Women & Gender Studies Institute

WGS Research Seminar

Winter/Spring 2015 Schedule

The seminar is scheduled monthly on a Wednesday, from 3:00–5:00 p.m.

The WGSI Research Seminar is a monthly forum for interdisciplinary research in feminist and gender studies. Directed at both faculty and graduate students within the WGSI and across the campus as a whole, the seminar’s goal is to foster intellectual engagement with key theoretical, social and political questions touching on gender and feminism and their many intersections through the presentation of cutting-edge work by leading researchers both within and beyond the University of Toronto.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

3:00–5:00 p.m.

JHB 100A Jackman Humanities Building, 170 St. George Street

Professor Rosi Braidotti, Four Theses on Posthuman Feminism

This paper outlines the main tenets of feminism after the posthuman turn. The four theses are: that feminism is not (only) a humanism; that anthropocentrism has been displaced and Anthropos is now off-centre; that non-human life or Zoe is the ruling principle and that sexuality is a force beyond gender. The paper will explore these four theses in the context of a critical cartography of advanced capitalism, read with Foucault, Deleuze and Guattari and feminist theory. It will especially analyse the implications of the posthuman turn for theories and practices of feminist subject-formation, political praxis and ethical relations in a technologically linked but profoundly fractured globalised world. The main argument is that the posthuman is neither post-political, nor outside power relations and that it does not mark the end of political agency, but a re-casting of it in the direction of a nomadic relational ontology.


Wednesday, February 25, 2015

3:00–5:00 p.m.

JHB 100A Jackman Humanities Building, 170 St. George Street

CPD poster_UT small

Prof. Leah Vosko, The Comparative Perspectives on Precarious Employment Database (CPD): Feminist Approaches to Studying Labour Market Insecurity

This panel will introduce researchers to a new cross-national database designed to facilitate research and teaching investigating gender and precarious in a comparative industrialized context. Launched in late 2014, the Comparative Perspectives on Precarious Employment Database (CPD) is an online research tool that brings together a variety of resources, including a library and thesaurus and twenty-five years of harmonized labour statistics from thirty-three countries (Australia, Canada, the United States, and the European Union) with over 25 years of data. The three research and teaching modules of the database focus on forms of precarious employment, temporal and spatial dynamics, and health and social care. Each module contextualizes dominant trends by considering national, and, where relevant, supranational, laws and policies, legislation and social structures in attempt to provide experts and novices with key entry points into the study of precarious employment. This session will offer an overview of the CPD’s overarching theoretical and conceptual approach and reflect upon its three central modules.

Biographies: CPD Panel

Leah F. Vosko
Leah F. Vosko Canada Research Chair in the Political Economy of Gender & Work at York University where she teaches courses cross-listed to Political Science, Social and Political Thought, Socio-legal Studies, Sociology and Women’s Studies, on public policy, women and politics, and labour and employment and conducts research on labour market insecurity in Canada in international context. Her latest book, Managing the Margins: Gender, Citizenship and the International Regulation of Precarious Employment, is published with Oxford University Press, UK and her recent co-edited collection, Liberating Temporariness?: Migration, Work and Citizenship in an Age of Insecurity, is published by McGill-Queen’s University Press.

Professor Vosko’s current research focuses partly on employment standards enforcement and access to labour rights and protections among temporary migrant workers. She is presently Principal Investigator of “Closing the Enforcement Gap: Improving Protections for People in Precarious Jobs,” a SSHRC Partnership Grant concerned with employment standards enforcement, and three research and teaching databases supported by the Canadian Foundation for Innovation – the Gender and Work Database (GWD) updated last year, the Global Employment Standards Database (GESD) under development and the Comparative Perspectives Database (CPD) which we are launching today.

Pat Armstrong
Pat Armstrong is Professor of Sociology at York University, Toronto. She held a Canada Health Services Research Foundation/Canadian Institute of Health Research Chair in Health Services, is a Distinguished Research Professor in Sociology and Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. Focusing on social policy, women, work and the health services, she has published widely. She chaired Women and Health Care Reform, a group funded for over a decade by Health Canada, was acting director of the National Network for Environments and Women’s Health and is currently a member of the Board for the York Institute for Health Research. She served as Chair of the Department of Sociology at York, Director of the School of Canadian Studies at Carleton, and co-director at York of the Ontario Training Centre on Health Policy, She has served as an expert witness in a dozen cases heard before bodies ranging from the Federal Court to federal Human Rights Tribunals on issues related to women’s health care work and to pay equity. She is currently Principal Investigator on “Reimagining long-term residential care: An international study of promising practice” and of “Healthy Aging in residential places” and is co-investigator on “Invisible women in long-term residential care.”

