There may not be any discipline in the humanities and social sciences more relevant today than gender studies.
From sexual assaults on college campuses and in the workplace, to transgender rights and Indigenous women’s issues, faculty and students in Memorial’s Department of Gender Studies shine a gender lens on current and historical concerns.
Deconstructing power relations
“We are a diverse community—extending beyond the academy—that aims to deconstruct power relations in particular settings along various axes of social difference, only one of which is gender,” said Dr. Carol-Lynne D’Arcangelis, an assistant professor in the department who also serves as undergraduate advisor. “We incorporate the tenet of intersectionality into virtually all courses, arguing that gender oppression cannot be assumed to constitute the foremost concern of all ‘women.’”
She agrees however that a central focus of much women and gender studies scholarship is the shattering of the sex/gender binary, which has proven to be a destructive force to the lives of so many people.
The department is also a key member of the wider community and regularly organizes events with partners such as the Safe Harbour Outreach Project (SHOP). Sex Work: Soliciting Reflections, took place March 5-7, just after the Supreme Court of Canada struck down the country’s laws around sex work and prostitution.
On Saturday, Aug. 13, along with the St. John’s Native Friendship Centre, as well as the Toronto-based No More Silence Network, the department will co-host Inquiries, Justice and Accountability: Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women in Canada to bring activists, scholars and community members from across Canada to discuss this pressing subject. The event will occur alongside the federal government’s impending announcement of commissioners for a public inquiry into the issue. Once again, Memorial’s Department of Gender Studies will be at the forefront for calls for change when it does.
Dr. D’Arcangelis appears with student Jillian Ashick-Stinson in Who We Are, What We Do: Gender Studies, the latest in a series of teaser videos produced by the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences and created by multihyphenate writer/videographer/rapper/producer and recent Memorial graduate Timo Sargent.
Originally from upstate New York with a PhD from the University of Toronto, Dr. D’Arcangelis was initially drawn to gender studies because of its applicability to “real life” and the fact there was a social justice focus in the discipline and a concern for gender-based violence. Her own research centres on Indigenous and non-Indigenous solidarity and critiques of modernity.
“My experience studying and working in Memorial’s gender studies department has been extremely rewarding, most of all because it’s a space that encourages you to study how the world works and why,” said Kim Wakeford, a master’s student. “That may sound broad, but it can mean very specific things depending on your research interests and passions: nothing is off limits.”
Keeping up the conversation
The department also organizes a regular speakers’ series that runs throughout the fall and winter of each academic year and Drs. Sonja Boon and Vicki Hallett are active organizers of the Blue Castle’s conversations on women and culture.
New courses for this fall include GNDR 3002: Girlhood and Girl Culture, taught by Dr. Giovanna P. Del Negro, the department’s latest faculty member, and GNDR 3006: The Body: From Descartes to Beyonce and beyond offered by new department head Dr. Boon.
For those who might want to explore gender studies as an elective, GNDR 1000: Introduction to Gender Studies, GNDR 2005: Identities and Difference and GNDR 2006: Genders and Sexualities have no prerequisites.
Who We Are, What We Do is a summer series from the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences featuring faculty and students discussing their discipline. The next installment of Who We Are, What We Do: Geography, launching July 25, features Dr. Rodolphe Devillers and student Kyekye Mweemba.