News and Views
Fall 1999 Volume 10, Issue 1
From the Director
It has been a year of transitions in the University and once again I find myself as the Interim Director of Women's Studies. Despite the changes, it has been an active Fall at our Center. We have had many events and colloquia celebrated with considerable enthusiasm and with the support of faculty, students, and friends. We have several new members in our executive committee who bring with them many strengths and perspectives. Our office has also been invigorated with the energy brought in by Dr. Milagros Pena (Sociology and Women's Studies) who is with us this year.Carol Murphy, our new Associate Dean in CLAS and Dean Harrison have been extraordinarily supportive of our programs. Above all, there is a renewed and sustained effort by the Dean, the foundation, and alumni, to raise funds for our new home--the Women's Gym. The details for this new, exciting fund raising program will be available soon and we look forward to working with the Dean's office and the Foundation on this exciting campaign.
We have continued our endeavors to maintain both intellectually stimulating programs and activities which inform the rest of the university about our mission. We have had several colloquia, co-sponsored talks and seminars and have collaborated with other departments and programs in supporting scholarship. We also hosted our annual opening reception which featured many speakers, and an opening reception to celebrate a terrific art exhibit. It was gratifying to see so many people turn up for both events to support our program.
We have a new curriculum committee in place this year to review the existing program, to study programs in other universities, and to make recommendations based on our existing strengths. We have many new activities planned for Spring 2000 and will be letting you soon about these dates. A lot of our efforts will go towards recruiting a new director for the Center. There is tremendous work being done by the search committee and we have spread the word through advertisements, announcements in list servs and scholarly fora. I hope you can participate in this process and give us your viewpoint.
Finally, a great big "thank you" for the many people who help run the Center and make it a great place--Paula Palmer, Aline Gubrium, Cindy Roberts, Danielle Chicerchia, and Jessica Kennedy.
Thank you and Happy Holidays!
Dr. Carol Murphy speaking at the Fall 1999 CWSGR Opening Reception
Introducing Our New Undergraduate / Graduate Coordinator
Milagros Pena, Graduate/Undergraduate Coordinator, CWSGR
I am pleased to be joining the University of Florida faculty this fall with a joint position in the Center for Women's Studies and Gender Research and the Department of Sociology. I am visiting from New Mexico State University and will be teaching a course titled "Women of Color in U.S. Society" for the CWSGR in Spring 2000.
I received my PhD in Sociology at the State University of New York at Stony Brook in 1990. My areas of research and teaching specialization are: race and ethnic relations with an emphasis on Latinas and Latinos, social movements, womens studies with an emphasis on Latinas, and the sociology of religion among Latinas and Latinos in the U.S. and Latin America.
My research and teaching interests are shaped by my family history. I was born in New York City to immigrant parents from the Dominican Republic and raised in a predominantly Latino/a inner city environment until I was fourteen when my mother moved to Astoria, Queens, New York. Growing up in an inner city environment has shaped my research and teaching focus. My 1995 book, titled Theologies and Liberation in Peru: The role of ideas in social movements looked to advance our knowledge of poor peoples movements, the social processes involved in engaging intellectuals, in this case theologians, in poor peoples movements, and more generally the role of ideas in social movements.
In 1994, with a Fulbright-Hays/García Robles Research Fellowship to Mexico, I began a new book project that provides a comparative analysis of Latina mobilization in Michoacán, Mexico and the greater El Paso, Texas area of the U.S. This research looks at womens NGOs contributions in Michoacán, Mexico to the 1995 United Nations international conference on women, providing a unique opportunity to compare how and why the breadth of mobilization in Michoacán differs from that of the greater El Paso, Texas area. I am also finishing a collaborative project with Ada María Isasi-Díaz tentatively titled Latina Womens Embodiment and Sexuality. The research analyzes focused group and questionnaire data collected regionally in the United States that included all the major Latino/a groups focusing on questions relating to Latina attitudes and views on sexuality, their bodies, and their experiences with their religious institutions relating to these issues. We hope to have the book available next year. Some results from the research appeared in 1998 in the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religiontitled "Latina Religious Practice: Analyzing Cultural Dimensions in Measures of Religiosity."
My teaching interests also reflect the commitment I have to teach in related areas to what sparked my interest in sociology in the first place. I consistently try to challenge students to see our society as a multi-ethnic and multicultural one deeply marked by racism and sexism. The classroom exchanges among and with students invariably has made me a better teacher and scholar. I like to think of my teaching and research as a forum for impacting thinking as part of sparking all of our commitments to social change. I look forward to my year here in the Center for Womens Studies and Gender Research, not only as Graduate and Undergraduate Director, but for the opportunity to work with and meet all of you who have contributed one way or another to the Center.
