January 2015 Message from the Director

January 2015

Dear friends, colleagues and associates of the Centre for Feminist Research (CFR) at York University,

Welcome to the Centre for Feminist Research. CFR was founded in 1991, as a part of the School of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies. Currently, CFR hosts more than 200 faculty and graduate Associates. CFR Associates are world-renowned scholars who continue to advance feminist research in a wide range of feminist scholarship. CFR also hosts visiting scholars, visiting post-doctoral students and visiting graduate students.

As incoming Director for a five-year term as of July 1, 2014, I would like to profoundly thank outgoing Director Professor Enakshi Dua for her tremendous work in fostering the Centre as a site of dynamic, multifaceted feminist research over the past five years, and in steering the Centre to a new five-year Charter in 2013. It is truly a privilege to be able to build on her work and to learn from the leadership example she set, and I look forward to having her continue to actively engage with the Centre as an Associate.

We live in a challenging time to be working on feminist issues. Racism in the post 9/11 period, the crisis within financial institutions, repeated recessions, changes in economic, immigration and refugee policies, and global conflicts continue to create significant challenge in people’s lives. In this context, intersectional feminist research is even more vital as its insights point to the impossibility of investigating such conditions without an analysis of gender, race, sexuality, ability and class. Through its interdisciplinary strengths and diverse perspectives, CFR is well positioned to advance feminist perspectives on these and many other topics. Indeed some of the recent projects, as profiled in this site, address the myriad of ways in which government policies, global recessions, racism, the changes in the post 9/11 period, immigration and refugee polices and militarisation and violence shape race, gender, sexuality, class and ableism. Below is a summary of the activities over the 2013/14 academic year.

Lectures and Talks:

In 2013/14, CFR hosted or co-sponsored with other centres and departments a number of talks by international and national feminists, including panels with: Chris Ramsaroop, Farrah Miranda, and Min Sook Lee; Alia Hogben and Lynda Clarke; Syrus Marcus Ware, Che Gossett and Río Rodríguez; Kim Abis, Rachel Gorman, Nadia Kanani and Krysta Williams; and Malathi de Alwis and Alison Crosby. Talks were also given by: Judy Baca, Patricia Daley, Darryl B. Hill, Anastasia Jones, Reena Kukreja, Katherine McKitterick, Prem Misir, and Kerstin Oloff, and by our resident Visiting Scholars, Audrey Benn, reese simpkins, and Nora Ruck.

Workshops, Symposia, Conferences and Other Events:

In 2013/14, we organized several symposia, workshops and other events. These included SexTalk @ York II in May 2013, which showcased a collection of interdisciplinary scholarship from LGBT narratives of resistance to queer and transgender cultural production to psychoanalytic theory, to transnational and postcolonial studies. Speakers included Sheila Cavanagh, John Greyson, Nick Mule, Bobby Noble, Cate Sandilands, Miriam Smith, Nathan Rambukkana, Marc Stein, and Amar Wahab The event also provided a forum for graduate students and faculty members to network and share their research. The event was co-sponsored by the Faculty of LA&PS, Department of Film Studies, Department of History, Sexuality Studies Program, Associate Vice- President Re-search of LA&PS; and the School of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies.

In November 2013, CFR hosted a conversation between Professor Andil Gosine (York) and American journalist, book critic and author Gaiutra Bahadur. The event was an in-depth discussion of Bahadur's acclaimed new book Coolie Woman: The Odyssey of Indenture, as well as a concluding preview of Gosine’s WARDROBES display of art objects that carry within them elaborate stories and symbolism. From reading select passages from Coolie Woman to an engaging discussion about indentureship, the artist and author captured the minds of the audience with their work and insights into the power-gender trajectories of labor, sex, and home. The event was co-sponsored by the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies (LA&PS) and the Office of the Vice President for Research and Innovation (VPRI).