Martha MacDonald
Dr. Martha MacDonald is a Professor and past chair in the Department of Economics, Sobey School of Business, Saint Mary’s University, where she has also been active in the Atlantic Canada Studies and Women and Gender Studies programs. Her research has focused on labour market restructuring, gender and economics, household livelihood strategies and social policy. She has published recently on gender and precarious employment, EI, restructuring in rural resource based communities, the social economy, long term care, immigration policy and labour mobility in rural Newfoundland. She is a past president of the International Association for Feminist Economics (IAFFE). She has been an Associate Editor for the Journal of Canadian Studies, Feminist Economics and Studies in Political Economy.

Deatra Walsh
Deatra Walsh holds a PhD in Sociology from Memorial University of Newfoundland, and a Master’s of Rural Development from Brandon University, Manitoba. She specializes in research on rural labour mobility, migration, precarious employment, and gender. Deatra has an adjunct appointment with Yukon College. She currently lives and works in Iqaluit, NU.

Sylvia Fuller
Sylvia Fuller is an Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of British Columbia. Her research investigates relationships among career dynamics, institutional and regulatory contexts, and patterns of inequality and economic insecurity. She has published in a range of journals including The American Sociological Review, Social Science Research, International Migration Research, Research in Social Stratification and Mobility, and Social Politics. In 2009 she was awarded the SSHRC Aurora Prize, which recognizes an outstanding new researcher in Canada in the Social Sciences or Humanities.



3:00–5:00 p.m.

JHB 100A Jackman Humanities Building, 170 St. George Street

Prof. Kamari Clarke, Law at the Nexus of Politics: Humanitarian Sentimentality in the Rule of Law Movement

The #BringBackOurGirls hashtag that was popularized by politicians and celebrities last spring brought to global attention the 200 school girls kidnapped by Muslim militants, Boko Haram, in Chibok, Nigeria in April 2014. However, less than a year later with subsequent attacks killing thousands of victims, the girls are still missing and the mass mobilization around this social action – including the leadership of first lady Michelle Obama – has failed. In the fields of international law and human rights, questions concerning the role of humanitarian sentimentality or emotion have been dismissed as highly personalized and not appropriate topics for international politics. Some have presumed that sentiments emerge out of individual spaces of emotion and feeling. And some have defined African non-compliance with treaty norms as simply instrumental, arguing for realist assessments of decision-making. They have insisted that forms of resistance to various international treaty demands are merely part of the play of lawmaking or attempts by the African elite to escape criminal accountability. In that regard, many insist that it is important to focus on the law, in its strictest sense, or that international law and human rights scholarship should focus on the central goal of “saving African victims” like “the girls of the Boko Haram attack” and not the politics of emotion connected to it.

While these various responses have their merit, it is clear that little is known about the distribution of sentiment and the production of legal and political subjectivities as they relate to international decision-making and humanitarian sentiment. This is especially the case in relation to understanding the way that affective attachments are held and mobilize social action in international legal domains, especially in Africa. This lecture will explore the International Criminal Court (ICC) and Africa controversies and show the ways that sentimental strategies are being deployed in relation to justice discourses and will detail the way that feelings of anger inspire protest as a space for dialogue and how desire for social change solidifies various legal trajectories at the neglect of others. The goal will be to examine how relationships between affect and political engagement can be understood as both a source of and an obstacle to struggles for justice, ultimately calling for a rethinking of the potential for specific affects of compassion to inspire international rule of law action in Africa.

Kamari M. Clarke – is a Professor of Anthropology and Research Scholar in African Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. Over the past fourteen years she was a Professor of International and Area Studies at Yale University and Senior Research Scientist at the Yale Law School and has lectured widely throughout various United States, Canada, Europe, Africa and the Caribbean. She has conducted research in various legal domains in international criminal tribunals, and international law training sessions in Ireland, London, Geneva, Banjul, The United Nations and beyond. Her research explores issues related to social and political theory, legal pluralism, international law, and the interface between legal institutions and the related production of knowledge and power. She serves on several scholarly, editorial, and advisory boards and her educational training includes a Ph.D. in Political and Legal Anthropology from the University of California-Santa Cruz, A Master in the Study of Law from Yale Law School, and a BA in Political Science/International Relations from Concordia University.
Professor Clarke is the author of over forty books and articles. These have range from her 2004 publication of Mapping Yoruba Networks: Power and Agency in the Making of Transnational Communities (Duke University Press, 2004) and her 2009 publication of Fictions of Justice: The International Criminal Court and the Challenge of Legal Pluralism in Sub-Saharan Africa (Cambridge University Press, 2009). Her edited volumes include Mirrors of Justice: Law and Power in the Post-Cold War Era (with Mark Goodale) (Cambridge University Press, 2010), and Transforming Ethnographic Knowledge (with Rebecca Hardin) (University of Wisconsin Press, 2012). She is the founding director of the Center for Transnational Cultural Analysis at Yale University and has served as a technical advisor to the African Union and the US Department of Education reviewer of various grant programs.


