Race, Migration, Sexuality: Focus of New Consortium

The collective of faculty and students will host events and propose new courses.  

In a world roiled by global inequality, climate change, and military conflict, human struggle should be seen through the lens of more than one academic discipline, says Eng-Beng Lim, an associate professor of women's, gender, and sexuality studies.

"To deepen understanding and analysis of works and worlds shaped by colonial and transnational forces, we need to tear down academic silos," he says.

With that aim, Lim and more than 30 other faculty have formed the Consortium of Studies in Race, Migration, and Sexuality (RMS), which they launched this month at a reception in Sanborn Hall. RMS will be a research institute and a center for critical, interdisciplinary faculty enrichment and co-curricular innovation.

"Myriad protest movements emblematized by #occupy, #blacklivesmatter, #metoo, the migrant's rights in the U.S., decolonial and anti-austerity protests in Puerto Rico, and the Umbrella and Arab Spring movements across Hong Kong, North Africa and the Middle East in the last decade have raised the same issues repeatedly," says Lim. "The ethics of formal, political citizenship as well as the transnational terms of cultural citizenship are being profoundly contested in the making of more inclusive and just societies. Our colleagues at Dartmouth from a wide variety of disciplines are now committing to framing our own responses to these critical themes."

"This will be a challenge to our disciplines," says Matthew Garcia, a professor of history and of Latin American, Latino, and Caribbean studies, and a founding member of RMS. "But interdisciplinarity is already a major strength on this campus. There is a very strong presence of both sexuality and race studies."

The consortium's third focal point, migration, will place scholarship and teaching about ethnicities within a framework "that accounts for flows of populations across national boundaries in which the U.S. is but one nodal point," says Lim.

Start-up funding for the consortium comes from the Office of the Dean of Faculty of Arts and Sciences. At the launch party, arts and sciences Dean Elizabeth Smith called RMS a "timely idea."

"We're doing an experiment—which I like, as a scientist," Smith said. "We have a hypothesis: that this is really important, and Dartmouth should be able to make it smart. In this area, and in a unique way, we're going to gather data from experts and then we're going to plot a path forward."

A schedule of scholarly retreats, lectures, panel discussions, and faculty seminars is already in full swing. Guest speakers this term have included the Filipino-American writer R. Zamora Linmark; Iyko Day, an associate professor of English and critical social thought at Mount Holyoke College; Kris Manjapra, an associate professor of history and chair of Studies in Race, Colonialism, and Diaspora at Tufts University; Vicki Ruiz, Distinguished Professor Emerita of History and Chicano/Latino Studies at UC Irvine; and several other prominent scholars, including Rey Chow, the Anne Firor Scott Professor of Literature at Duke University, whose lectures were co-organized with Latin American, Latino and Caribbean Studies, Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies; Society of Fellows, Comparative Literature, Middle Eastern Studies. 

Upcoming fall events:

  • Oct. 30 at 6:30-8 p.m. in Collis Common Ground, Palestinian-American drag queen performer Fares Rizk will star in "Glitter Galore, A Night With Sultana."
  • Nov. 14 at 4:30 p.m. in Steele 006, Lisa Duggan, a professor of social and cultural analysis and director of American Studies at New York University, will deliver the annual RMS/Stonewall Lecture, "Mean Girl: Ayn Rand and the Culture of Greed."

More activities will continue to be added to the RMS calendar.

"We could never have gotten off the ground so quickly without the immense energy and enthusiasm of our colleagues, postdoctoral fellows and students from so many different units on campus, including the Provost's Fellowship (PROF) Program, the Society of Fellows Program, the Leslie Center of Humanities, the Ethics Institute, and several of our interdisciplinary programs, among other partners," says Lim. "We want to be an epicenter for campus-wide dialogue."

RMS has recruited undergraduates—five scholars and 15 fellows—who, in addition to conducting research, will explore with faculty the feasibility of a minor or a modified RMS major. The students are also invited to contribute to a spring 2020 consortium proseminar that will be taught by Lim and postdoctoral fellow Howie Hao Jun Tam, who is the consortium's assistant director.

Spring term will culminate with a conference in May on the future of critical interdisciplinary studies. RMS will invite current and former directors of research centers at peer institutions to discuss best practices and partnerships, and some of the top scholars in the field, many of whom are serving on RMS's national advisory collective, to share their research. 

"By harnessing the intellectual vibrancy and creative strengths of our faculty across campus relating to the study of race, class, gender, sexuality, and global cultures, Dartmouth stands poised to build upon the contributions and achievements of its leading peer institutions and to extend them into new areas," says Lim.

"We are converging at a crucial juncture, and our momentum continues to build."

Charlotte Albright can be reached [email protected].