Feminist In/Security: Vulnerability, Securitization, and States of Crisis

The Institute for Research on Women (IRW) announces its twentieth annual interdisciplinary seminar, “Feminist In/Security: Vulnerability, Securitization, and States of Crisis.” We live in a time of fear, when “security” has become a keyword, promising to alleviate threats of violence at home and abroad. Securitization has also become big, transnational business. Techniques, methods, and technologies of securitization are mobile and adaptable, and they travel alongside experts and expertise within a global market that brings together various—and sometimes surprising—actors. During the 2016-17 academic year, IRW will look at questions of international and domestic security from a range of feminist and queer perspectives. How might feminist and queer analyses and methods help us better understand regional, international, and transnational crises—from Ebola to the spread of ISIS to the mass movement of refugees? How do concepts such as homonationalism (Puar) or methods derived from “queer intellectual curiosity” (Weber) disrupt conventional understandings of sexuality, power, statehood, and international politics?

Feminist and queer scholarship have challenged and re-conceptualized many of the key assumptions of international security discourse, critiquing mainstream debates and revisiting constructs, including political realism (Tickner, Peterson), militarism (Enloe), post colonialism (Alexander, Talpade Mohanty), and human rights (Thoreson, Aradau). Influenced by feminist scholars and activists, the United Nations has broadened its interpretation of security, incorporating aspects of human security, such as freedom from rape, environmental degradation, and poverty, into a definition typically associated with the territorial integrity and autonomy of states. Yet despite its lip-service to gender equity, the UN’s approach often conceals gender-based injustices (including those related to gender identity and expression) and regularly ignores the intersectionality of race, class, gender, sexual orientation, and legal status. Indeed, gender is often introduced into studies of international and human security in ways that are trivial and tokenistic rather than addressing the complex realities of vulnerable subjects globally. Although these approaches aim at securing women or sexual minorities, technologies and theories of securitization are often articulated through class, racial, and gender difference. Old problems gain new descriptions: under- and unemployed young men, for example, are no longer threats to the health of a national economy but become security threats (Amar).

At the level of the state, feminist and queer scholars and activists have used the concept of security to critically examine a variety of issues, including mass incarceration, profiling, domestic violence, and sex work. For example, the Black Lives Matter movement developed an explicitly feminist analysis of state violence under white supremacy and the ways communities of color are acutely susceptible to police brutality. Within a transnational context, scholars have demonstrated how the migration apparatus of the United States inflicts violence and terror on migrant families, often in the name of “security” for the homeland (Schmidt Camacho, Golash-Boza). Trans Studies scholars have noted similarities between the policing of national borders and the policing of genders, and described how gender-nonconforming bodies can disrupt systems of surveillance utilized in the name of national security (Aizura, Beauchamp). Indeed, surveillance technologies are increasingly used both to terrorize women and to profile populations of South Asian and Middle Eastern descent, resulting in heightened surveillance and the increasing vulnerability and criminalization of already marginalized communities. Yet while vulnerability can prove dangerous, “brittle,” or insecure, scholars also note its potential to reorient relationships between self and others, creating generative spaces for feminist interventions through solidarity and resistance (Ahmed, Butler).

We invite applications from faculty and advanced graduate students (ABD status required) whose projects explore aspects of our theme. Such studies may examine any time period(s) or geographical location(s) and be rooted in any disciplinary or interdisciplinary approach(es). Some possible topics relevant to the seminar theme include, but are not limited to:

-- Cybersecurity
-- Vulnerability and grievability
-- Precarity
-- Black Lives Matter
-- Masculinities, secularization, and crisis
-- Tourism and leisure studies
-- Economic development
-- International relations theory
-- Border studies
-- Migration
-- Human trafficking
-- Refugees and asylum
-- The carceral state
-- Hurricane Sandy and human security
-- Latin American financial crises
-- Food systems
-- Governance and biopolitics
-- Trauma, fear and its multigenerational legacies
-- Domestic violence
-- Militarism
-- Virality
-- Settler/colonial studies
-- Terrorism/the war on terror
-- Environmental threats

Individuals from all disciplines, schools, and programs on all Rutgers campuses are welcome to apply. We invite applicants from a wide range of backgrounds, including the natural sciences and engineering, humanities, social sciences, arts, medicine, public health, education, business, social work, information technology, public policy, law, and other fields. We also welcome proposals from Rutgers-based writers and activists.

The seminar will support up to eight Rutgers Faculty Fellows and up to four Graduate Fellows from the New Brunswick, Camden, and Newark campuses. Seminar fellows are expected to attend all Thursday morning seminar meetings during Fall and Spring Semesters 2016-2017, provide a paper for discussion in the seminar, and open a seminar session with an extended response to another scholar’s paper.

Graduate students will receive a $5,000 stipend for the year as seminar fellows. Faculty fellows will receive either $4,000 in research support or a one-course teaching release for one semester to enable them to participate in the year-long seminar. In the latter case, departments will be reimbursed for instructional replacements at the minimum contractual PTL rate. Financial arrangements will be made in advance of the seminar with the department chairs and/or appropriate deans.    

The deadline for applications has been extended to Friday, February 5, 2016. All decisions of the selection committee are final. 2016-2017 Seminar Fellows will be notified by Friday February 26, 2016. Please contact IRW at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. if you have any questions or would like more information.


2016-17 Seminar Call and Application