2024-25 Research Associates

The Five College Women's Studies Research Center is excited to be hosting nine Research Associates for the 2024-25 academic year.

Research Associate Projects & Bios

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Toni Armstrong

Taking Care: The Queer Making of Modern Art, 1914-1935

PhD Candidate in History of Art and Architecture
Boston University
Term: Spring 2025
Project Description
I examine four case studies of women gallerists and salonnieres working in New York during the inter-war period. While research on the development of modern art in the United States has prioritized large institutions and organizations with long-standing archival records, my work centers small-scale galleries which failed to reach institutional status. I argue that it is the “queer” qualities of their gallery and social practice which made them fail, since they could not exist without these properties and the institutionalization of modern art in the 1930s meant an obfuscation of these qualities. Using Marxist-feminist theories of care to approach the archives, I aim to develop a narrative of a queer modernist museum practice that thrived in the 1920s. These arts advocates cultivated intimate communities, presented sensuality and desire in their salon practices, pursued and embodied radical politics, and exhibited and developed a more flexible definition of modernist art.

Toni Armstrong is a Ph.D. candidate at Boston University, in the History of Art and Architecture department. Toni's dissertation project examines queer and women's history through women art collectors in New York in the interwar period. Broadly, Toni's research is interested in art museums and power, domesticity in public spaces, and women's involvement in the creation of the canon of American art. Toni has held internships at the Worcester Art Museum, Musee National d'Histoire et D'Art in Luxembourg City, and most recently, the Nichols House Museum.
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Francesca Bellei

Not Your Sirens: Lesbians and Queer Travelers to Italy and the Making of Classicist Nationalism (19th-20th c.)
Postdoctoral Fellow and Visiting Lecturer in Classics
Center for Humanistic Inquiry & Amherst College
Term: Spring 2025


Project Description

My second book project aims to fill gaps in studies on the so called “homosexual diaspora,” centering lesbians and trans turn of-the-century travelers to Italy, whose experiences have so far been systematically ignored. As numerous studies have already established, Anglo-American, wealthy, cis gay men travelled to Italy out of a desire to escape the harsher persecution of gender non-conforming behavior in their own countries and to seek in the “classical” ideal of “Greek love” a way to express and legitimize their sexual orientation. This process, however, also entrenched hegemonic constructions of race, class and national identity. This book explores the question of whether queer women and trans tourists and expats to Italy were able to step out of those “classical” models or not, and how this influenced modern European visions of nationality, race, class and sexual identity.



Dr. Francesca Bellei (she/her) is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Center for Humanistic Inquiry and Visiting Lecturer in Classics at Amherst College, where she teaches and writes about gender, race and national identity in modern Italian, English, American, and ancient Mediterranean literature. After receiving a BA in Classics from the University of Cambridge, where she first got involved in feminist activism, she worked for Rape Crisis Scotland and remains committed to a trauma-informed and anti-racist pedagogical approach. Francesca holds an MLitt in Creative Writing from the University of St Andrews and a PhD in Comparative Literature from Harvard University, where she was also a union organizer. Since receiving her PhD, Francesca has taught at the Brooklyn Institute of Social Research and in the Italian Studies Department at UMass Amherst.

Francesca is also a Prose Editor for The Massachusetts Review. Her writing has appeared both in print and online in Italy, France, the UK and the US. She has translated plays, screenplays, and film treatments from Italian and English, including by Giuseppe Tornatore, winner of an Academy Award for Cinema Paradiso. Her academic work has appeared or is forthcoming in journals and volumes including TAPA, Unspoken Rome, and Comparative Literature Studies, for which she was awarded the 2022 McManus Prize, the 2021 Gruen Prize (honorable mention) and the 2018 Aldridge Prize. Her first monograph, The Past is a Womanly Land, is forthcoming with Harvard University Press.

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Cory Ellen Gatrall

Beyond the Pale: Race, Culture, and Whiteness in the Discipline of Nursing
Term: 2024-25 Academic Year


Project Description

This book project traces the intellectual genealogy of ideas of race, ethnicity, and culture in the discipline of nursing. Placing systems of oppression at the center, rather than the margins, of nursing in the twentieth century, it examines the intersections of racism and sexism in a field persistently gendered feminine.



