans, and in particular elected officials, treat guns and the way we (and our elected officials) treat cars — both of which kill approximately 32,000 Americans every year.”

The Clean Air Act, passed in 1970, has averted tens of thousands of premature deaths though “a systematic and scientific approach to the impact of the actors of private actors (from auto owners to power station operators) on the health of their fellow citizens. The force of the law was then used to ensure that these externalities were borne by the companies contributing to the problem.”

Tucker and Miller argue the same approach should be applied to regulating firearms. At present, legislation now exempts guns from federal consumer-safety laws and provides immunity for gun manufacturers and dealers from liability lawsuits. And since 1996, the Centers for Disease Control has been effectively barred from funding research into the cause of firearm-related deaths.

Tucker also was a guest this week on WNPR’s “The Scramble” in a discussion about gun control, following the mass shooting at a community college in Oregon.

“Our nation’s lax attitude toward gun proliferation is partly the result of a Hollywood version of gun technology,” said Tucker. “There’s a 1953 movie ‘Shane,’ which has had a powerful influence. Shane is a gun fighter and in a conversation about gun control, he says ‘A gun is just a tool. It’s as good or bad as the man who uses it. We’ve heard this notion a lot, but that’s certainly not a notion… that we apply to other consumer products in America. We could take, for example, the recent scandal over Volkswagen’s polluting engines to illustrate this difference. So after Volkswagen’s recent admission that it used illegal devices to cheat on admission testing of diesel vehicles in the United States, the company faces billions of dollars of fines along with expensive recalls and class action lawsuits and criminal charges.”

Tucker describes the passage of the Clean Air Act in 1970 as having a major impact on public health, averting tens of thousands of premature deaths. “It succeeded because it took a scientific approach to the impacts of the activities of private actors on the health of fellow citizens. In contrast to that, while the impact of automobiles on the public’s health and safety is closely regulated, astonishingly, the firearms that are used to kill Americans are not subject to government oversight.”

Tucker is also associate professor of science in society, associate professor of feminist, gender and sexuality studies, associate professor of environmental studies. She recently authored an op-ed on the history of gun control published on Inside Sources.

Tucker on the Wild West, Hollywood and Gun Control

Jennifer Tucker

Jennifer Tucker

At a time when gun deaths are spiking and Congress has failed to enact significant legislation to tackle the problem, Associate Professor of History Jennifer Tucker writes an op-ed looking at how we got here. She contends that it is Hollywood’s version of history—not reality—that is behind the belief that guns have been a critical part of American culture over centuries. She writes:

The 1953 movie “Shane” exemplifies the narrative of a “good man with a gun.” Responding to a woman’s wish that guns be banished, Shane replies: “A gun is just a tool, Marian. It’s as good or bad as the man that uses it.”

This notion is central to the National Rifle Association’s worldview. But it is a classic and tragic example of what Oxford professor Margaret McMillan has called “bad history,” or picking only a small part of a complex story.

In reality, the 19th century Wild West was the setting for the passage of some of the nation’s first gun control laws, and it was widely understood that civilized people did not walk around carrying guns. It wasn’t until the 1980s when laws liberalizing concealed carry swept the country, and the most profound changes in gun law occurred in 2008 and 2010.

Tucker concludes:

Our “gun industrial complex” is not the inevitable outcome of two centuries of gun-possession; it is the result of changes in the law and cultural attitudes over the past couple of decades.

Today, 36 states have adopted “shall-issue” laws.

Texas allows unlicensed people to carry semi-automatic rifles in public. In May, the NRA fought the efforts of Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin to restrict guns at parks, fairgrounds and recreational areas. And with a proliferation of guns in homes — which is associated with a twofold increase in the risk of homicide — 2013 saw 1,670 children die by gunshot and an additional 9,718 injured.

Guns might not kill people but guns get people killed.

Gun owners should familiarize themselves with the true history of the frontier. Regulation advocates should make more of the fact that history is on their side.

Tucker is also associate professor of science in society, associate professor of feminist, gender and sexuality studies, and associate professor in the environmental studies program.

