2022-23 Research Associates & Projects

Bios & Project Descriptions

Academic Year
PhD Candidate, Department of Public Health
University of Massachusetts, Amherst

Project Description

What historical precedents have defined the socioeconomic landscape of Ghana, and the course of reproductive justice and access to modern health technologies? Are maternal health services like assisted reproductive technologies (ARTs) accessible to all desiring mothers? What real progress has been made in developing such technologies? The aim of my project is to answer these questions using mixed methodologies: a literature review and poetry. I aim to map out the topography of the healthcare delivery system in Ghana and examine the historical and contemporary influences that have shaped this landscape. Engaging the work of Marcia Inhorn on ARTs, and Hörbst and Wolf’s concept of “medicoscapes”, I will also examine transnational currents of reproductive travel and its potential impacts on women within Ghana trying to access ARTs. Using poetry, I will tell stories that highlight issues of reproductive health, including socioeconomic inequalities and barriers to access to ARTs.

Biography

Ruthfirst Ayande's (she/her) research projects span the disciplines of public health nutrition, epidemiology, feminist health and science studies, feminist food studies, and African and transnational feminisms. Employing feminist epistemologies, she draws on the lived experiences of women to understand the structures and systems that disenfranchise them and bar them from attaining optimum health. For her doctoral dissertation, she is examining the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on maternal and infant health, and testing strategies to deliver remote nutrition education programs to women. Beyond this project, she is also interested in questions of food and identity, and reproductive justice, specifically assisted reproductive technologies and IVF disparities.

Ruthfirst loves to garden, cook, and write poetry and prose. She uses poetry and autoethnography in her feminist research projects and aims to continue to use poetry as a means of engaging discourses of reproductive justice and health disparities.

 

Academic Year
PhD Candidate, German & Scandinavian Studies
Graduate Certificate in Feminist Studies
University of Massachusetts, Amherst

Project Description

Between the years 1934-1945, approximately 400,000 individuals were forcibly sterilized in Germany under the auspice of the 1933 Law for the Prevention of Hereditarily Diseased Offspring. In addition to these 400,000, an unknown number of sterilizations and sterilization experiments were conducted extrajudicially on concentration camp prisoners in Auschwitz, Ravensbrück, and in forced labor camps. Whereas the Nazi regime promoted reproduction through positive eugenic policies for ‘Aryan,’ able-bodied Germans, it viewed Jews, Sinti and Roma, people of Color, and those disabled as societal ballasts and potential breeders of degeneration. Though more than a quarter of a million women were among these unwilling sterilization victims, the broader emotional and social consequences on women have yet to be analyzed.

My research aims to address this gap in scholarship by exploring the gendered, heteronormative social groundworks that have shaped the emotional responses of women who were forcibly sterilized, as shared in audio, audiovisual, and written testimonies. Though the procedures, locations, perpetrators, and means of Nazi sterilizations have been extensively researched by scholars over the decades, the emotional experiences of sterilization victims—let alone the underlying social dynamics— have been neither deeply investigated nor theorized. In analyzing these women’s testimonies, my research represents the first to look comparatively at the experiences of women sterilized by the Nazi regime across race, religion, and ability over time.

Biography

Tiarra Cooper (she/her) received her B.A. in German Studies and Russian Civilization from Smith College and her M.A. in German Studies from UMass. She is currently an instructor at UMass in Women, Gender & Sexuality Studies, and a Ph.D. candidate in German Studies. Her dissertation is entitled “Women’s Experiences of Forcible Sterilization under Germany’s National Socialism, 1933-1945.” In her spare time, Tiarra enjoys knitting, reckless napping, watching documentaries, playing with her spawn, and walking her chocolate lab with her partner.

Academic Year
Department of Environmental Studies
Mount Holyoke College

Project Description
 
With only 21 remaining lesbian+ bars in the United States as of Pride 2021, mainstream media who long ignored the very existence of lesbians are now obsessed with the extinction narrative. But beyond asking why are lesbian bars closing, my research examines: what prompts this fixation on this space and its demise? Further, what historically drives the lezbiqueertrans attachment to lesbian bars, and, in more recent times, their dis-attachment from these spaces? What feeds the public’s obsession with lesbian bars, beyond the male gaze and cis-heteropatriarchal domination of space on one hand, and the liberal nod to place-making by, for, and about “others” on the other hand? In other words, why do we care that so of these spaces few exist now, and why are they still necessary in an ever-more digital world?
 