Spotlight on Sybil DioNe
I believe that as a child I was similtaneously made aware of my race and feminity by my grandmother's example. Not only did she refuse to accept her plight as a young Colored woman in the 1940s, she dilligently worked to liberate the minds of women through community programs, sorority functions, and her personal example of entrepreneurship, professionalism, and educational attainment. She preached that, "Anything the mind can percieve and truly believe, you can achieve."
I am the living example of her truth. Escaping the reality of family violence perpetrated by my father, I graduated high school early and was admitted to UF as a Presidential honors scholar. However, seeking social, moral, and academic support, I transferred to FAMU where I earned my B.S. in Human Resource Management. From there I attended the Vanderbilt University Law School where I earned my Juris Doctorate in 1992. In 1998 I completed an M.A. in Anthropology at the University of Florida and this past spring I finished my course work for a Ph D. Currently, I am preparing for qualifying exams and doctoral research.
I position myself as an applied feminist anthropologist who is interested in the lived experience of race, gender inequality, and power. Overall, I am interested in investigating power relations as they pertain to gender inequality. This concern for the connection between social reality, gender, and race has provided the underlying basis for all of my research.
One of my first research projects involved working with impoverished African-American women in an attempt to build their business acumen through community development. This work became the basis for my master's thesis and was entitled, "Becoming a 'Native': Confronting Issues of Epistemology and Methodology in Emic Research". Subsequently, I investigated the position of women in Afro-Brazilian religion, which resulted in a paper and a speech presentation entitled, "Finding God in Brazil and Leaving Her There". Next, I focused on the lived experience of race and gender by exposing how these factors inform the creation of structural power. This work resulted in a paper and speech presentation entitled, "No Nubian Knots or Nappy Locks: Discussing the Politics of Hair Among African-American Women." Eventually, this paper was named the "Outstanding Graduate Student Paper" by Sigma XI and the "Outstanding Anthropology Paper" by the Florida Academy of Sciences in 1999. This paper has been selected for presentation at the 1999 American Anthropological Association meeting. In addition to examining the politics of hair, my dissertation research focuses on the structural underpinnings of gender inequality through an examination of police attitudes towards domestic violence in Belize, centering particularly on the feminist transformation of domestic violence into a human rights issue.
In 1995 I was awarded the UF Graduate Minority Fellowship, and in 1998 I received funding from FLAS to study Yoruba. Currently, I am a recipient of the McKnight Doctoral Fellowship and was recently granted travel support from the Association for Feminist Anthropology. This past summer I participated in the Zora Neale Hurston Ethnographic Field School and a National Science Foundation Research Design Camp. Ultimately, my goal is to take part in academic, cultural, and employment experiences which will enable me to research intimate violence cross-culturally.
Sybil is currently working on her Graduate Certification in Women's Studies.
Spotlight on Patricia Hilliard-Nunn
Dr. Hilliard-Nunn earned her B.A. in Mass Media Arts from Hampton University in 1985, her M.F.A. in Film Production from Howard University in 1989, and her Ph.D. in Mass Communication from Florida State University in 1993.
Her interest in the well being of youth prompted her to design and run the Sisters of MAAT Rites of Passage Program for pre-teenage girls in 1996. She spent two and a half years working at the Community Outreach Partnership Center (COPC) of the University of Florida where she worked as a Community Organizer. While at COPC she worked on many programs and events including: the Youth and Crime Summit, the 5th Avenue Back to School Celebration, Still We Rise: A Celebration of Black History, and the Black Business explosion/Juneteenth Celebration. One particular program that she designed at COPC was the Powerful Elder Activity Lunch for senior citizens, which she still directs.
Dr. Hilliard-Nunn has a strong sense of civic responsibility and is an active member of numerous community organizations. She is currently the president of the Gainesville Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., an organization committed to community service. She is also active with the Gainesville Chapter of the Links Inc., the Florida Media Arts Center, and PACE Academy for Girls. Recently, she served as the chair of the East Gainesville Community Health Summit.
