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Sexual Assault

Graduate dissertation fellows on gender developments in their academic disciplines

Patterson, Zola, Nichols

The Clayman Institute’s Graduate Dissertation Fellowships (GDF) are awarded to outstanding Stanford doctoral students whose research focuses on gender with an intersectional perspective. The fellowships provide financial support for top gender scholars as they complete their dissertations, while encouraging interdisciplinary connections for their research. GDFs also contribute to the writing and research efforts of the Clayman Institute, and add to our diverse community of scholars. Meet our most recent cohort of GDFs, and hear what they see as important and exciting developments around gender research in their academic fields.

Casey Wayne Patterson

Patterson is a scholar of Black studies, Black women’s studies, and African American literature, and is a PhD candidate in the Department of English. His current research project focuses on the late 20th century emergence of Black literary studies, using it to historicize the incorporation of Black cultural study into the university after 1969. This winter, he taught a course on Black feminism and the SciFi of Octavia Butler. His new article on reception, racial melancholy, and young adult readers is forthcoming in the International Journal of Young Adult Literature.

Patterson writes: “In recent years, Black feminist scholarship has arrived into a new understanding of Audre Lorde’s 1984 warning. Alerted that the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house, we spent decades crafting our own tools––only to see them used to remodel the master’s house instead. Erica Edwards’ The Other Side of Terror: Black Women and the Culture of US Empire (2021), for instance, offers a jarring demonstration of the ‘pedagogies of minority difference.’ Roderick Ferguson describes the university marketing to state power as a resource for counterinsurgent governance (The Reorder of Things, 2012). By studying the history of our disciplines and their movement through powerful institutions, we are learning how difficult it is to separate the work of demolition and renovation; how our present working conditions are designed to confuse the two; and developing further tools to respond.”

Carolyn Zola

Zola is a PhD candidate in history focusing on gender and labor in eighteenth and nineteenth century North America. Working at the intersection of social and cultural history, her dissertation explores the lived experiences of female hucksters, street peddlers, and market women who sold food in port cities, both in the formal economies of public markets and in the vernacular economies of the streets. A Bay Area native, she worked in theater, studied at City College of San Francisco, and earned her B.A. in history at U.C. Berkeley before coming to Stanford.

Carolyn responds: “I am especially excited by scholarship that draws new meanings out of old stories and expands archival boundaries. Vanessa Holden’s work on the Southampton Rebellion which was carried out by enslaved Virginians in 1831 (more commonly known as Nat Turner’s Rebellion) reinterprets the event in terms of gender and community. Similarly, Serena Zabin’s work on the Boston Massacre in 1770 recontextualizes a familiar historical episode in terms of gender and family. Both of these well-known historical events look quite different in the hands of historians who are asking new, provocative questions. And finally, Jen Manion’s work on people who were assigned female at birth but lived as men offers rich and surprising insights about class and identity during that period."

Bethany Nichols

Nichols is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Sociology. Her research examines how some individuals thrive in the face of trauma while others struggle. In her research, she builds an innovative sociology of trauma that theorizes and examines how and under what social conditions trauma affects life chances. Her other research shows how inequality is produced and maintained in the institutional evaluative processes that mediate individuals’ access to valued socioeconomic outcomes—such as college admissions or hiring.

On gender-related developments in sociology: “One of the most pressing gender issues that my field of sociology is addressing is how to support the struggle to allow women to maintain power and autonomy over their own bodies. Women’s bodies—and the choices they make about their bodies—have been historically oppressed by men, institutions, laws, and society. More recently, with the rollback of Roe v. Wade, skyrocketing rates of sexual violence, increases in maternal mortality rates, and police violence against BIPOC women, it is clear that bodily autonomy is up for debate, rather than a lived reality for women in the United States. As a sociologist, my job is to intervene in this struggle by showing how the oppression against women’s bodies occurs, the consequences of this oppression, and practical ways that this oppression can be disrupted by individuals, institutions, and policies.”