Cory Ellen Gatrall (she/her), MFA, RN, holds a PhD in nursing from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She has provided care in labor/delivery/postpartum and abortion services, as well as public health during the COVID-19 pandemic. After receiving a bachelor’s degree in anthropology and a master of fine arts in creative writing, she worked as a full-spectrum doula and abortion clinic escort organizer, then became a nurse to turn her passion into her career. Her research interests lie at the intersections of nursing, history, public health, and anthropology; she is focused on the analysis, deconstruction, and reconceptualization of structures which stand in the way of health justice and equity. She sits on the board of the Abortion Rights Fund of Western Massachusetts, and is co-organizing an abortion doula collective.

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Charu Gupta

Term: Fall 2024
Project Description

Riot is a novel that follows two young people in the early 1990s, between India and America. Nadia is a Muslim Indian American woman living in New York trying to make it as a visual artist. Rishi is a middle class Hindu and reluctant computer engineer living in Bombay. After Rishi gets involved with the Hindu rightwing nationalist movement and anti-Muslim riots, he runs away to America on an IT worker visa. When Nadia’s aunt from India arrives to live with her family—as a refugee of the anti-Muslim riots—Nadia struggles to reconcile her own independence with her desire to support her family. As Rishi and Nadia encounter each other’s worlds, their experiences will test their deepest beliefs about family, faith, and duty.

With Riot, I explore the possibility of reinvention, redemption and the pull of ideologies like Hindutva and the American Dream as they intersect with gender, religion and class across two continents.



Charu (she/her) is an award-winning journalist with a master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University. She has worked for newspapers in Alabama, Pennsylvania and Ohio. Her reporting on police shootings and the 2008 foreclosure crisis in Cleveland has won awards from the Society of Professional Journalists and The Press Club of Cleveland. Charu was part of the Asian American improv and creative writing communities in New York City and has also worked as a content marketing executive for healthcare startups in Boston and San Francisco. The common thread throughout Charu’s professional life has been writing and social justice, whether through short stories and plays in New York, investigative and social justice reporting, or press releases for social impact organizations. Charu was born and raised in Mumbai, India, until the age of 10, when she moved to Minneapolis, Minn. She now lives in Amherst, Mass., and is at work on her first novel. Her current interests are the rise of Hindu fundamentalism, migration, and the possibilities of reinvention and redemption.

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Katherine Mason

Well at Work
Associate Professor of Sociology and Women's & Gender Studies
Wheaton College, MA
Term: Spring 2025
Project Description

In Well at Work, I will explore how (and whether) employers seek out and reward employees with particular kinds of health and body projects. In other words: do workers with the “right” kinds of bodies get ahead on the job? If so, what kinds of embodiment are especially sought after or rejected by employers?This project aims to understand how employers communicate and act on preferences about their employees' bodies—their appearance, ability, and more—and with what impact on workers. In particular, I hope to understand the role that workplace wellness initiatives may play in establishing these bodily expectations.


Kate Mason (she/her) is an Associate Professor of Sociology and Women's & Gender Studies at Wheaton College in Norton, Massachusetts. She received her Ph.D. from the Department of Sociology at the University of California, Berkeley, where she also completed a Designated Emphasis in Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. In her research and writing, Kate asks: how do our physical bodies express social status or reproduce social inequality? When we engage in work on our bodies—adopting particular health, exercise, or grooming habits—what do we communicate to employers, peers, doctors, and other audiences about ourselves (whether intentionally or unintentionally)? For that matter, how do others' judgments about our bodies—and, perhaps, their efforts to control our bodies—impact our lives and life chances?

She is the author of The Reproduction of Inequality (NYU Press 2023) and co-editor, with Natalie Boero, of the Oxford Handbook of the Sociology of Body and Embodiment (2020).

Headshot of Meghan Paradis.

Meghan Paradis

The Affective Transformation of German-Jewish Girlhood, 1900-1933
PhD Candidate in Modern European History
Indiana University
Term: 2024-25 Academic Year


Project Description

“The Affective Transformation of German-Jewish Girlhood, 1900-1933”, traces what I describe as the affective transformation of Jewish girlhood in the early twentieth century. I argue that, over the course of thirty years, in large part due to feminist pedagogical efforts, shame and self-effacement became delegitimized as virtues for Jewish girls and young women. This affective transformation, she suggests, was realized at the precise moment in the interwar years where gendered, racialized, and antisemitic rhetoric became increasingly omnipresent in German and Austrian societies and aimed specifically to shame and humiliate Jewish girls and women. I suggest that empathy acted as a prophylaxis against shame. This dissertation draws on novels, film, magazine articles, memoir, correspondence, social worker’s notes, and institutional reports and records to illuminate conflicts and convergences between how Jewish girlhood was reimagined and how it was experienced in schools, reformatories and households. It is especially interested in emerging standards of emotional expression and comportment both for Jewish girls and those entrusted with their care.