In Dyke Bars*, I argue that lesbian bars are a crucial geography of U.S. lezbiqueertrans history, and I unpack how and why the practices, history, and relationality of these spaces reveals ways of radical lezbiqueertrans place-making that must and will continue in the American landscape. Drawing from an analysis of media regarding lesbian bars in the U.S. since 2008, particularly New York City, multi-generational interviews with and mental maps of lesbians and queers who came out in NYC between 1983 and 2008, and materials from a range of LGBTQ+ archives across the US and Canada, I use the trans* asterisk to open up the multiple and contingent meanings of what a dyke bar* was, what it is, and what it yet could be.

Biography

Jack Jen Gieseking (they/he) is an urban and digital cultural geographer, and environmental psychologist. Their first monograph, A Queer New York: Geographies of Lesbians, Dykes, and Queers, 1983-2008 (NYU Press, 2020), is a historical geography of contemporary lesbian-queer society and economies in New York City. As part of his commitment to public queer history, he led the collaborative creation of the book’s companion website, An Everyday Queer New York, including interactive maps of over 3,000 lesbian and queer places and organizations gathered from archival sources. Previously, he co-edited The People, Place, and Space Reader (Routledge, 2014) with William Mangold, Cindi Katz, Setha Low, and Susan Saegert. 

Jack is Managing Editor of ACME: International Journal of Critical Geography, the only fully open access journal in geography. He is a board member of the Rainbow Heritage Network and contributor to the National Parks Service’s LGBTQ America: A Theme Study of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer History. They have held fellowships with the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation as German Chancellor Fellow; Center for Place, Culture, and Politics; Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies; the Institute for Citizens & Scholars’ Women’s Studies Dissertation Fellows Program; and the Committee on LGBT History of the American Historical Association and GALE Archives. 

Jack is presently working on his second book, Dyke Bars*. He is affiliated with the Department of Environmental Studies at Mount Holyoke College. Jack can be found at @jgieseking or jgieseking.org.

Academic Year
Assistant Professor of Women and Gender Studies
Savitribai Phule Pune University

Project Description

The present context is one of renewed backlash against feminism, both in India and the US and the increasing erosion of hard-won rights for women. My research funded by the Fulbright- Nehru post-doctoral fellowship titled 'Understanding feminist subjectivities in the times of intersectionality: Linking Narratives, Memory and Politics' is an attempt to understand the predicament of the feminist project in the current moment and imagine possible productive futures for it, by bringing insights from memory studies to life narrative analysis and mapping the particular trajectory of the concept- intersectionality, in the context of India.
 
Biography
 
Dr. Sneha Gole (she/her) completed her B.A in Political Science from Fergusson College, Pune and has a Masters degree in social work from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences. She subsequently completed her doctoral work in 2018 in the discipline of Women's Studies from the Department of Women and Gender Studies at the Savitribai Phule Pune University, examining the women's movement in the post 1990 period, mapping new spaces, strategies and issues of the movement. Her research areas are social movements, with a particular focus on women's movements, gender and development and gender and culture. She teaches papers on feminisms, feminist research methodology and gender and popular culture among others. Her other areas of engagement and research have been gender and higher education, the social history and cultural politics of kathak and the issue of declining child sex ratios. She was awarded the Awaben Wadia Archival fellowship by RCWS, SNDT University to work on an archive of life narratives of young feminists, 2017-18.

Spring 2023
Associate Professor of Communication Studies
State University of New York at Plattsburgh

Project Description

"Doulas as Communication Conduits,” explores how birth, full spectrum and end-of-life doulas are serving an important role in healthcare, both in terms of patient-family support and health outcomes. Doula work is care work. And that care work is often racialized and gendered, filling major gaps in community health care. Studying the larger doula movements in the United States offers a glimpse into the everyday lived experiences of those facing life and death scenarios and the role communication plays in these scenarios. The doula is not medical; the main intent is to offer support and to develop a meaningful relationship. However, traditional doula services are often inaccessible to many people due to cost, social position and geographic location. Those who work (either paid or unpaid) as doulas are present with individuals at highly emotional and vulnerable times. A feminist ethics provides a frame of reference to investigate the ways in which care and compassion are moral positions and central to human interactions. Much like gender and sexuality are social constructs, so too are “patients.” The role of doulas blur the boundaries of the medical model and serve their “clients” in ways that may not be permissible for those in other roles. There also is a radical push to de-medicalize and decolonize birth and death experiences; see for example scholars, activists and practitioners reclaiming and creating paradigms for birth and death, such as the national Black Doulas Association, the Radical Death Collective and the Queer Death Studies Network. Exploring doulas and their collaboration with and resistance to advanced capitalism in the US healthcare system is both timely and relevant.