Dr. Hilliard-Nunn devotes a significant part of her time to lecturing and conducting workshops to share information with youth and others about publication skills, African-American history and culture, and interpersonal communication skills. In February of 1999, she and her husband, Kenneth Nunn, were awarded a grant from the Florida Humanities Council to produce several radio spots that addressed the history of African Americans in Gainesville. The SANKOFA Black History Flash radio spots were aired on Magic 101.3.
Art is another facet in Dr. Hilliard-Nunn's life. She produces mixed-media paintings which incorporate jewelry, cowry shells, paint, wood and other items. Her exhibit DUAFE: A Sister in Primary Colors is on display in the Center for Women's Studies and Gender Research at the University of Florida. In November of 1999, she will partner the opening of the Fifth Avenue Art Fusion, a community based organization that will exhibit the work of up-and-coming and established artists.
Dr. Hilliard-Nunn teaches African-American Women & Film as an adjunct instructor in the Center for Women's Studies at UF. Her research interests include African Americans and film (independent and mainstream), film spectator analysis, media effects, media access, and film as a historical text. Her article "Representing African Women in Movies" appears in the book Afrocentric Visions: Studies in Culture and Communication (Sage Publications, 1998).
Currently, Dr. Hilliard-Nunn is working on a short documentary video about the history of African-American people in Gainesville, Florida. She also runs Makare Publishing Company, which distributes the two books that she wrote about her daughters, Foluke: The Afro Queen and Books and Drums Make Dayo Happy, and a scholarly book written by her father. Presently, she is completing two books which will be published by Makare Publishing Company in the year 2000.
Recently, Dr. Hilliard-Nunn received the school volunteer of the year at the A. Quinn Jones Center and the Ida B. Wells Award from the Gainesville Commission on the Status of Women.
Undisciplined Thoughts on Grad School
by Sara Crawley
I think all good academic work is conducted by individuals with passionate, personal concerns for the academic issues at hand. One big problem for the graduate student of this variety is fitting amorphous, grandiose intellectual concerns into one discipline. Did you ever wonder why they are called disciplines? (i.e., "disciplining a child," "Show some discipline!" or "You will be disciplined." Ouch!) Discipline has not always been my best trait and my foray into academia is an example of this foible. The current academic disciplinary system is still too disciplined for me. I cant be made to study in only one way ¨ borrowing from 3 white guys, long since dead, and using only one methodology that confuses me, the researcher, let alone the lay person for whom I wish to construct this academic knowledge. Although I have chosen sociology as the (most comfortable?) route through which to pursue my interests, I have had to search for the folks within and outside sociology whose theoretical and methodological premises support and legitimate my often marginal interests.
The central thread running through my research is a concern for how assumed biological sex creates social barriers for women and men, and the ways in which both women and men negotiate, use, and change gendered and sexualized expectations to overcome those barriers. I am particularly interested in the fixity of gender and sexual expectations based on biological sex and people who, nonetheless, pursue access to non-normative gendered activities and sexual identities. Most recently, I have become interested in how "knowing" is affected by experiences with the body and particular kinds of socially recognizable bodies (e.g., "womens" bodies, "lesbian" or "butch" bodies). My particular research interests include non-normative performances of gender (especially butch and fem in lesbian communities), power relations in social movements (for example, sexism among gay men and lesbians in political organizing), and the ways in which gender structures sport and sport structures womens bodies.
Sound like Sociology? Not to many sociologists. I think my work lives in an interdisciplinary setting--particularly Womens Studies and Queer Studies. My research interests are all from personal and political experiences and commitments-- many of which center on my perceptions about unjust situations within social systems. My interests were borne in a multi-contextual world, not in a well-defined place in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
Having access to Womens Studies and Queer Studies in graduate school, particularly given the interdisciplinary nature of these departments (as opposed to disciplines), has made all the difference in my work and my graduate training. By taking courses in Womens Studies and Queer Studies, I have learned more about the bureaucracy that is academia and about the diverse perspectives that are offered by many disciplines. I think I bring an interesting perspective back to my cohorts in sociology from the different angles of vision learned in those interdisciplinary settings. Im pretty happy with my place within the academy, maybe because it reflects my place in the world.
This, of course, is all a big plug to encourage other graduate students to take Womens Studies courses and other interdisciplinary courses as part of graduate training. These courses provide a healthy questioning of epistemologies which are too often readily accepted, and allow for a interdisciplinary discussion of ideas. This interdisciplinary focus provides me with indispensable experiences that I expect will prepare me well for my future in academia. Im all for a little less "discipline" and a little more sharing of knowledge. Thats what a liberal academic education is supposed to be about anyway, isnt it?