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Women's studies program celebrates 20 years

Barbara Ehrenreich
Barbara Ehrenreich
Chandra Mohanty
Chandra Mohanty
Patricia J. Williams
Patricia J. Williams

The MIT Program in Women's Studies will celebrate its 20th anniversary with a daylong symposium, "Challenges for Women's Studies: Power, Politics and Gender," with leading feminist scholars Barbara Ehrenreich, Chandra Mohanty and Patricia J. Williams.

The symposium will be held on Saturday, Feb. 12 from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. in Room 10-250. It is free and open to the public. MIT President Susan Hockfield will provide opening remarks.

Elizabeth Wood, a professor of history and director of the MIT Women's Studies Program, commented, "The Women's Studies Program has been at the heart of many faculty members' intellectual lives, and now we have a chance to give back to the community some of our excitement and fascination with this huge and changing subject. In doing all of this, we are renewing our commitment to close examination, deep analysis, and proactive input into social processes."

Each of the three featured speakers is renowned in the general field of women's studies and feminist scholarship.

Ehrenreich is a social critic and essayist. Her book "Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America" (2002) was a national bestseller. She is a prolific journalist who writes a regular columnist for The Progressive and whose work has appeared in The New York Times, The Atlantic Monthly, Ms., Z magazine and in Ehrenereich received the Ph.D. in biology from Rockefeller University.

Ehrenreich will speak on "Gender and Class - Can We Have a Conversation Without Guilt?" at 10 a.m.

Chandra Talpade Mohanty is a professor of women's studies and Dean's Professor of the Humanities in the College of Arts and Sciences at Syracuse University. Her work focuses on transnational feminist theory, cultural studies, and anti-racist education. She edits a series of books, "Gender, Culture and Global Politics," and speaks widely on feminist issues.

Mohanty will present the lecture "Feminists Confront Empire" at 1 p.m.

Patricia Williams writes the column "Diary of a Mad Law Professor" in The Nation. A native of Boston, she graduated from Wellesley and Harvard Law School. The author, in 1998, of "Seeing a Colorblind Future: The Paradox of Race," she received a MacArthur "genius" grant in 2000. Williams is currently a professor at Columbia Law School.

Williams will speak on "Gender, Race and Law in the Divided World," at 3 p.m. on Saturday.

The Women's Studies Program is also celebrating its 20-year milestone with a panel discussion, "Taking Women's Studies into the Real World," featuring program alumnae speakers. "Real World" is open to the MIT community; it will be held on Friday, Feb. 11 at 3 p.m. in Room 10-340.

For reservations or more information on the 20th anniversary discussions, please email or call 617-253-8844.

Women's Studies is an interdisciplinary undergraduate program, providing an academic framework and broad-based community for scholarly inquiry focusing on women, gender and sexuality. Ruth Perry, professor of literature, was the program's founding director.

There are more than 40 faculty members who are affiliated with the program, which offered 25 courses during the academic year 2003-2004, with approximately 300 students enrolled. Women's Studies was approved as a major at MIT in 1985.

The Women's Studies Program is also a part of the Graduate Consortium in Women's Studies, which was established in 1993 jointly between MIT and six other institutions -- Radcliffe College, Boston College, Brandeis University, Harvard University, Northeastern University, and Tufts University.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on February 9, 2005 (download PDF).

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