Biography

Kirsten Isgro (Ph.D., University of Massachusetts) (she/her) is Associate Professor and Chair in Communication Studies at the State University of New York in Plattsburgh and core faculty at the University of Vermont’s College of Nursing and Health Sciences. Informed by a feminist ethics of care, her scholarship interrogates culture and communication in various contexts. She is the co-editor of the anthology Mothers in Academia (Columbia University Press, 2013) and has written book chapters and various scholarly articles on the politics of motherhood, disabilities, religion and sexuality. She currently serves on the national board for the Academy of Communication in Healthcare, focusing on patient engagement and relationship-centered communication. A newfound interest in graphic medicine has prompted her current research on the (birth-to-death) doula movements. Originally from the Cleveland, Ohio area, she has lived in the New England area since 1991. She currently resides in Burlington, Vermont. She is the mother of 16-year-old twin girls, one of whom has a life-threatening rare disease. As a lifelong feminist, the concept of radical self-care both intrigues and often eludes her in daily life. She is working on making self-care more of a priority in order to thrive physically, emotionally, politically and intellectually.

Academic Year
PhD Student in American Studies
Yale University

Project Description

My dissertation examines political mobilizations in response to gender violence that gave rise to mass protests across Mexico from 2010 to 2020. I draw on an original archive of feminist writings and testimonial acts, published in print and online, and appearing in banners, walls, monuments, chants and slogans. My argument is that while these protests built on prior demands for women’s rights, feminist leaders also drew from successful strategies deployed by previous social justice movements such as Occupy Wall Street and the Arab Spring. Through a simultaneous use of digital and print media and in-person assemblies Mexican feminists created new forms of communication. The effect was to enliven older forms of political writing – the testimonial and the manifesto – by ensuring their ubiquitous presence. This dynamic garnered immediate, engaged participation and the creation of forms of telling experiences of violence that were formerly untold. During my time at the Five College Women’s Studies Center I would like to create a fanzine with you and organize banners workshops.

Biography

Ever E. Osorio Ruiz (she/her) is a Doctoral Candidate in in American Studies and Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies at Yale University and a Predoctoral Fellow at MIT School of and Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences. She holds an MA in Politics from the New School for Social Research and an MA in Communication from Universidad Iberoamericana. Ever is currently writing her dissertation "The Violet Spring: Radical Politics and Poetics of Mexican Feminisms" in which she explores the history and configuration of contemporary Mexican feminist social movements through slogans and the writing of testimonies in protests, rallies and in analog and digital media posts. Her analysis situates the feminist struggle as a direct action against feminicide, the War on Drugs and rising authoritarianism. Her research has been supported by a Mellon Sawyer Seed Grant, the Race, Indigeneity and Transnational Migration Program and the MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies at Yale, and the Mexican Public Education Ministry. Ever’s fields of expertise are critical theories, Latin-American studies, feminisms, cultural studies, and modern social thought.

Academic Year
Assistant Professor in Communications
University of Massachusetts, Amherst

Project Description

Telling is the story of how I learn to speak, again and again, about my experience of childhood sexual harm. It is not the story of what happened, it is the story of what happened after. Of how I talk about it and how others talk about it with me. Talk about sexual harm, including how it is called, is considered through the lens of abolitionist and queer feminism. These frameworks help to account for the languaging of sexual harm, its prevention and consequences, and the intersection of speaking and embodiment. Further, this project locates the discourses and experiences of sexual harm alongside related structures of power that enable it, including racism and colonialism, sexism and heterosexism, and classism. These structures primarily produce and result in responses that promote punishment in the form of imprisonment and social restriction for those who have caused harm while simultaneously restricting, constricting or silencing those who have experienced it. These culminating mechanisms reduce sexual harm to the inter/personal while maintaining the structures that contribute to it. In Telling, I engage theories of trauma and communication, drawing from and contributing to frameworks of and for survival. Telling expands and increases the body count, of whose bodies and in what ways bodies are counted.

Biography

Kimberlee Pérez (she/her) is Assistant Professor of Performance Studies in the Department of Communication, University of Massachusetts Amherst. As a storyteller for the stage and page, her research and performance include themes of belonging and intimacy, pleasures and traumas, and at the intersections of raced, classed, sexual and other bodily identities. performer she writes of pleasures, traumas, and relations as a queer, mixed-race/white presenting person. Her writing also includes an interest in audiencing those performers and storytellers who make worlds from their words. Her writing has been published in Text and Performance Quarterly, Chicana/Latina Studies, QED: A Journal of Queer Worldmaking, and in edited volumes. She performs in black boxes and living rooms in a variety of series and spaces. Current projects in process include a book about the afterwards of sexual harm and communication about it and another book about the intimate encounters in performance. She is also writing about mourning when estranged, a road trip musical, and of what happens at the dog park.

