Thursday, November 5, 2015

Lena Astin, co-founder of CSW and influential feminist scholar, has passed away

Lena Astin, co-founder of CSW and influential feminist scholar, has passed away at the age of 83

We are sad to report that Helen (Lena) S. Astin, co-founder of CSW and influential feminist scholar, passed away on October 27.  She was a Distinguished Professor Emerita of Higher Education at UCLA and  widely known for her scholarly activism and research concerning education and career development of women, leadership, and spirituality.
Born in Serres, Greece, in 1932, her early interest in science and math was discouraged because of their association with male careers. The alternative, teacher’s college, however, proved transformative for her and her professional trajectory. Upon graduation, she moved to the United States in 1951 to pursue her newly developed interest in psychology—which eventually brought her to Ohio University in Athens, OH, where she earned a Master’s in Psychology, and then to University of Maryland when she earned a PhD. She was the second woman to earn a PhD in psychology at the school and being such a rarity within her graduate program heightened her awareness of educational sexism and inspired her professional interest in studying women in higher education: “…that’s when I saw sexism really,” she recalled later. “the first time I encountered it. And I didn’t understand it…So you can see that in those days, there were not many women, which prompted me later on to study women with doctorates” (UCLA Oral History Program).
After marrying fellow graduate student, Alexander Astin, Lena worked with the Commission on Human Resources and Higher Education as part of the National Academy of Science starting in the 1960s. There, she investigated talent development and the utilization of women in the workforce and gained much recognition in conjunction with the women’s sociopolitical movement in the United States.
Driven in part by her personal experience trying to make a career in a field dominated by men, her early scholarly work focused on equity for women. Her book, The Woman Doctorate in America (Russell Sage Foundation, 1969), was published just as second-wave feminism was burgeoning. Deflating some myths about highly educated women, it also documented widespread sex discrimination in higher education. In 1970, she was asked to chair the American Psychological Association’s (APA) Task Force on the Status of Women in Psychology. Her work helped to pinpoint the deficiencies in psychological research with regard to women. The Task Force recommended that APA create a division that would be devoted to researching and promoting the psychology of women. In 1973 Division 35 was created.
In 1973 Alexander and Helen were both offered professorships at UCLA. During her 29-year affiliation with UCLA, she served as the Associate Provost of the College of Letters and Science at UCLA from 1983 to 1987 and served as the founding director for the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA. 
Her books have made a lasting contribution to scholarship on women, education, and equity: They include ‪Some Action of Her OwnThe Adult Woman and Higher Education (Lexington, 1976) and Sex Discrimination in Career Counseling and Education (Praeger, 1977). Astin’s 1991 book, Women of Influence, Women of Vision (co-authored with Carole Leland; ‪Jossey-Bass, 1991), was an in-depth study of 77 prominent women leaders who had helped to bring about societal change on behalf of women. “A book for students, for teachers, for scholars,” noted Ann W. Richards, former governor of Texas, “and for any woman who wants to know how the struggles of individual women came to create what is collectively known in this country as the women's movement." 
In the mid-1980s, she worked with Nancy Henley, Anne Peplau, Kathryn Sklar, and Karen Rowe, on a proposal that led to creation of the UCLA Center for the Study of Women in 1984. She served on the Advisory Committee and when Karen Rowe stepped down as Director, Lena stepped up and served as Acting Co-Director with Julia Wrigley in 1990-91 and then as Acting Director until Kate Norberg was appointed in 1992. Under her leadership, CSW convened several influential conferences, including the first graduate student research conference (what became Thinking Gender), What Ever Happened to Women's Liberation: Rethinking the Origins of Contemporary FeminismWomen and Work: Understanding the Gender, and Women, Work and Power in the Middle East.
On the occasion of CSW’s 25th anniversary, Lena extolled its success and its continued value: “CSW has been a ‘gem’ in our midst. Established to support and celebrate the research of academic women and for women, it has played a transformative role for feminist scholarship at UCLA. It has supported and continues to do so many generations of feminist scholars. Particularly heartwarming is that it has been critical to the work of young scholars and graduate students.” We are all grateful for her role in its creation and continued existence at UCLA.
In recent years, Lena had grown more interested in the role of spirituality in improving the lives of college students. The results of a long-term study were published in Cultivating the Spirit: How College Can Enhance Students' Inner Lives (Jossey-Bass/Wiley, 2010). CSW hosted an event, Students and Spirituality, where Lena shared her research and the book’s recommendations.
In 2012, as part of the oral history component of CSW’s Women’s Social Movement Activities in Los Angeles project, Lena was interviewed by former CSW staffer Kimberlee Granholm. The audio materials and transcripts are available on the UCLA Library’s Oral History website:
As a result of that interview, Lena went on to write an autobiography, titled The Road from Serres: A Feminist Odyssey, which was published by Marcovaldo Productions in 2014. 
All who knew her will cherish the memory of Lena's warmth and kindness. All of us benefit from her unflagging commitment to gaining equity for women.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Feminism and the Senses: Nayan Shah

