Kim Butler

Africana Studies, Rutgers-New Brunswick
Insurgent Healing: The Radicalism of Black Women’s Care

Kim Butler small image In his epic Black Marxism, Cedric Robinson posited the Black radical tradition as an essential countervailing force to predatory racial capitalism. Robinson follows a long tradition of scholars whose understanding of Black radicalism centers on spectacular moments of uprisings, revolts, and protests. Within his chronicle of Black resistance spanning centuries and continents, nowhere does Robinson mention the quiet work of care and healing, and the importance of women in shaping practices that affirmed Black life. The essence of his Marxist reading is that capitalism created a construct of Blackness in which the Black body (and Black land) was positioned as a vehicle of capitalist accumulation. It follows that work to restructure this relationship—to shift Black people back into the category of Human/Citizen—is fundamentally radical political work. I argue that Black women fostered a culture of caring for Black life that accomplished this re-positioning from commodity to human that ultimately transformed more lives than the greatest of the slave rebellions. It was, and remains, a necessary step towards self- love and worthiness without which it is impossible to demand justice. Feminist scholarship has worked to make visible the very quotidian, ordinary nature of the work of care. In this project, I posit an alternative genealogy of the Black radical tradition that centers Black women’s care practices, and their work to protect those practices, as essential to the work of liberation.


Gabrielle Cabrera

Anthropology, Rutgers-New Brunswick
Undocumented Migrants in California’s Central Valley

Gabrielle Cabrera small imageDuring the pandemic, the narrative around farmworkers went from “low-skill” to “essential.” Despite the pandemic's recasting of migrant farmworkers as "essential workers," everyday life in many ways appears the same for undocumented migrants and their children. The pandemic has changed some things in the lives of my interlocutors, but what has remained the same? Based on sixteen months ethnographic fieldwork, my dissertation project explores the lives of undocumented migrants in California’s Central Valley as they contend with life and their status as students in the public university and outside in the migrant city, where they face the uncertainties of their status post-graduation. The project examines the promises and deceptions of higher education and immigration reform as key site where migrant futures are fought out in contemporary United States. As my fieldwork transitioned to consider the lives of undocumented migrant women – mothers, daughters, community workers – outside the university, I observed different life stages between students and those living within the “migrant” city, opening new and complex possibilities for self-making, belonging, care, and futures during the pandemic.


Elizabeth Decker

The Writing Program, Rutgers-New Brunswick
Parenting at the End of the World: the Double-Bind of Caregivers as Individuals in Times of

Elizabeth Decker small imageThis project explores the double-binding role of the caregiver as an individual in times of crisis, especially the caregiver role of the primary parent. Drawing on interdisciplinary theory beyond the double-bind, including Sara Ruddick’s maternal thinking, Adrienne Rich’s institutionalized motherhood, and Kimberlé Crenshaw’s intersectionality, we will engage with humanities-based (literature, film) and non-fiction (journalism, memoir) sources to interpret how an individual navigates their caregiving role in times of crisis, broadly conceived. A guiding question of the course will be how times of crisis reveal existing fractures in society and how caregivers have always already negotiated their role in response to those fractures. For example, the Covid-19 pandemic brought national attention to issues faced by women in the workplace, the already insufficient social structures for childcare, and ongoing racial and social inequalities–all issues that predate the pandemic.


Suzy Kim

Asian Languages and Cultures, Rutgers-New Brunswick
Gendering Sanctions in North Korea through an Ethics of Care

Suzy Kim small image

Rather than focusing on the efficacy or legality of sanctions as in most sanctions literature, this project draws on feminist critiques of international relations and security studies to analyze sanctions on North Korea as an instrument of deep insecurity that must be reframed in order to prioritize practices and relations of care. While sanctions have been justified as nonviolent alternatives to war, attention to a feminist ethics of care shows the blanket impact that reverberates throughout society by withholding everyday basic needs, medical supplies, and energy resources. That such effects are often left out of policy debates signals the inadequate conceptualization of what constitutes security, who are the critical actors, and what kinds of impacts merit recognition. This project challenges the conventional security discourse privileging nation-states and their use of sanctions as an enforcement tool to offer a notion of genuine security that centers a feminist ethics of care.   