Academic Year
Postdoctoral Fellow
Vassar College

Project Description

African refugee women resettled in the United States remain displaced and isolated from the knowledgemaking process including pedagogies of resettlement that prepare them for the labor market. Their experiences pre-flight are isolated from post-flight US pedagogies of resettlement. This paper drawn on feminist ethnographic approaches, black diasporic feminisms, and black studies to unsettle refugee resettlement policies and practices. In the paper, I will be responding to the following overarching research questions: How do African Refugees resettled in New England, United States navigate resettlement pedagogies and practices? And the inquiry will be guided by the following sub questions: a) How do African refugees resettled in New England relate to processes of resettlement? And b) What resources and constrains shape these processes? How are African refugees’ understanding of the notions of selfsufficiency constructed and how is this understanding different from stakeholders’ understanding of selfsufficiency.

Biography

Mariam Rashid (she/her) is a Postdoctoral Fellow at Vassar College. Her research interests are in refugee resettlement policies and practices in the United States and in the African Diaspora. In her current work, she explores how colonial, gendered, and racialized resettlement policies facilitate the dispossession of African refugees resettled in the U.S. from East and Central Africa. Her inquiry draws on Black Studies, Black Feminist Thought, and forms of diasporic feminisms.

Academic Year
Associate Professor in English
University of Tennessee

Project Description

Still Shocking: Modernism and Fiction in the 21st Century: This book contends that modernism – more than any other movement in the arts – casts a powerful shadow on contemporary literary fiction. What remains compelling, controversial, and disquieting about modernism’s revolutionary gestures? Why do so many contemporary writers continue to fashion themselves – artistic personae and artworks alike –in relation to their modernist predecessors? And what distinguishes modernism’s legacies from the afterlives of other literary or cultural movements? To answer these questions, Still Shocking: Modernism and Fiction in the 21st Century maps modernism’s complex cultural presence in the early 20th century and explains how that complexity takes on new life in 21st century fiction.

Biography

Urmila Seshagiri (she/her) is Lindsay Young Professor of English at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, where she is also faculty affiliate in Global Studies and Cinema Studies. The author of Race and the Modernist Imagination (Cornell) and editor of Virginia Woolf’s Jacob’s Room (Oxford), Professor Seshagiri is preparing the first scholarly edition of Virginia Woolf’s memoir Sketch of the Past (Cornell). This project has been supported by the NEH, the American Philosophical Society, the New York Public Library, and Smith College; it has also received a 2022 Silvers Foundation Grant for Works-in-Progress. Professor Seshagiri is writing a book about the complex legacy of modernist aesthetics titled Still Shocking: Modernism and Fiction in the 21st Century. Professor Seshagiri’s research has been supported by the Harry Ransom Center, the National Humanities Center, and the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, and the University of Tennessee Humanities Center. Her work has appeared in edited volumes and in journals such as PMLA, Modernism/ modernity, and A.S.A.P.|Journal. She is the Out of the Archives Editor for Feminist Modernist Studies and a contributor to LARB: Los Angeles Review of Books and Public Books. Widely recognized for her undergraduate and graduate teaching, Professor Seshagiri is the recipient of an NEH Enduring Questions Grant. The University of Tennessee has honored her with the campus-wide Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching, the College of Arts and Sciences Cunningham Outstanding Teaching Award, the College of Arts and Sciences Junior Faculty Teaching Award, and the Carroll Distinguished Teaching Chair. "

Fall 2022
Independent Scholar International Consultant

Project Description

COVID-19 has made the care economy very visible, thereby creating an opportunity for care-oriented transformative policy change. Yet the opposite appears to happen: The further countries move through the pandemic, the less attention there is paid to care, and the less ambition there is to transform patriarchal gender norms and relations through economic and social policies. I want to find out why this is so. I will explore the feminist-policymaker disconnect that I am observing and will reflect on the impact of diverse gendered welfare state regimes, including the strength of neoliberal ideas about solidarity and social responsibility, for explaining differences how care is incorporated into COVID-response policies. My goal is to contribute to feminist changemaking: I believe that by understanding the dynamics of post-pandemic policymaking, we can build power from below to achieve gender justice.

Biography

For more than twenty years, Silke Steinhilber (she/her) collaborates with others, from UN organizations, such as ILO and UN Women, to women´s rights organizations on feminist policies regarding care and employment, sustainable livelihoods and human rights. She holds a PhD in Political Science from the New School for Social Research, New York and has conducted research on transformative policymaking for women`s economic independence and self-determination in Eastern Europe, Latin America and Southeast Asia. She enjoys designing and implementing capacity development initiatives for changemakers on gender justice in social and economic policies. Silke is mostly based in Germany but enjoys looking at the world from non-European vantage points.