This was another year of sobering news, including the deepening global climate crisis, Russia’s war against Ukraine, persistent racial violence and the overturning of Roe v. Wade. All of these issues, along with the ongoing, ever mutating coronavirus, were stressful and debilitating.
Amidst these challenges, were some rewarding developments. We resumed in person teaching after a long hiatus. We were thrilled to welcome professors Christine Peralta Katrina Karkazis, and Prof. Manion to the department. They have expanded our curriculum through their courses on LGBTQ issues, Asian American history, and gender and science studies. In the Fall, we look forward to welcoming Dr Suruchi Thapar-Björkert from Uppsala University. She will be teaching a course titled (En)Gendering Development: Historical Genealogies/ Contemporary Convergences. And happily, Manuela Picq and Khary Polk will be rejoining us. So we will have a rich array of course offerings next year.
We ended the year with a wonderful celebration of our graduating seniors and two Stonewall prize recipients, Kayla McKeon and Lisa Zheutlin. Congratulations to them all!
We wish you all a wonderful summer and look forward to seeing many of you in the fall.
Focusing primarily on the global south, we will explore the centrality of gender in the processes, problematics and politics of development through feminist postcolonial and decolonial conceptualizations, with a particular focus on gendered livelihoods and gendered vulnerabilities.
Taught by STINT Fellow Thapar-Björkert
This course critically analyzes manhood and masculinity as socially constructed and ever-changing concepts deeply entangled with race, class, disability, and sexuality. We will interrogate how masculinities influence actions and self-perceptions as well as analyze how masculinity promotes hierarchies of power and privilege in groups, organizations, and institutions, such as education, work, religion, sports, family, media, and the military. We will investigate the origins and development of masculinity, its expressions, and its problematic manifestations (including hegemonic masculinity, violence, sexual assault, health outcomes, etc.)
Taught by Professor Katrina Karkazis
Amrita Basu enjoyed serving as chair of SWAGS this past spring and loved offering a new Contemporary Debates course entitled “Gendering Populism.” The course helped her think through her current research.
Her publications this past year include a co-edited book, Women, Gender, and Religious Nationalism (Cambridge University Press, 2022). She also contributed several chapters to edited books, including:
Katrina Karkazis was pleased to see the 2022 paperback publication of her co-authored book Testosterone: An Unauthorized Biography with Harvard University Press. She also ended her three year tenure as the Public Member of the Ethics Advisory Board at the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Despite COVID she was able to give some talks including at Stellenbosch University (South Africa) and she delivered the Lippin Lecture in Ethics at Penn State. She also appeared in Category: Woman a documentary about sex testing of women athletes that premiered at Hot Docs in Canada and will be making the festival rounds soon.
Professor Manion formally joined SWAGS in fall 2021 formally. She was also promoted to full professor effective July 1, 2021.
In Fall 2021 she received a large faculty research award for her new project on the history of criminalization of LGBTQ people in the U.S. She will be working on it during her sabbatical this coming year (2022-23).
Professor Manion was featured on Jonathan Van Ness’ Getting Curious podcast, “Who Were History’s ‘Female Husbands’?”
Professor Manion will be busy reading and editing the 60 essays that scholars are contributing to a book that she is co-editing: The Cambridge History of Sexuality in the United States, Vol. I: Early America and Vol. II: Modern America, eds., Jen Manion and Nicholas L. Syrett (Cambridge University Press, expected 2024).
Professor Manion gave some talks this year, most notably the keynote for the annual Warren I. Susman Graduate Conference at Rutgers University History Department (her alma mater) “Female Husbands and the Future of (Trans)gender History.” (April 2022)
Jordy Rosenberg, professor in the Department of English and Associated MFA Faculty in the Program for Poets and Writers at The University of Massachusetts-Amherst, visited Professor Manion’s HIST 381 / SWAG 381 Global Transgender Histories class this spring to discuss Dr. Rosenberg’s book Confessions of the Fox.
