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Jean Dangler (Spanish and Portuguese) and Michele White (Communication) had spent many afternoons discussing their shared interests in feminist and queer theory and their belief that a reading group addressing these issues would contribute to intellectual life at Tulane. When they saw the Newcomb College Institute call for grants, they decided to realize their vision. 

The Reading Feminist and Queer Theory group has enabled an interdisciplinary cohort of faculty members to discuss their shared interests in feminism, queer theory, and critical thinking. Dangler and White have been meeting with Felicia McCarren (French and Italian), Supriya Nair (English), Mimi Schippers (Sociology and Gender and Sexuality Studies) and Allison Truitt (Anthropology) since the beginning of the spring 2010 semester. The diverse backgrounds of this group have allowed participants to expand their understandings of how feminist and queer theory is used in and between disciplines.

The group is particularly interested in thinking about how feminist and queer researchers look to resistant and unconventional practices as ways of subverting normative identities, rigid cultural and corporate structures, and inequitable societies and governments. They have also been considering the persistence of traditional identities and the malleable ways these roles and beliefs persist despite internal conflicts and academic and activist critiques. Thus, they look at recent writings that advance feminist and queer resistance and consider texts that examine the limits and failures of these models. They also consider the application of these theories to previous feminist histories and nonmodern periods, recognizing the body’s historical construction.

They have read texts by such key gender and sexuality thinkers as Gayle Rubin and Peter A. Jackson. The literature has enabled them to think about the “waves” metaphor that is still used in talking about the women’s movement and how queer theory relates to the sometimes-insensate experiences of intersexuals.

A public talk and visit with Elizabeth Freeman allowed the group to discuss her in-process work and develop an expanded dialogue with a contemporary theorist. The group is looking forward to their continued conversations and bringing other feminists and queer theorists to talk at Tulane.

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