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Welcome (Fall 2020)

September 21, 2020

To everyone in the Gender & Sexuality Studies community:

I want to extend warm greetings to all of you as we begin the first full week of a new quarter and new academic year at Northwestern. I hope that each of you is in good health and doing well in circumstances that can only be described as difficult. Remote teaching and learning create real challenges for all of us and we want you to know that we stand ready to speak with you openly about any issues you yourself are facing and about how we might help to make things a little easier and more humane.

We are all acutely aware that we begin this year at a time of multiple crises affecting everyone, both here at Northwestern and beyond our local borders. The pandemic has disrupted the lives, plans, and hopes of people around the nation and the globe, but we also know well that its most dire effects have fallen disproportionately on the least privileged among us. These unequal effects have been exacerbated by ongoing and even intensified racism and by discriminatory actions against diverse populations including those who challenge normative gender arrangements. Climate change, too, and its multiple effects -- drought, intense heat, fires, intensified storms, hurricanes, and floods -- have also had uneven impact on some of us this summer. I fervently hope that you, your families, and your communities have been able to cope with these challenges and are finding ways to look forward and to plan for whatever a very uncertain future might bring. I know that for some, the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, an important figure (along with many others) in the struggle to extend civil and judicial protections to more diverse populations, has made that future seem even more precarious than it already did. Bearing all this in mind, we will be holding an open session on Friday, September 25th at 2PM CDT for anyone who wishes to join in order to share our thoughts about these multiple crises and to discuss what actions we might want to consider as a diverse community seeking to move forward. Register here to receive the Zoom link.

Over the course of the summer many of us within Gender & Sexuality Studies have been discussing ways we might focus this year on these intersecting crises. Our first concern has been to develop a response to the Gender Queer, Non-Binary and Trans (GQNBT) Task Force Report.  The task force was led by GSS faculty members, Héctor Carrillo and Sekile Nzinga. We would like to express our gratitude to them and to the entire Task Force for their research, analysis and complex call to action. In response, the Advisory Board of GSS has developed its own plan of action specifying how the Program will contribute to the project of making our community more responsive to the needs of trans and gender non-conforming students, staff, and faculty on the NU Campus. Click here to read the full response. 

We are especially grateful for Professor Nick Davis’s willingness to serve as the first “point person” within the Program (a position we intend to continue each year), who will help us to attend to the intellectual, pedagogical, and communal issues related to trans and gender non-conforming people and their experiences. Professor Davis will host a community wide discussion of both the Task Force Report and the GSS Response to it via Zoom on Wednesday, October 7th at 5:30 PM, CDT. Everyone is welcome. Register here to receive the Zoom link. A second discussion of how our pedagogy might change to better address these issues will be scheduled for later in the quarter.

GSS further plans to focus our programming during Winter and Spring Quarter, 2021 on anti-blackness and racism of all kinds and on the ways both intersect with gender arrangements and economic inequality. We will communicate those plans later this quarter.

Finally, I want to welcome Visiting Professor Majida Kargbo, who comes to us from Brown University. Professor Kargbo will be teaching two courses for us this fall, “Black Feminist Theory: Another World Is Possible: Black Feminisms, World-Making, and Radical Futures” and “Dirty Computer: Race, Queerness and Science Fiction.” We are truly sorry that we won’t be able to host Professor Kargbo here on campus or to introduce her more personally to the GSS community. We hope many of you will be able to meet her virtually at least at one of our upcoming events.

I'm sending my very best wishes to each and every one of you for a successful start to the quarter. I hope to see you virtually sometime very soon.


Jan Radway, Director
Gender & Sexuality Studies