Why, when and how does the refusal to eat while in detention become a viscerally potent and politically volatile protest that challenges the legitimacy and conditions of incarceration?  — Nayan Shah

A professor of American Studies and Ethnicity and History at USC, Nayan Shah is a researcher who challenges conventions of social history by exploring the intersections of medicine, immigration, racism, capitalism and intimacy in relation to the U.S. and Canadian states. “His previous work on contagion scares vis-à-vis East Asians immigrants and homosocial networks among S. Asian laborers in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries has shaped the fields of American history and gender and sexuality studies,” says Rachel Lee, Director of the UCLA Center for the Study of Women. Shah’s new work on mass hunger strikes of political prisoners in South Africa, Israel, and Guantanamo, and refugees in the U.S., Australia and Europe led Lee to invite Shah to give the inaugural lecture in the Center’s 2015-2016 speaker series on “Feminism and the Senses: Sense Data and Sensitivity in an Age of Precarity.” On October 28, Shah will give a talk on “Refusing to Eat: Sensations, Solidarities and the Crises of Detainee Hunger Strikes.”

The Feminism + the Senses lecture series addresses how social movements around gender, sexuality, and race have a crucial relationship to sense data, sentimentality, and sensitivity. It opens up for collective exploration the question of which sensory registers have been favored by our scholarly disciplines where they intersect with feminist and queer activism. At the same time, this series aims to catalyze reflection on the “sensitizing concepts” that have historically been of value to feminist and queer scholarship and those prospective concepts arising in other social justice movements that have yet to become sensitizing to feminism.

Drawing on feminist theories of bodily subjectivity, affect and ethics, Shah will explore how sensory data, sensation, and sensitivity to human suffering mobilizes social justice movements, bioethical controversies, and challenges to state power. His current research examines prison hunger strikes and transformations in medical ethics and human rights movements across the past thirty years by exploring struggles in apartheid South Africa, refugee asylum and political prisoner protests in Europe, Middle East and Australia, and most recently in the California Prisons and in Guantanamo. 

In a recent essay—"Feeling for the Protest Faster: How the Self-Starving Body Influences Social Movements and Global Medical Ethics," a chapter in Science and Emotions after 1945, edited by Frank Biess and Daniel M. Gross (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2014)—Shah opens his exploration of the self-starving body’s role in social movements and medical ethics with a quote from George Annasarticle on Hunger strikes” in the British Medical Journal in 1995 (311:1114):  “The power of the hunger strike comes from the striker’s sworn intent to die a slow death in public view unless those in power address the injustice or condition being protested.” In his analysis, Shah shows that there are three dimensions of emotional responses and actions: the mobilization of feelings of sympathy as well as anxiety, outrage, and sadness within the followers of a social movement; the self-management, mental discipline, and emotional regulation of the hunger striker who practices resolve and fearlessness; and the conflicting emotions experienced by physicians caring for patients who are hostile to treatment and interacting with state-controlled regimes that undermine the autonomous authority of medical professionals as well as quality of care and patient trust.

Examining the hunger strikes of Gandhi and Cesar Chavez and their mobilization of social movements, Shah provides a brief yet in-depth analysis of how each man’s fasting was culturally and socially situated in their respective communities and fostered a distinct emotional response from their followers: “Gandhi and Chavez explained their emotional state in undergoing their fasts as a fearlessness that necessitates the cultivation of spiritual conviction to fortify one’s mental resolve when actions that are detrimental to one’s own body can be understood to be for the collective good” (“Feeling for the Protest Faster,” 248). In juxtaposition to these two singular examples, Shah also details a clinical study of 33 South African political prisoners engaged in a hunger strike, which provided a scientific breakdown of the body’s decomposition and resulting symptoms due to starvation. These results were used in the medical community to encourage physicians to provide better medical advice to patients and other doctors. The resulting global medical ethics established have eclipsed the realities of other communities surrounding the striker and created another sort of fearlessness and independence to protect the medical professional from intense external pressures. In Shah’s words, “Fearlessness is an approach that catalyzes intense emotions of anger, distress, and despair and transmutes them into a capacity to endure for the sake of justice physical pain, deprivation, and suffering without capitulating and abandoning deeply held principles” (“Feeling for the Protest Faster,” 244).

