Since 2004, I have directed Carleton’s (previously with Antioch) Women’s and Gender Studies in Europe program. The WGSE program participants study feminist and queer
theory, feminist methodology, and European situated feminisms, while traveling to Utrecht & Amsterdam (the Netherlands), Berlin (Germany), Prague & Olomouc (the Czech Republic) and Krakow (Poland). As well, each student conducts a self-designed independent research project on a topic of her/his interest (such as reproductive rights, LGBTQ issues, trafficking, sex-work, queer youth support organizations, immigration, European Muslim women’s issues, feminist/queer art, etc.).
Students attend lectures and take seminars with a range of leading feminist and queer scholars and activists, including Rosi Braidotti (Continental feminist philosopher, Utrecht), Julia Ehrt (European Trans-gender Council), Gloria Wekker (theorist of intersectionality), Rebecca Gomperts (founder of Women on Waves, Amsterdam), and many others.
The program is also a great opportunity to establish contacts with WGS students and feminist/queer activists from all over Europe – particularly during the first 7-day part of the WGSE program, which converges with the NOISE summer school in WGS, organized every year by Utrecht University’s Gender Studies department.
The WGSE program foregrounds past- and present-day experiences of women and religious, sexual and ethnic minorities across Europe. It is my goal to present Europe to students from the perspective of minority and immigrant populations, and the readings, lectures, and class discussions are designed to fulfill this goal. Students learn about the struggles of the Roma women in the Czech Republic, the past and present experiences of the citizens of Jewish, Afro-German, and Turkish backgrounds in Germany, about the experiences in the Netherlands of those marked as “allochtonous,” as well as the ways in which the Polish political and religious establishment ensures a continued homogeneity of the Polish population. These topics are foregrounded throughout the semester, and they are framed through our discussions of post-colonial theories and theories of nation/sexuality/gender. While set in Europe, the WGSE program’s focus is determinedly on the margins, and participants learn about the diversity that is Europe from the perspectives of ethnic/racial and sexual minorities.