Meghan Paradis (she/her) is a PhD Candidate in Modern European History at Indiana University. In 2023, her article on Annette Eick, a prolific adolescent Jewish lesbian writer of the 1920s, was published in Feminist German Studies. Paradis’ research has been supported by funding from the DAAD (German-American Exchange) and Fulbright. In Spring 2024, she taught a world history course at Indiana University entitled "The Invention of the Teenage Girl." In summer 2024, she was a Gilda Slifka Graduate Student Intern at the Hadassah Brandeis Institute in Waltham, MA.

Headshot of Blase smiling with grey background.

Blase A. Provitola

Against Heterocoloniality: Women Desiring Differently in Contemporary France’s North African Diasporas
Assistant Professor of Language and Culture Studies and Women, Gender and Sexuality
Trinity College
Term: Fall 2024
Project Description

My in-progress monograph challenges universalizing tendencies in queer studies using a literary and activist archive of hitherto neglected francophone actors: women of North African descent who have resisted the twin forces of coloniality and heterosexuality from the 1970s to the present. From immigrant activists’ leaflets to Nina Bouraoui’s novels, these narratives of women who “desire differently” unsettle and expand French theories of sexuality central to queer studies by elucidating the multiple heterosexualities that discursively and materially shape identity and desire. An intersectional literary and activist history of contemporary feminist and LGBT cultures in France, this monograph argues that the interpretative framework of resistance to “heterocoloniality” generates greater coalitional possibilities than does queerness alone.


Blase Provitola (they/them) is an Assistant Professor of Language & Culture Studies (Francophone Studies) and Women, Gender, & Sexuality at Trinity College (Hartford, CT). They have published on postcolonial literature, lesbian of color activism, race and sexual identity, and inclusive pedagogy in journals such as Modern and Contemporary France and Transgender Studies Quarterly.

Headshot of Meltem.

Meltem Ince Yenilmez

Economic Aspects of Algorithmic Gender Equality: Exposing Digital Discrimination and Legal Challenges
Professor of Economics
İzmir Democracy University
Term: Spring 2025
Project Description

Algorithms have an enormous influence in our technologically advanced society, greatly influencing how we live our everyday lives. However, not enough has been done to examine their influence on gender equality, particularly in this digital age. This study sets out to understand the complex inner workings of algorithms and sheds light on how they might either challenge or reinforce gender prejudices. This research's main goal is to carefully investigate the impact of algorithms on gender equality. With algorithms becoming more and more prevalent, it is critical to comprehend potential discriminatory impacts, possibilities, and obstacles in the field of digital decision-making. The legal interpretation and remedy of gender-based discrimination in algorithmic areas is a critical issue. It is difficult to identify prejudice when algorithms are involved. This study aims to determine if algorithms create new biases or reinforce preexisting ones in order to assist policymakers in differentiating between discrimination and favouritism. It also aims to suggest changes to the law in order to promote gender equality and lessen algorithmic prejudice. Through a multimodal approach that includes surveys, discourse analysis, and examination of algorithmic results, the project seeks to clarify how gender is represented in datasets and how work-life balance affects gender-related biases in algorithms and clarify the complex relationship between prejudice, gender equality, and algorithms. In the end, it hopes to offer a strong basis for social advancement and informed policies that will advance gender equality in the digital era.


Professor Meltem Ince Yenilmez (MIY), is a Professor at the Department of Economics at Izmir Democracy University who specializes in the economics of gender and labour economics. She is also Dean of the Faculty of the Law. She was a Visiting Researcher at the University of California, Berkeley between 2014-2015, Visiting Professor at Georg-Universität-Gottingen at summer school from 2015-2016, was research associate at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, a Visiting Faculty at IIM Rohtak, India, and she is currently a Visiting Professor at the University of Tohoku, Japan. She is an economist focused on gender, feminist theory, discrimination, and care work. She has five books published by Routledge and Palgrave, and two published by Peter Lang. Her next book projects examine income equality, cyberfeminism and women’s participation in the sports market and will be published by 2024. For more information, please visit Meltem's website: www.melteminceyenilmez.com.