IRW Seminar

2018-2019 Seminar Fellows

Kate Cairns

Childhood Studies, Rutgers-Camden
“Living with, and Against, Slow Violence: Youth and Environmental Justice in Camden, New Jersey”

Kate Cairns Low-income communities of color are disproportionately subject to environmental harm. Focusing on the case of Camden, New Jersey, my research investigates how young people experience, interpret, and respond to the “slow violence” of environmental assault (Nixon 2011). The study approaches environmental justice through a feminist lens of social reproduction, attending to everyday practices that sustain individual and collective life under capitalism. Children and youth are commonly regarded as symbols of the future, positioned as victims or saviors of that which is yet-to-come. Challenging this narrow frame, my research foregrounds young people’s participation in practices and relations that are essential to the reproduction of larger social formations. Using feminist ethnography, the study explores environmental education initiatives engaging children and youth, with particular attention to young peoples’ experiences and understandings of environmental justice. 

Jennifer Duprey

Iberian Studies, Rutgers-Newark
“Obliterating Motherhood: Prisons, Republican Women and The Spanish Civil War”

Jennifer DupreyThe end of the Spanish Civil War, in 1939, was characterized by the victor’s rule and a brutal dictatorship that lasted for forty years. In Francisco Franco’s dictatorship, military psychiatrists in search of the so-called “red gene” experimented on Republican prisoners. Among the victims were imprisoned Republican women and their children. After being removed from their imprisoned mothers, these children had their names changed and could thus be adopted by families congenial to the Francoist regime. In addition, many thousands of working-class children were sent to state institutions because their own Republican mothers were considered unfit to raise them. I seek to investigate the stories of these Republican women to determine the meaning of their multiple losses -- their children, their political project, and its promise. 

Sandy Flitterman-Lewis

English, Rutgers-New Brunswick
“Hidden Voices: Childhood, the Family, and Antisemitism in Occupation France”

Sandy Flitterman Lewis My project concerns the ways in which social attitudes and cinematic representations shape historical memory. Using the example of France during World War II (in which thousands of Jewish families were hunted down, arrested, and sent to their deaths in a country praised for its Enlightenment values), I want to explore both how the cultural production of xenophobia set the stage for public acquiescence to persecution before and during the War, and how the shaping of public memory after the War has resonances with, and implications for, our own contemporary social issues. This latter involves the complicated intersection of public commemorations and private memories, strategies for representing loss and absence, challenges to received ideas of victimhood and survival, the determination to prevent the devastating repetitions of forced exile and immigration, in short, to use the term of cineaste Alain Resnais, to enable “constructive forgetting.” We cannot be paralyzed by being mired in the past, yet we must memorialize the suffering of those remembered.

Sandra Medina

Spanish and Portuguese, Rutgers-New Brunswick
“The Remnants of the Armed Conflict: The Body In/After Violence in Contemporary Colombian Cinema”

Sandra MedinaMany contemporary Colombian films address the effects of 52 years of war between Colombia’s leftist guerrillas, right-wing paramilitary forces, and the Colombian military. My project interprets the representation of physical and psychological violence perpetrated by the armed groups in Colombia through documentaries and fictional narratives produced since 2000. Specifically, I study the cinematic techniques employed to depict the legacies of violence—mutilation, torture, pain, trauma, and displacement. With theorists that explore viewers’ haptic experience, our state of living in/through/as a body, the silences and absences of a traumatic experience, race, and physical disability, this project analyzes the (re)integration and rehabilitation into civil society of both the victims and victimizers of the conflict. My dissertation reveals crucial reflections on the urgent humanitarian problems facing the nation.

Priti Narayan

Geography, Rutgers-New Brunswick
“Terrains of Negotiation: Strategic Residents and the State in a Developing City”

Priti NarayanThe commodification of land in the Indian city is increasingly leading to large scale eviction of the working classes. This ethnographic dissertation project illustrates how, in this dynamic, insecure landscape, the urban poor in Chennai navigate terrains of negotiation with politicians, local bureaucrats, and activists. Drawing from Partha Chatterjee's influential theorization of  'political society'—a domain in which residents engage with politicians through direct, paralegal arrangements —and feminist intersectional theory, this project suggests that slum residents (re-)claim tenure security and citizenship through the deployment of particular, strategic positions with different influential actors. As pliable political clients, consumer-citizens, active encroachers, and strategists employing government documents, residents attempt to defend and further advance their gains in the central city. Their successes and failures also allow theorization of the contemporary Indian welfare state as it contends with the demands of speculative urbanism and popular legitimacy..