Eri Kitada

History, Rutgers-New Brunswick
Care Work for Frontiers Building: Women, Commercial Sex, and Settler Colonialism in the American Philippines

Eri Kitada small imageMy historical project, “Care Work for Frontiers Building,” investigates the intimate labor of Filipino and Japanese prostitute women in the building of a “frontier” town Davao in the American Philippines (1898-1945), by highlighting the governmental regulations of such heterosexual transactions. It centers Asian women to analyze the sexual and affective economy of the U.S. empire and the intersection of gender, race, and space in the history of settler colonialism. How did the U.S. colonial government and various residents in Davao jointly depend on the care work of Filipino and Japanese women? My project uses an innovative approach that combines documents collected in the Philippines, Japan, and the United States. Crossing both geographical and disciplinary boundaries and engaging with postcolonial and intersectional feminist methods, my research will contribute to literature on migrant women’s care labor, gendered history of colonialism, and scholarship on Asian settler colonialism.


Rashmi Kumari

Childhood Studies, Rutgers-Camden
Beyond Modernity and Indigeneity: Adivasi Youths’ Engagement with Development in Central India

Rashmi Kumari small imageMy dissertation research examines how the figure of the Adivasi (Indigenous) girl in Central India emerges in the discursive convergence of violence and development.  I engage with care as both a teleological and a spatial concept marking the lives of rural Indigenous children. I look at various developmental interventions in the fields of education, health, and skill development. I look at these interventions as projects of responsibility and care by the State directed at Indigenous children in the area perceived as “conflict-prone and backward.” I also aim to complicate the language of care and protection used by the State as a garb to advance the agenda of development by extractive capitalism to exploit the untapped natural resources of these areas. On the other end of this discourse on care, I locate care within the community as a mode of survival, resistance, and existence. Conceptualizing care as radical praxis, I aim not to romanticize the care and generosity practiced by the Indigenous communities; instead, my focus will be to reflect on the research ethics as a practice of care.


Preetha Mani

AMESALL, Rutgers-New Brunswick
A Woman’s Desire Is a Man’s Abstraction: How Women (Under)Wrote Hindi Modernism

Preetha Mani small imageThis project reconsiders the role that a newly arising generation of women writers played in shaping Hindi modernism. Following Indian independence (1947), conditions were more favorable for women to enter the traditionally male Hindi sphere. I propose that Hindi modernism’s incorporation of women writers was not simply a matter of male accommodation or acceptance of women’s frank expressions of female anguish, anger, ambition, and longing. Nor was it solely a process of translating women’s psychologically realistic portrayals into the more masculinist terms of modernist abstraction. Rather, women writers’ chronicling of women’s emotional lives legitimized modernist depictions of heterosexual relationships precisely because it was understood to represent “authentic” female experience. It was requisite to the constitution of Hindi modernism itself. Women’s writing, I contend, was a gendered division of literary labor—an aesthetics of care.


Lauren Silver

Childhood Studies, Rutgers-Camden
Abolitionist Childhood: Forging Freedom, Healing, and Radical Love in the Now

Lauren Silver small imageThe IRW Fellowship would enable me to continue writing my book, Abolitionist Childhood, a remix in scholarship, poetry, and art. Each movement (instead of chapter) integrates autoethnographic and feminist ethnography from over twenty years of passionate engagements with children, families, and educators across systems of schooling and “family policing” (otherwise known as the child welfare system). I trace the intersection of childhood studies, abolition, and queer kinship. At these crossroads, Abolitionist Childhood is a way of imagining and enacting a world where the relationships, institutions, and environments that harm children could be undone and built anew to promote healing, freedom, and care. I ask the questions: how can critical insights from young people and childhood studies counter myths and clarify visions for abolition? How can the momentum from abolitionist movements radicalize childhood studies and center our scholarship in the lives of Black, Brown, Indigenous, disabled, and queer youth?



Additional Seminar Participants

Susan Marchand (Douglass Alumna)
Leslye Obiora (IRW Global Scholar)
Sara Perryman (IRW Undergraduate Learning Community Coordinator)


Chie Ikeya
Director, Institute for Research on Women

Sarah Tobias
Associate Director, Institute for Research on Women