She has done one NEH Institute for teachers this past spring and another one in July:
She has also served on a variety of committees:
Stephanie Orion is the Academic Department Coordinator (ADC) for SWAGS. She has worked in this position since 2014. This past year, besides assisting with course prep, planning department events, and supporting her faculty and majors, she also helped orient the department’s newest faculty to the policies and procedures unique to SWAGS.
Starting in June 2021, Stephanie worked as the Administrative Coordinator for the Association for the Study of Law, Culture and the Humanities (LCH), and in Spring 2022 she served as one of three mentors for the recently hired ADCs.
For fun, Stephanie enjoys going swimming with her husband and two daughters, playing board games, and reading.
Christine Peralta workshopped her book, Insurgent Care, at the Dartmouth History Institute on Illnesses in Asia. She presented her research at Wellesley College as a Chief Arvol Looking Horse and Class of 1956 Distinguished Speaker. Peralta was also invited to present her research at Duke University and Tufts University. She also was awarded a New England Regional Fellowship Consortium grant to advance research for her book. Lastly, the podcast Dear Asian Americans interviewed her about Asian American history and storytelling.
In Spring 2021, Professor Polk’s first book, Contagions of Empire, was a finalist for the Organization of American Historians’ Lawrence Levine Prize for the best book in American cultural history. In Summer 2021, he gave a keynote address at the JFK Institute, Freie Universität Berlin’s graduate student conference, Radical Possibilities: Protest, Crisis and Reshaping North American Democracies. During his year-long sabbatical, Prof. Polk gave lectures at Boston College, Vanderbilt University, University of Hawaii, Stonehill College, the Dublin School, Soto Air Base/Task Force Bravo in Honduras, University of Toronto, the 2022 OAH Conference in Boston, and Harvard University’s Department of the History of Science. He also began work on a new book about queer soldiering in the U.S. military, published an essay in Interim: Poetry & Poetics, and conducted archival research at the University of Southern California, the GLBT Historical Society in San Francisco, and Berlin, Germany. Last but not least, Professor Polk hopes to finish reading the entirety of Samuel Delany’s early science fiction by the start of the new school year!
Suruchi Thapar-Björkert is Associate Professor at the Department of Government, Uppsala University, Sweden. Suruchi Thapar-Björkert has over 30 years of research and teaching in several departments and institutes in India, UK, South Africa and Sweden. She been educated in India during her school, undergraduate and postgraduate university education, followed by Master of Philosophy and doctoral studies at Universities of Cambridge (1990-1991) and Warwick (1991-1997) in the U.K. Before taking on a tenured track lectureship at University of Bristol, UK (2000-2010), she was a research fellow at the Department of Gender Studies, London School of Economics and Political Science (1998-2000). In 2010, she took up a tenured Associate Professorship at the Department of Government, Uppsala university, Sweden. She researches on postcolonial approaches to gender and development, feminism and transnationalism, nationalism and colonialism, racism and violence(s), feminist methodologies and knowledge production.
She will be at SWAGS for the Autumn term, 2022. She has been awarded the STINT (The Swedish Foundation for International Cooperation in Research and Higher Education) Teaching Sabbatical. While at SWAGS, she will be offering the course: (En)gendering Development: Historical Genealogies/Contemporary Convergences (200 level).
She is the recipient of a recent collaborative project grant from the Swedish Research Council (2023-2026) on Expanding Markets in Life: Exploring Emerging Assisted Reproductive Technology practices in India and Uganda. This project takes the 2020 Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill as a starting point for exploring how the Indian reproductive industry circumvents the law by restructuring its operations within the country and relocating to unregulated East African markets. This includes moving into new market segments, such as the unregulated practice of oocyte donation and breast milk provision.
She co-edited a book (together with Redi Koobak and Madina Tlostanova) Postcolonial and Postsocialist Dialogues: Intersections, Opacities, and Challenges in Feminist Theorizing and Practice, published by Routledge in 2021. The book explores the possible resonances and dissonances between the postcolonial and the postsocialist in feminist theorizing and practice. It attempts to understand if and how postcolonial and postsocialist dimensions of the human condition – historical, existential, political, and ideological – intersect and correlate in feminist experiences, identities, and struggles.