Shah’s new research once again challenges conventions of social history by exploring the intersections of capitalism, intimacy, immigration, racism, citizenship, and the state—as in his first two books: Stranger Intimacy: Contesting Race, Sexuality and the Law in the North American West (UC Press, 2012) and Contagious Divides: Epidemics and Race in San Francisco’s Chinatown (UC Press, 2001). Contagious Divides examines the problem of citizenship and the governance of modern society through an analysis of public health and Chinese immigration in San Francisco from 1854 to 1952. By vividly detailing how representations of Chinese immigrants shifted from medical threat to model citizen over this time period, this book documents the history of racial formation in the U.S. It traces how the public health rhetoric of the contagion of Chinatown bachelor society provided white politicians, white middle-class female social reformers, and white male labor leaders the necessary foil against which they were able to elaborate a vision of the norms of nuclear family domestic life and a sanitary social order. Thomas Bender, Director of the International Center for Advanced Studies at NYU, and editor of Rethinking American History in a Global Age, lauded Contagious Divides: "Shah has written a book of exceptional originality and importance. With a focus on issues of body, family, and home, central concerns of urban health reform, he illuminates the role of political leaders, public opinion, and professionals in the construction and reconstruction of race and the making of citizens in San Francisco. He brilliantly analyzes the politics of the movement from exclusion to inclusion, regulation to entitlement, showing it to be an interactive process. Yet, as he shows with great subtlety, the mark of race remains. As a study of citizenship and difference, this work speaks to a central theme of American history."

In Stranger Intimacy, Shah follows the experiences of South Asian migrants and their social and intimate relations in the United States and Canada from 1900 to the 1940s. According to Inderpal Grewal, author of Transnational America: Feminisms, Diasporas, Neoliberalisms,Stranger Intimacy shows us how a diverse set of laws produced immigrant subjects through race, heteronormativity, and the white, nuclear family. ‘Stranger intimacy,’ in Shah’s brilliant concept, is the site of regulation, struggle, and possibility.” “Based on virtuoso research interlaced with a lucid and compelling analysis, ” writes Lisa Duggan, author of The Twilight of Equality: Neoliberalism, Cultural Politics and the Attack on Democracy, “Stranger Intimacy challenges the assumptions at the heart of most social history. Refusing to separate political economy, state practices, racialization, and the regulation of domesticity and sexuality, Shah reads legal and bureaucratic archives for stories of non-normative sociality among multi-racial transient migrants in the early twentieth century.”

Shah’s work illuminates heterogeneous social relations by repudiating the tired constructs that separate the study of political economy, state practices, racialization, and the regulation of sociability.


Part of CSW's Gender Research and Equity Committee initiative, with support from the Office of Interdisciplinary & Cross Campus Affairs, FEMINISM + THE SENSES will feature

Nayan Shah (USC) "Refusing to Eat: Sensations,Solidarities, and the Crisis of Detainee Hunger Strikes," October 28, 2015,4 pm, YRL -- cosponsored by UCLA Department of History and the Charles E Young Research Library

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Thinking Gender 2016



26th Annual Graduate Student Research Conference

Call for presentations: Spatial Awareness, Representation, and Gendered Spaces

Thinking Gender 2016 invites submissions for individual papers, pre-constituted panels, posters, and—for the first time!—films and interactive media on topics that focus on the awareness of self, representation, and the navigation and negotiation of social and cultural space. We welcome submissions—across all disciplines and historical periods—that engage with the politics  of  gender, race, sexuality, and space. We also intend to address international and transnational encounters, and colonization and decolonization practices. We invite scholarship engaging the following topics or others related to the conference theme of “Spatial Awareness, Representation & Gendered Spaces”:

       Gender representation and state feminism
       Physical culture and the body
       Innovation through gender
       Productive and reproductive labors
       Security and gendered nationalism
       Implicit bias and stereotype threat
       Migration and transnational encounters
       Women, gender, and health
       Women and sustainable development
       Identity formation in memory and memoir
       Controversial and transgressive art
       Socialization and sexuality

CSW accepts submissions from graduate students who are registered at US or international colleges or universities. Please note that we do not accept submissions from papers presented at previous Thinking Gender conferences. Previously published materials are also not eligible. If, however, the material is forthcoming, we will consider approving the submission. Filmmakers are encouraged to submit films even if they have submitted for other events. Undergraduate students are eligible for poster submissions.

All applicants are required to submit an abstract (250 words) and CV (2 pages max). Students proposing individual papers and posters must submit a proposal (5 double-spaced pages max) and a Works Cited (1 page max). Students submitting films and mixed media must submit a film synopsis (2 page max). All components are to be submitted to the website at, according to the submission guidelines. For pre-constituted panels, a 250-word description of the panel topic is required, in addition to the materials required for individual paper submissions. For submission guidelines, visit:

Send submissions to:

Deadline for submissions:  Friday, November 20, 2015
Conference will be held April 7 and 8, 2016, at UCLA Covel Commons
Event is free and open to the public. There will be a $50 registration fee for each presenter. UCLA Center for the Study of Women

1500 Public Affairs Building, Box 957222 • Los Angeles, CA 90095-7222