Faculty, Students Discuss Risk at Symposium

On May 2, the Wesleyan Symposium on Risk brought together faculty and students for an interdisciplinary discussion of risk. The event was sponsored by American Studies, the Center for the Humanities, the College of Letters, Feminist, Gender and Sexuality Studies, the Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship, the Neuroscience and Behavior Program, the Science in Society Program, and the Huffington Foundation Professor of Economics and Environmental Studies support funds. (Photos by Hannah Norman ’16)

Brian Stewart, professor of physics, professor of environmental studies, spoke on "The Metastasis of Risk."

Brian Stewart, professor of physics, professor of environmental studies, spoke on “The Metastasis of Risk.”

Female Voice in Politics Conference Inspires Future Leaders

On May 2, The Female Voice in Politics Conference brought notable and accomplished female politicians and leaders together at Daniel Family Commons in Usdan University Center to discuss the underrepresentation of women in U.S. politics and other issues facing women in the political arena today. Speakers included Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut; Connecticut State Sen. Toni Boucher; Dominique Thornton, former mayor of Middletown; Susan Bysiewicz, former Connecticut Secretary of State; Sidney Powell, attorney and author of Licensed to Lie; and Sarah Wiliarty, director of the Public Affairs Center, associate professor of government, tutor in the College of Social Sciences. The event was organized by Darcie Binder ’15 and Kevin Winnie ’16 and supported by the Government Department, Allbritton Center for the Study of Public Life, Public Affairs Center, American Studies Department, History Department, and Feminism, Gender and Sexuality Studies. (Photos by Hannah Norman ’16.)

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Rosa DeLauro, U.S. Representative of Connecticut’s 3rd Congressional District, speaks to attendees at The Female Voice in Politics Conference.

FGSS Chair Pitts-Taylor Explores How Bodies are Symbolically, Politically, Socially Meaningful

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Victoria Pitts-Taylor, chair and professor of feminist, gender and sexuality studies, is interested in studying bodies from a cross-disciplinary perspective.

Victoria Pitts-Taylor, chair and professor of feminist, gender and sexuality studies, joined the faculty this fall. 

Q:
Welcome to Wesleyan, Professor Pitts-Taylor! What attracted you to Wesleyan?

A: Wesleyan has a great tradition of progressive liberal arts education, including a long tradition of feminist/gender/sexuality studies. Like most programs, it began as women’s studies, more than three decades ago, evolving into its current form as times and perspectives changed. Wesleyan has a reputation for having really smart, socially engaged students, for fostering interest in and commitment to social justice, and for investing in interdisciplinary modes of scholarship and teaching. It’s also full of incredibly accomplished professors, people whom I’d like to read, talk to and learn from.

Q: You came to Wesleyan from the City University of New York. What did your position at CUNY entail?

A: I was at the City University of New York for 15 years – almost my whole academic career since getting my Ph.D. at Brandeis University. I started as an assistant professor in the sociology program at Queens College (part of CUNY) in 1999, and after I received tenure I also began teaching in the doctoral program at the Graduate Center. In 2009, I was promoted to full professor – that was a big deal for me at the age of 36, and I thought back then that I’d probably stay at CUNY forever. But that year, I also became director of the Center for the Study of Women and Society and Coordinator of the Women’s Studies Doctoral Certificate Program at the Graduate Center. I served two terms as head of those programs. I am a sociologist by training and orientation, but over the years I became more deeply involved in gender and sexuality studies. In addition to heading the women’s studies program, I also served as co-editor of the journal Women’s Studies Quarterly (WSQ) for three years. That experience, along with getting involved in the Feminist Press (which publishes WSQ), team-teaching a feminist theory course with a Victorianist, and getting interested in feminist science studies, convinced me that I wanted to be part of a gender studies program.

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This year, Pitts-Taylor is teaching courses on Biofeminisms, and Sex and Gender in Critical Perspective.

Q: What has been your impression of the university, and the Feminist, Gender and Sexuality Studies program in particular, so far? How is it different from CUNY?

A: When I walked into my Biofeminisms course, I expected to see a group of juniors and seniors majoring in FGSS. Instead, I got a class filled with biologists, economists and neuroscientists, most of whom had never taken an FGSS class before. Two things strike me about this. First, at most places, the science majors (not to mention the econ majors) wouldn’t often find their way to a gender studies course.