Women's Studies for the Future: Foundations, Interrogations, Politics

Women's Studies for the Future: Foundations, Interrogations, Politics

Women's Studies for the Future: Foundations, Interrogations, Politics

Women's Studies for the Future: Foundations, Interrogations, Politics


Established as an academic field in the 1970s, women's studies is a relatively young but rapidly growing area of study. Not only has the number of scholars working in this subject expanded exponentially, but women's studies has become institutionalized, offering graduate degrees and taking on departmental status in many colleges and universities. At the same time, this field-formed in the wake of the feminist movement-is finding itself in a precarious position in what is now often called a "post-feminist" society. This raises challenging issues for faculty, students, and administrators. How must the field adjust its goals and methods to continue to affect change in the future?

Bringing together essays by newcomers as well as veterans to the field, this essential volume addresses timely questions including:

• Without a unitary understanding of the subject, woman, what is the focus of women's studies?
• How can women's studies fulfill the promise of interdisciplinarity?

• What is the continuing place of activism in women's studies?

• What are the best ways to think about, teach, and act upon the intersections of race, class, gender, disability, nation, and sexuality?

Offering innovative models for research and teaching and compelling new directions for action, Women's Studies for the Future ensures the continued relevance and influence of this developing field.


This anthology grew out of a conference held to celebrate the twenty-fifth anniversary of Women's Studies, the twentieth anniversary of the Southwest Institute for Research on Women (SIROW) and the fifteenth anniversary for the Women's Studies Advisory Council (WOSAC) at the University of Arizona in October 2000. One of the editors, Elizabeth Lapovsky Kennedy, had arrived at the University of Arizona in 1998 to assume the headship of the Department of Women's Studies. Coming from an embattled women's studies program at the University of Buffalo, she was impressed by the support women's studies had at the University of Arizona. She was also aware that there was no cogent plan for future directions and that there was a great deal of internal dissension about appropriate focus. The beginning discussions of the state of women's studies in journals, such as differences and Feminist Studies, were not yet part of the planning process for women's studies at the University of Arizona, nor for most women's studies programs, judging by the presentations at the National Women's Studies Association. ‘Kennedy was nervous that women's studies was going to undercut its past accomplishments by not thinking through the challenges at hand. In addition, as a good citizen, she felt compelled to forge a workable vision for women's studies, rather than squander away taxpayers’ monies or faculty and student time. Holding a working conference at the University of Arizona to discuss future directions for the field of women's studies, as part of the department's anniversary celebration, seemed a sensible intervention. The department agreed, wanting to create a vital space for reflection on the past, evaluation of the present, and planning for the future.

The key factor in shaping the success of the conference and its ability to generate this collection of essays was the decision early on by the conference organizers to engage the oppositions that have been the site of contentious and sometimes bitter struggles locally and nationally. They wanted a conference that encompassed the exciting scholarship that both deconstructs the categories of women and gender and analyzes the concrete systems of gender that oppress women daily around the world, limiting women's ability to earn money, create art, and even to live. Similarly, they wanted a conference that could recognize the . . .

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