IRW Seminar

2004-2005 Seminar Abstracts

Diversity: Expanding Theory and Practice

Winnifred Brown-Glaude
Institute for Women’s Leadership
’Women Outa Road:’ Race/Color and Women’s Informal Work in Jamaica
This research examines the social status, public image, and self-perceptions of two groups of Afro-Jamaican female micro-entrepreneurs, commonly know as higglers (street vendors), in the Jamaican informal economy. The two groups examined are market women and informal commercial importers. The purpose of this study is to examine the extent to which these women’s experiences are influenced by intersecting social relations of race/color and class as these categories are constructed in the Jamaican context. 


Mary Gatta
Center for Women and Work, SMLR
Rethinking United States Workforce Development Policy: Promoting Flexible Access to Education and Skills Training for Single Working Poor Mothers

Single working poor mothers represent a growing portion of the American laborforce. While some of these workers are former TANF (Temporary Aid to Needy Families) recipients who have “timed out” of welfare benefits, many have never been on the country’s welfare rolls. These workers lack social supports such as healthcare, childcare and reliable transportation, and lack access to training and educational opportunities to improve their lives. As a result then although single working poor mothers barely survive economically they have fallen from our country’s radar screen. For this fellowship using data I collected from a New Jersey pilot program on online learning for single working poor mothers, I propose reconceptualizing welfare reform and workforce policies to include flexible programs that will help raise working women and their families out of poverty.


Tanya K. Hernandez
The Salience of Intersectionality Theory Analysis for Women of All Colors
More than two decades ago feminist scholars in the United States slowly began to recognize the White middle class paradigm of feminism. Since that time intersectionality has developed as a method for conceptualizing the ways in which the experiences of women of color are influenced by the forces of both racism and sexism. What has yet to be fully developed is an acknowledgement that intersectionality is a methodology that is also salient in analyzing the experiences of White women.
Thus, while some feminist writings make mention of the important observation that race and gender are intimately intertwined in the gender subordination of all women, few feminists have yet to actually apply an intersectional approach to most feminist issues. The underlying presumption seems to be that Critical Race Theory is only relevant to women of color. My research project will be focused on examining the ways in which Critical Race Theory and intersectionality can be applied to White women and women of color alike.


Kimberly DaCosta Holton
Classical and Modern Languages and Literatures-Newark
Performance and Conflict in Portuguese-Speaking Newark

Newark, a city which has struggled for decades to recover from the devastating effects of the 1967 riots, has turned a history of racial strife into a platform for image-overhaul where tropes of peacability between diverse ethnic groups form the foundation of a new post-riot identity. Combining testimony from ethnographic interviews with the fruits of archival research and participant observation, my project examines the way in which post-colonial tensions between Portuguese and Brazilian communities of the East Ward challenge Newark’s narrative of ethnic harmony and cultural awakening. The culture clash which plagues Newark’s lusophone population is typically explained using sweeping “old world/new world” or “European/Latin American” dichotomies. My preliminary research indicates that the specific contours of conflicts among Newark’s Portuguese and Brazilian population are catalyzed around select poles of expressive behavior. Language, sexuality, and music comprise three of these expressive nuclei, serving both as “evidence” of Portuguese/Brazilian difference and as performative contexts in which post-colonial conflict is publicly vetted.


Ana Y. Ramos-Zayas
Anthropology and Puerto Rican and Hispanic Caribbean Studies
Performance of Blackness, De-centering of Whiteness?
I plan to examine how nations of “Whiteness” and “Blackness” are spatially conceived among working-class groups racialized as “Hispanics” or “Latinos” in the neighborhoods of the Ironbound and North Newark. The ethnographic data that I have collected over the past year suggests that the true measurement of “becoming American” among U.S.-born Latinos and Latin American immigrant youth is not that an immigrant abandons his/her “culture” to “become white,” but rather, that the immigrant sheds an “immigrant look” and succeeds in “becoming Black” or performing “Blackness.” This in no way suggests that the privileging of “Blackness” (and even an open rejection of “Whiteness”) among U.S.-born Latinos and Latin American migrants alike, necessarily translates into meaningful political or social relationships between Latinos and African Americans. In fact, sometimes it suggests quite the opposite: A problematic separation between the appreciation (and even appropriation) of “Blackness”—in its commodified and heavily marketed form—alongside the abjections of Black bodies.


Edward Ramsamy
Department of Africana Studies
Gender and the Politics of Identity in the ‘New’ South Africa
Using South Africa as a case study, the project will explore the problematic relationship with national liberation movements and the struggle for gender equality. One of the major aims of the project is to assess the success of South Africa’s attempt to achieve gender equality since its transition to democratic rule in 1994. I will examine in detail the legislation and policies designed to achieve gender equality and explore their effectiveness in practice within South African civil society. The second part of the project will explore how South Africans of Indian descent have negotiated their place in the new political system during and after the transition to democratic rule. The project will demonstrate that class position, on one hand, and perceptions of political and material vulnerability, on the other hand, play an integral role in identity politics within the Indian community.


Patricia Roos
Gender Equity in the Academy
I have been involved collaboratively for several years on a project examining gender equity in the academy. Working with colleagues I have generated a detailed database of all faculty in a large Arts & Sciences unit at a major public research university. In addition, we collected additional quantitative and qualitative interview data, allowing for a fairly detailed assessment of gender equity in this Arts & Sciences unit. During the fellowship year, I plan to update the database (from A& 1999-2000 to AY 2003-2004), and to the extent possible add race as an important component of the analyses. Our goals involve assessments of women’s representation in faculty positions, sex differences in academic success (including rank, promotion, and leadership), analyses of more subtle forms of discrimination, and similar analyses for race/sex groups to the extent possible given their low representation in the faculty.