In January 2014, the Envisioning Global LGBT Human Rights project housed at CFR hosted a symposium on LGBT Rights in India: The Naz Foundation case in the Indian courts. Speakers Andrew Pinto, Vivek Divan, Nancy Nicol, and Vijaya Chikermane discussed the December 10, 2013 decision by the Indian Supreme Court to uphold a colonial-era criminal law, Section 377 of the Penal Code, which serves to criminalize homosexuality. The Supreme Court overturned the historic “Naz” decision of the Delhi High Court, which had struck down Section 377 in 2009. That far-reaching judgment had upheld LGBT equality under the constitution. It was hailed in India as a landmark in equality litigation, and celebrated by activists in other countries as a model for constitutional challenges. The event was co-sponsored by the Institute for Feminist Legal Studies, Osgoode Hall Law School, York University; Osgoode OUTLaws, and the South Asian Law Students Association.

From May 31-June 15th 2014, Sheila Cavanagh’s play Queer Bathroom Stories (based on a SSHRC Connections Grant housed at CFR) had a very successful run at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre (BBTT). The play about lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans- and queer experiences in Canada’s public facilities is based on interviews conducted for the award winning Queering Bathrooms: Gender, Sexuality and the Hygienic Imagination (2010) book by Cavanagh. As described by Libido Productions, “The stories open our eyes to the secret sex life of the bathroom and to the gendered politics of the washroom. You will never look at the bathroom the same way after witnessing the tragic and passionate reenactments of life in the can.”

And in July 2014, in conjunction with the Centre for Research on Latin America and the Caribbean (CERLAC) and the School of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies, we held the workshop Rethinking Women's and Gender Studies Transnationally: A Caribbean-Canadian Dialogue. Ten participants from Suriname and Guyana were invited to continue conversations that began with Professor Kamala Kempadoo of York University in 2012. Around 20 York faculty and graduate students in women’s gender and sexuality studies and Caribbean studies also participated in the workshop, as well as Caribbean studies faculty from Ryerson University and the University of Toronto.

Recognizing that the development of women’s and gender studies is uneven and that programs sometimes remain fledgling or are threatened by neo-liberal restructurings of the academy, the workshop addressed the capacity in the Canada, Suriname and Guyana to teach and carry out sound analysis, research, and community and policy work. The three–day meeting covered topics such as curriculum and course design, the documentation of program histories, links between the academy and community, and gender-sensitive policy and programming. It included sessions on blogging and library research, and importantly, explored ways to sustain a vibrant faculty-student exchange between York and the universities in Guyana and Suriname. The event was supported by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), the Faculty of Liberal Arts and Professional Studies Office of the Dean, the Department of Social Science, the Office of the Vice-President Research and Innovation, and Caribbean Studies at the University of Toronto.

Some of the feedback on the workshop from participants:

“I know that in the work I have tended to be locked into a Guyana place generally without thinking of how this could look outside and how shared experiences matter. There were many learning points for me, but I think the most important is how the academy and the community should be connected especially with gender and sexuality studies.”

“I am especially grateful for the knowledge I gained, regarding the strategies one might apply in the classrooms to ensure learning takes place. Thanks also for reinforcing that our multiple ways of being, demand analysis that considers the complexities, not only of gender, but of race, class and location.”

“This was a watershed moment for me even to ground with some of my own good Guyanese friends in a different way. It was also good to get to know about our close neighbor ADK (Anton de Kom University of Suriname) and to hear their experiences and work.”

The photograph of the group shows from left to right:  Camila Bonifaz (CERLAC), Jack Vulpe (CFR), Ronnie Antonius (ADEKUS), Renuka Rostam Biharie (ADEKUS), Nancy Tai A Pin (ADEKUS), Kamala Kempadoo (YorkU), Carla Bakboord (WRC Suriname).

The photograph of the group shows from left to right:

Camila Bonifaz (CERLAC), Jack Vulpe (CFR), Ronnie Antonius (ADEKUS), Renuka Rostam Biharie (ADEKUS), Nancy Tai A Pin (ADEKUS), Kamala Kempadoo (YorkU), Carla Bakboord (WRC Suriname).

