Greeting from the Director,
Welcome to the Women and Gender Studies Program at the University of Southern Maine, the longest-standing feminist studies program in Northern New England. In the Fall of 2013, I will be stepping into a role previously occupied by Wendy Chapkis, Susan Feiner, Lorrayne Carrol, Luisa Deprez, Diana Long, and Nancy Gish—a humbling position, to be sure. Each of these women brought to the position a lifetime of connections with people in her respective scholarly and political communities, enriching the program, and forging new relationships with, for example, statewide literacy programs, political action networks, economic centers, and—of course--progressive scholarly institutions. To be affiliated with USM’s Women and Gender Studies Program is to be part of a vast network of people and possibilities. My goal this upcoming year to nurture those, and to create more.
My own scholarly and political work grows out of a new field called Animal Studies, or sometimes Human-Animal Studies, which concerns itself with historical and contemporary relationships between humans and the more-than-human world. Closely related to ecological studies, gender studies, and trauma studies, Animal Studies, writes Kari Weil in “A Report on the Animal Turn,” “stretches to the limit questions of language, of epistemology, and of ethics that have been raised in various ways by women’s studies or postcolonial studies: how to understand and give voice to others or to experiences that seem impervious to our means of understanding; how to attend to difference without appropriating or distorting it; how to hear and acknowledge what it may not be possible to say” (4). I am also on the Board of Maine Friends of Animals, Maine’s largest animal protection organization, and have been working to create connections between USM’s curriculum and Maine’s animal welfare communities.
Because the Women and Gender Studies faculty is interdisciplinary, drawn from different colleges and department across campus, and because we represent such curricular and political diversity, students can choose mentors based upon their own specialized needs and desires. And because so many of our courses are cross-listed with other departments, declaring a double major is both simple and rewarding. Please take a look at out website or Facebook page. Listen to what our former students have to say. Or come by 94 Bedford Street and have a chat with me or Lauren Webster LaFrance, the Assistant Director of the Program.
To all—concerned, activist, or simply curious—welcome. As the Women and Gender Studies Program nears its fourth decade of “stimulating thought,” we would love for you to be part of the conversation.
Director, Women and Gender Studies
Associate Professor, Department of English