Beth C. Rubin
Educational Theory, Practice, and Administration, GSE
Race, Class and Ability: Constructing Difference across Varied School Contexts
This project will explore how hierarchies based on difference, particularly those related to race, class and ability, are constructed, maintained, and contested by students and teachers in varied high school settings. To pursue these issues I will draw upon a qualitative dataset collected during a study of detracking (heterogeneous grouping) that I am currently conducting at three distinct public high schools: an urban school serving low-income students of color, a suburban school serving mainly high income White students, and a racially and socioeconomically integrated suburban school. This data offers a rich opportunity to explore the institutional, classroom, and social practices that construct difference across the three settings. The key axes of difference to be examined in the proposed project are those of race, socioeconomic status, and ability. Preliminary examination of the data indicates that these three dimensions are interwoven and mutually constitutive. Furthermore, each facet seems to take a distinct shape and meaning in each of the three schools.


Anna Stubblefield
The Chimera of Race and Cognitive Ability: Toward Genuine Educational Reform in the United States

The concepts of “race” and “intelligence” developed by white elites are so intertwined as to be inseparable. White elites developed both concepts simultaneously as tools to support their social power, and each concept reinforces the other. Thus, we cannot adequately address the injustice of white supremacy without addressing the injustice of conceptualizing cognitive functioning in hierarchical terms and vice versa. This conclusion has important policy implications, calling into question both the segregation of public schooling on the basis of “cognitive ability,” which disproportionately harms black students, and narrow, meritocratic conceptions of intelligence at the university and professional school level, which disproportionately exclude black people from academia. While I sympathize with the motivation of activists who have rightfully argued that black people are not intellectually inferior to white people, we should move more radically in the direction of understanding cognitive ability non-hierarchically in order to completely eradicate the devastating legacy of intertwined racial/cognitive ability construction.


Jacqueline Castledine
Gendering Postwar Diaspora Politics: African American Women and U.S. Racial Policy
This project examines the role played by African American women in post-World War II diaspora politics, with a view toward assessing their impact on U.S. foreign and domestic race policies. Using a language of rights popularized during the war, African American women placed themselves at the center of the postwar decolonization movement, helping found anticolonial organizations and lobbying the U.S. government and the United Nations on behalf of African and Asian liberation movements. In the process, they linked international movements to the liberation struggle of blacks in the American South. After over a decade of working outside the U.S. political system, several of these women joined the Progressive Party, attempting to influence race policy from within the system. This paper explores the long-term impact of the activism of Shirley Graham (Du Bois), Eslanda Robeson and Charlotta Bass in the 1948, 1950, and 1952 elections and their contributions to postwar diaspora politics.


Jennifer Manion
The Sex-ing of Prison Reform and Compulsory Heterosexuality in Early Pennsylvania, 1776-1835
The prison reform movement of late eighteenth-century Philadelphia was marked by an intense evaluation of boundaries—between body and soul, criminal and law-abiding, male and female, black and white. Beginning with the work of the Pennsylvania Prison Society in 1787, criminals were increasingly treated differently depending on their sex. What was the role of prison reform in shaping the parameters of the sexual subjectivity of criminals and the gender of crime? Did changes in the treatment of men and women reinforce or undermine compulsory heterosexuality and, by extension, the categories of men and women? The experience of black women, who were incarcerated at disproportionately high rates, is crucial to this analysis of the construction of the category of women. In Discipline and Punish, Foucault argues that efforts to reform the system of punishment actually reinforced a criminal identity and encouraged criminal behavior. This study will build on his conclusion and further interrogate the makeup of the “criminal identity.” How did race, gender, sex, and sexuality shape the construction of the criminal?


Nia Parson
The Gendered Intersections of Domestic Violence, State Violence and Transition to Democracy in Santiago, Chile
From September 2002-December 2003 I conducted ethnographic dissertation field research in Santiago, Chile on women’s experiences of domestic violence in the context of transition from dictatorship (1973-1990) to democracy (1990-present). My dissertation analyzes violence and gender inequality at the intimate level of the domestic relationship, positioning gender, women and the “private” space of the home at the forefront, and then examines this violence in relation to the post-dictatorship legacy of state violence and gender discrimination. Chilean women still suffer violence by the state in the form of its ongoing neglect for ensuring their rights as equal citizens. This serves to maintain and replicate the interconnected gender inequalities in intimate relationships and state institutions. This project highlights the roles of state judicial institutions and systems in the reproduction of gender inequality and domestic violence, especially in periods of transition from dictatorial to democratic systems of government.


Jennifer Schenk
Political Science
Descriptive Representation and Gendered Claims to Power

In an attempt to explain how gender both benefits and limits the political inclusion of women candidates to elective office, this research examines the role of descriptive representation (representation of others based on a resemblance to their demographic characteristics) versus substantive representation (representation of constituents based on their interests) along the lines of gender, race, and ethnicity in the 2002 elections. Congressional and gubernatorial candidates’ own campaign materials (print and website) are examined via content analysis for different ways in which candidates may claim to be representative of their constituents. Prototypical campaign materials will be developed based on the results of the content analysis for use in experimental manipulations to examine the effect of different claims to representation on potential voters. Ultimately, the goal of the research is to identify associations between types of representation and candidate identity in order to identify barriers to further political inclusion.