Wednesday, April 15, 2015

3:00–5:00 p.m.

WI 2053, New College, Wilson Hall, 40 Willcocks Street

PhD students in the Collaborative Program in Women and Gender Studies present their doctoral research.

Fall 2014 Schedule

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

3:00–5:00 p.m.

JHB 100A Jackman Humanities Building, 170 St. George Street

Vasuki Nesiah, “International Conflict Feminism: The Hazards of Dating the Security Council”

Over the last two decades, there has been huge momentum in efforts to recognize women’s experience of war, and strengthen the international law and policy responses that are triggered. These responses include a decade of Security Council resolutions related to women and armed conflict, feminist jurisprudence in the Ad Hoc tribunals, a transnational effort to support and augment the gender provisions of the ICC, a massive push to expand the number of women in truth commission and reparation processes, peace processes and the mainstreaming of gender in donor policies. Many have celebrated these efforts as a welcome corrective to the patriarchal arc of the international legal and policy landscape. In contrast, I suggest that more caution is warranted. This paper looks at how, too often, ICF has become a companion project to agendas of counter terrorism, intervention and the displacement of distributive concerns – a companion project with mutually reinforcing dynamics.

Vasuki Nesiah is Associate Professor of Practice at NYU, Gallatin. Currently her main areas of research include the law and politics of international human rights and humanitarianism, with a particular focus on transitional justice. She is working on two principle projects at present – A genealogy of transitional justice, and a co-edited volume on legacies of the Bandung conference on critical traditions in international law. Her past publications have engaged with different dimensions of public international law, colonialism and international law, international feminisms and the politics of memory and constitutionalism in Sri Lanka. She teaches human rights, law and social theory and international legal studies at NYU.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

3:00–5:00 p.m.

JHB 100A Jackman Humanities Building, 170 St. George Street

Sarah Trimble, “Regarding Ruins: State-phobic Speculations and Neoliberal Legends”

Contemporary apocalypse films conduct a neoliberal pedagogy. By privileging a survivalist’s perspective on ruined landscapes, they teach ways of speculating on undone spaces as risky but potentially profitable sites of economic and affective investment. These visions of social collapse channel both “weak state” and “strong state” fantasies, simultaneously dramatizing The End of so-called big government and the rise, in its place, of a militarized authoritarian power. As a result, they’re uniquely positioned to illuminate how neoliberalism mediates the incoherence of its own theoretical framework, balancing a state-phobic ideology with the need for security apparatuses that will defend private property and entrepreneurial freedom. A critical analysis of the gender, racial, and generational politics of survivalist fantasies can reveal the ideological sleight of hand by which neoliberalism affixes an apocalyptic horizon to the maternally-coded welfare state—projecting a catastrophe that seemingly materializes in visions of urban decay and “menacing” youth—and proposes the paternal security state as an authoritarian corrective. Anchored by a close reading of Francis Lawrence’s I Am Legend (2007), this paper maps the overlapping spatial stories told by security states and (supposedly anti-state) survivalists. Reading Legend as an unstable allegory of the War on Terror that simultaneously resurfaces the American Indian as the original “terrorist,” I demonstrate how neoliberal security states are invested in representing ruined spaces as empty lands ripe for re-colonization.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

3:00–5:00 p.m.

JHB 100A Jackman Humanities Building, 170 St. George Street

Jean Comaroff, “ The Return of Khulekani Khumalo, Zombie Captive: Identity, Law, and Paradoxes of Personhood in the Postcolony”

What might imposture tell us about personhood in ‘postcolonial’ times? About the means of producing selfhood, gender, identity, social viability? While the figure of the false double has long haunted Western ideas of personhood, imposture of various kinds has become ever more striking in late modern times. It is especially common in post-apartheid South Africa, for instance, where identity theft, plagiarism, fakery, even counterfeit crime are everyday occurrences. Taking a celebrated national case – the alleged ‘return’ of a famous Zulu musician who died three years ago – this lecture explores what such acts of imposture might tell us about postcolonial self-fashioning, about personhood under contemporary social conditions, and about the difficulties posed by all this for law, evidence, and the meaning of recognition.