Julie Rajan

Women’s and Gender Studies, Rutgers-New Brunswick
“Women, Violence, and the Islamic State”

Julie RajanMy scholarship investigates the direct impact of the Islamic State (IS) on the human security of all females they encounter both in the spaces the group proclaims to have conquered and transformed into portions of its global caliphate/empire and those it is fighting to secure. I will examine the relationship between the catastrophes experienced by females of different communities at the hands of the IS and the range of loss and trauma they are now experiencing in their private lives—in contexts where they continue to be subject to IS violence and also where they have been relieved of it, even temporarily. I will include the experiences of female refugees in official UN and unofficial refugee camps in Jordan and Turkey, and those of females who have fled the IS to migrate into European nations. I will examine the repercussions of the IS’s sexual enslavement of Yazidi females, and the testimonials of women who are IS defectors, including their experiences of violence, sense of loss, and eventual disillusionment with the ideology they had initially fervently believed.

Patricia A. Roos

Sociology, Rutgers-New Brunswick
“Public Catastrophe, Private Loss: Grief and Resilience in the Midst of the Opioid Epidemic”

Pat RoosOn May 11, 2015, our 25‐year old son Alex overdosed on heroin, three years after he graduated from college. He joined the thousands of others—young and old, white and black, women and men, poor and rich, educated or not—who have succumbed to the opioid epidemic. Currently raging nearly unchecked in the U.S., this huge public health catastrophe shows no signs of lessening. The epidemic has intersected with my life in a major way, stealing our brilliant, beautiful son. I knew right away I wanted to be public about our private loss, and hence wrote an obituary and talk for the memorial service that openly discussed Alex’s mental health and addiction issues. I wanted to reduce stigma and initiate difficult conversations. Since those early days, that conversation has been uncomfortable. I now focus on writing my and my family’s experiences as a kind of sociological memoir.

Beth Rubin

Graduate School of Education
“Public Histories, Situated Citizenships: Educating for Democracy in Divided Societies”

Beth RubinSchools are often given the task of promoting democracy in divided societies, with state sponsored history and citizenship curricula seen as a means for constructing a unified civic identity. Civic belonging, however, is deeply enmeshed in the variegated contours of historical memory, connected to the ways that they learn about, remember and interpret the histories of their families, communities and countries. This comparative project will investigate historical and civic learning in intentionally integrated schools within three societies deeply marked by historical and contemporary conflict and arresting levels of school segregation: Israel/Palestine, Northern Ireland and South Africa. In this initial segment of the project, I will, for each national setting, collect and analyze curriculum frameworks and teaching materials in the areas of history and citizenship, with particular attention to past and ongoing conflict. I will also collect and examine such materials produced, in each setting, by an intentionally integrated school.

Jordan Steiner

School of Social Work
“The Relationship Between Sexual Violence and Mental Health Outcomes for Adolescents Girls and Young Women in Malawi”

Jordan SteinerSexual violence against adolescent girls and young women is of growing concern, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa. Research demonstrates that this violence can include multiple forms, including unwanted touching, forced sex, transactional sex, threats, sexual abuse and rape. Evidence demonstrates particularly negative effects on adolescent girls and young women, who suffer from educational, physical and mental health consequences. Reasons for the presence of this violence are complex, and can be driven by poverty, and unequal power relations between males and females. The proposed study will fill gaps in knowledge about different forms of sexual violence, trauma, and mental health effects of this violence through exploring quantitative data from Malawi.    

Additional Seminar Participants

Eriada Cela (IRW Global Scholar – tentative, Spring 2019)
Basuli Deb (IRW Global Scholar)
Susan Marchand (Douglass Alumna)
Leslye Obiora (IRW Global Scholar)
Voichita Nachescu (IRW Global Scholar)
Sara Perryman (IRW Undergraduate Learning Community Coordinator)


Arlene Stein
Director, Institute for Research on Women

Sarah Tobias
Associate Director, Institute for Research on Women