Visiting Scholars:

The Centre was very proud to host the following Visiting Scholars, whose active participation and engagement in the Centre was greatly appreciated:

Audrey Benn, Director of the Department of Women’s Studies, University of Guyana

Dr. Soumia Boutkhil, Mohammed 1 University, Oujda, Morocco

Dr. Nora Ruck, EC Marie Curie International Outgoing Fellow, Austria

Dr. reese simpkins, CFR and Sexuality Studies Visiting Scholar

Research Clusters:

CFR hosts a number of research clusters. These clusters include: Discourses of Trafficking; Feminist Anti-Racist Interventions in the Academy; Feminist Cultural Production; Gender and Public Policy; Memory & Memorialization; Sexuality Studies and LGBT Activism. Information on all of these clusters – as well as a contact person – is posted on the website.

Annual Events Honouring the Work of Feminist Faculty:

Beginning in 2009, CFR has hosted an annual event that honours the work of feminist faculty at York who are close to retirement. This past year’s annual event honoured the contributions of Bettina Bradbury, who retired in July 2014, through a symposium that featured the work of her former graduate students, Kristine Alexander, Mary Anne Poutanen, Jarett Henderson, Judith Czapor, Sharon Stettner, Dan Horner and Magda Fahrni. The event was held in Founders College on April 17, 2014, and more than 120 people attended. The conference not only provided an opportunity to celebrate Professor Bradbury, but also for the participants to engage in the latest research in gender and history. The excellent quality of the papers is reflected in an anticipated publication, as they will be submitted to Histoire sociale – Social History to be published as a special issue.

Research Grants:

The Centre is currently administering a number of SSHRC and IDRC-funded research grants held by our Research and Faculty Associates, as well as an international conference fund in support of the Critical Ethnic Studies Association conference to be hosted by York University April 30-May 3, 2015. Details of research projects supported by the Centre are as follows:

Marvelous Grounds: Queer of Colour Imaginaries of the Toronto Gay Village, Jin Haritaworn (SSHRC Insight Development Grant, 2014-2016)

US Perspectives on Canadian Sexual Politics: Historical Case, Marc Stein (SSHRC Insight Grant, 2014-2019)

The Inhabitance of Loss: A Transnational Feminist Project on Memorialization, Alison Crosby (SSHRC Insight Grant, 2014-2019)

Study for Judicial Education for Family Law Professionals in Morocco, Sonia Lawrence and Ena Dua (International Development Research Centre, Canadian Partnerships Grant, 2014-17)

Transnational Capacity Building in Caribbean Gender and Women's Studies, Kamala Kampadoo (International Development Research Centre, Canadian Partnerships Small Grant, 2014-2015)

Women's Quests for Rights in the Middle East and North Africa: Contestations, Complexities, Contradiction, Haideh Moghissi (SSHRC Connection Grant, 2013-15)

Queer Bathroom Monologues, Sheila Cavanaugh (SSHRC Dissemination Grant, 2012-2014)

Envisioning Global LGBT Human Rights, Nancy Nicol (SSHRC CURA grant, 2011-2016)

Racialization, Racism and the University, Frances Henry (SSHRC Standard Grant, 2010–2014)

Transnational Migration Trajectories of Immigrant Women Professionals in Canada, Guida Man (SSHRC Standard Grant, 2010-2014)

The past year has indeed been extremely productive. The work of the Centre is supported by committed staff and Associate members. It is through the involvement and commitment of these feminists that the Centre has been so vibrant. In addition to outgoing director Ena Dua, I would particularly like to thank our former coordinator, Vivian Lee, and our current coordinator, Julia Pyryeskina, as well as all our graduate student assistants for making all of the activities of CFR possible.


Alison Crosby

Director of the Centre for Feminist Research