Suruchi Thapar-Björkert will be the academic coordinator for Uppsala university for ACCESS (Academic Collaboration Sweden-Chile) for 2022-2024. It is a collaborative platform consisting of eight Swedish universities and seven Chilean universities and organized around 4 UN Sustainability Development Goal 3: Good Health and Well-Being; Goal 11: Sustainable cities and Communities; Goal 15: Life on land; Goal 14: Life under water. The main aim is to facilitate and deepen research synergies between Sweden and Chile.
Our 2021 Fall Reception was held outside in a tent. It was wonderful to see colleagues and students again face-to-face after over a year of Zoom classes and meetings.
Our 2022 End-of-Year Gathering was also held in-person. Our three thesis writers presented their research topics, we honored the co-winners of this year's David Kirp '65 Stonewall Prize, and lastly we celebrated our graduating seniors. The second half of the event was a sumptuous dinner catered by the Black Sheep Deli with delicious pies from Atkins Farms Country Market for dessert. It was a lovely way for our community to relax together after a long and stressful year.
Lisa Zheutlin was a SWAGS and ARHA double major and received the 5 College Certificate in Reproductive Health, Rights,and Justice. She is forever grateful to the SWAGS department for making her Amherst experience so fulfilling. This past year, she wrote a thesis for theSWAGS department about the anti-monogamy framework, which questions why romantic love is privileged over other forms of love and considers queeralternatives to contemporary monogamy-centric culture. Her thesis won the Stonewall Prize and she hopes to continue working on it in the upcomingyears, ideally making it available to a wider audience. Currently, she is travelling around Europe for the summer with her Amherst friends to make up forlost time after being sent home from their abroad programs in the spring of 2020. Afterwards, she plans to move to New York City to pursue a career inreproductive justice and education. She encourages all Amherst students to take as many SWAGS classes as possible, as the professors and coursecontent are the best Amherst has to offer!
Ever since Sam figured out they were queer, Sam has had an interest in Queer Studies. Sam wanted to have the language and concepts to describe thediscrimination they saw experienced, and they thought queer people’s outlook on the world could create a new lens for topics even broader than justsexuality or gender. Sam also majors in Computer Science, and so they see SWAGS as an analytical framework that can avoid recreating harmful power structures, something often seen in Computer Science (especially in terms of the repeated hiring discriminations in AI).
Andres (he/they) is a rising senior double majoring in SWAGS and Sociology. During the pandemic, one SWAGS course he took virtually was U.S.Carceral Culture with Professor Manion. This course looked at feminist and queer theory, as well as historical sources to trace the history of punishmentand criminality within the U.S. He chose to major in SWAGS shortly after because of his desire to keep learning more about feminist and queer theory andhow it helps us understand the many institutions in place today that continue to oppress marginalized communities. Andres is currently interning for theAbortion Rights Fund of Western Massachusetts, a community-based organization that helps with providing financial support for individuals seekingabortions who may not have the funds or resources to do so. Given the recent overturning of Roe v. Wade, it has been especially worthwhile for Andres towork closely with a team that is committed to helping people overcome the many new obstacles that have become a reality in the country. He is alsosuper grateful that the courses he has taken in the SWAGS department have equipped him with knowledge on reproductive justice and what themovement stands for and is striving towards, something that is of key importance in the work he is doing. After graduating from Amherst, Andres hopes tofind and continue working with a community-based organization that focuses on providing resources and community care for marginalized communities.
Congratulations to our two co-winners!
The Rose Olver Prize is awarded annually to the thesis that best analyzes the construction of gender in conjunction with the historical, political, social, cultural, or psychological experiences of subjects. The thesis should also address gender relations as they intersect with class, race, sexuality, or nationality. Finally, the thesis should consider the broader implications of its conclusions for the field of sexuality, women’s, and gender studies.
Congratulations to our two co-winners!
Please join us in congratulating our 2022 graduates! A hearty cheer goes out to:
Julissa Fernandez (SWAGS/Black Studies), Eva Nelson (SWAGS/Biology), Shivani Patel (SWAGS/Political Science), Sasha Williams (SWAGS/Biology), and Lisa Zheutlin (SWAGS/Art & the History of Art).