Bangladesh to global change, Shelley Feldman brings international perspective to Feminist, Gender and Sexuality Studies
By George Lowery
Shelley Feldman, professor of development sociology in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS), will serve as the new director of Cornell's Feminist, Gender and Sexuality Studies (FGSS) program beginning July 1.
Feldman has broad interests in state-society relations, moral regulation, labor relations and feminist epistemology. She has lived and worked for several years in Bangladesh and in 1993 became director of a program then called Women and Development. She helped to reimagine the program from a feminist and global perspective and with the support of others renamed it the Program on Gender and Global Change. She later directed the South Asia Program at the Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies and subsequently served as associate dean of the Graduate School.
"I'm a sociologist who works globally and transnationally," Feldman said, "and I will bring a feminist and global perspective to FGSS. This is a wonderful opportunity to enhance cross-college exchange and to build on the exciting diversity of interests that are represented on the Cornell campus. For many years I have had the opportunity to interact with colleagues across departments and colleges, and I now hope to identify others who can similarly benefit from the variety of substantive issues and theoretical perspectives that can come together under FGSS."
Feldman takes over the FGSS directorship from Amy Villarejo, associate professor of theater, film and dance. FGSS, founded in 1972, offers a major, a graduate minor and a concentration. About 30 faculty members teach 1,400 students of all majors each year in FGSS classes. The program sponsors speakers and films on campus, hosts conferences and other events and grants prizes and awards for scholarly work.
"Feminist, Gender and Sexuality Studies emerged from this year's program review with a strong endorsement of our past efforts and a clear direction for the coming years: increased research collaborations, including new voices from the social sciences and a continuing public presence at Cornell and beyond," Villarejo said. "Shelley Feldman is exactly the kind of leader FGSS now needs: a scholar with an international reputation, a proven and capable administrator and a faculty member with demonstrated commitment to all three areas [feminist politics, gender studies and queer studies] of the program. I can't imagine a better successor."
CALS Senior Associate Dean Barbara Knuth said, "Professor Feldman brings strong intellectual leadership to this important cross-college program. We look forward to the linkages her presence will help forge between CALS faculty and those in other colleges across campus."
Feldman said, "I am excited to build on the strengths and excitement that Amy has brought to the program. Her accomplishments provide a strong base to continue to move forward." Feldman anticipates extending the interdisciplinary conversations that shape her research on South Asia. She also notes that many FGSS programs tend to build on the strengths of strong programs in the humanities: English, film and theater. She feels that FGSS is now poised to extend the social science contributions to the issues central to feminist, gender and sexuality studies, enhancing the voices that can contribute to the program's growth.
Feldman defines herself as a comparative historical sociologist who is excited to accept the challenge of building new synergies between social sciences and humanities. "There is such exciting interdisciplinary work on this campus," she noted. "I'd like to contribute to building opportunities for creative conversations in ways that engage theoretical and substantive issues central to FGSS. I'm delighted to direct FGSS and look forward to well representing what cross-college collaboration can offer."