The Institute for Research on Race and Public Policy ( IRRPP ) at the University of Illinois at Chicago ( UIC ) hosted a reception for six scholars who have recently published books on gender, race,and sexuality. The event was held at the Institute's offices Oct. 30 at the UIC campus.
Beth Richie, director of the IRRPP and professor of African-American studies and gender and women's studies introduced the scholars, along with Jennifer Brier, director of the Department of Gender and Women's Studies ( GWS ). Both emphasized the interdisciplinary nature of the books, and their being rooted in questions around gender and sexuality ( all six are affiliated with GWS ). Richie said the scholarship emerges at the "intersection of race, gender, and public policy."
Lorena Garcia, associate professor of sociology, spoke about her book, Respect Yourself, Protect Yourself: Latina Girls and Sexual Identity. She said that the book came out of a need to "interrupt the conversation around Latina girls and sexuality." She said that, as a researcher, she often gets asked, "Why do you think they get pregnant?," and that her work complicates that question and ask more probing questions about Latina sexuality.
Nadine Naber, associate professor of gender and women's studies and Asian-American studies, spoke about Arab America: Gender, Cultural Politics, and Activism. Naber described her research as being a way to understand patriarchy and compulsory heterosexuality in Arab American communities, "without reifying Orientalism," referring to the ways that the Arab world is often presented in stereotypical and exotic ways.
Sekile Nzinga-Johnson, assistant professor of gender and women's studies, talked about Laboring Positions: Black Women, Mothering and the Academy. She said that the women discussed in her book were not all tenure-track, that her research went beyond "the loud silences of their experiences." "The book troubles...the rhetoric around academic mothering," she explained. She pointed out that many of the women accepted to a panel on the topic at the next National Women's Studies Association would not actually be able to attend because they work at community colleges and historically Black colleges and universities without the resources to support them. "What is our field," she asked, "if we don't capture all these issues?"
Anna Guevarra, assistant professor and director of Asian-American studies, and Nilda Flores-Gonzalez, associate professor of sociology and Latin American and Latino studies, edited the anthology Immigrant Women Workers in the Neoliberal Age. Guevarra said that the book was "an attempt to understand how knowledge is produced … in the bridge between academia and [the larger] community." She said that many of the writers in the anthology were both scholars and activists concerned with issues faced by women in low-wage labor. The book considers the impact of globalization and its disruptions upon their lives.
Claire Decoteau, assistant professor of sociology, talked about her book Ancestors and Antiretrovirals: The Bio-Politics of HIV/AIDS in Post-Apartheid South Africa. Decoteau said that her research was an attempt to show that "we can't understand AIDS policies without understanding the ANC's adoption of neoliberalism, as well as the crisis of liberation." She said that the book was a critique of neoliberal biomedical interventions in the AIDS crisis that "did not take into account people's belief systems," including indigenous healing communities.
Lastly, Barbara Ransby, professor of history, African-American studies, and gender and women's studies, spoke about Eslanda: The Large and Unconventional Life of Mrs. Paul Robeson. Ransby spoke about the importance of biographical histories which, she said, "put flesh on the bones of history." She spoke about the life of Eslanda Robeson, who is largely unknown in contrast to her far more famous husband. In fact, Ransby pointed out, Eslanda was well known in her own right as an anti-colonialist, anti-racist activist, feminist and journalist, and was also well-known in international political circles.