Syantani Chatterjee is a fourth year PhD candidate in the Department of Anthropology. She has recently concluded her fieldwork in Mumbai, India. As a graduate student at Columbia, Syantani says she has primarily been interested in “how processes of embodiment interact with mechanisms of power.” Her current research focuses on “what modes of life, endurance, and politics materialize amid exposure to almost imperceptible everyday toxicity in Mumbai’s urban periphery.” Syantani’s master’s thesis focused on commercial gestational surrogacy in India. Her concern was “to understand the manner in which the “perfect surrogate mother” is produced.” Syantani says that she has spent many years in India politically mobilizing and organizing around the rights of marginalized and gendered labor. Thus, working at IRWGS will, she says, “be an extension of several political and intellectual commitments close to my heart.” Syantani is a trained Bharatnatyam dancer (Indian classical dance), and considers herself to have been a professional dancer in a previous life. She has helped curate dance festivals involving dancers from India and the United States to perform in New York at Barnard, Columbia, and the Asia Society.
Erica Richardson is a seventh year PhD candidate in English and Comparative Literature. Her research explores “how black authors and intellectuals from the 1890s through the 1930s use aspects of sociology in their literary production as a means of representing black social life during a time of racial violence and constraint.” Richardson explains that in her work “categories of gender and sexuality are central to defining and theorizing black racial uplift.” Richardson hopes that as a graduate fellow at IRWGS she will have “the opportunity to cultivate a conversation about black women’s agency, intellectualism, and symbolics within American political discourse that might benefit the IRWGS’s community.” According to Richardson, IRWGS has always been a place where she can let her thoughts “unfold, wander, and linger.” Richardson said, “I hope in that spirit to encourage the broader Columbia community to really consider what feminist practice means to them as scholars, teachers, and activists.” In the fall, Richardson will also serve as a Literature Humanities Preceptor in Columbia University’s Department of Core Curriculum. When Erica isn’t teaching or working on her research, she spends her time enjoying healthy Southern cooking (it does exist!), weight training, and making collages.
Alessia Palanti is a fourth year, PhD candidate in the Italian department and ICLS. She is writing her dissertation on 21st century Italian women’s cinema that focuses on women’s lives from a female perspective. Her project traces the development of Italian feminisms and their place in the international landscape of feminist inquiry into gender and sexuality through an analysis of contemporary films.
Alessia’s commitment to feminisms, and to issues related to gender, and sexuality reach beyond academia. She performs acrobatic movement and dance at Lava Studios in Brooklyn, NY, which is a feminist, gender-fluid arts space for individuals of all ages and abilities, committed to community building. She is also a consultant for UN Women’s HeForShe Initiative, for a project that investigates gender bias in cinema. As a graduate fellow, Alessia is interested fostering further dialogue on the impact of media and representation on the forging of a gendered and sexed subjectivity, by including more media and arts-related events and conversations in the IRWGS program. She is eager to create more alliances with activists, artists, philosophers, and communities outside of academia to cultivate reciprocal intellectual and activist enrichment.
Leah Werier is a fourth year PhD candidate in Art History, who focuses on 20th and 21st century art informed by feminist theory. She has recently completed an IRWGS graduate certificate. Leah has attended IRWGS events since she began studying at Columbia. She has also organized events in Art History with a focus on gender, including the program Works in Progress: Gender Stages // Staging Gender.
For Leah, being involved with IRWGS has been one of the “most enriching experiences for me” as a graduate student. As a graduate fellow, Leah is interested in promoting IRWGS across different departments and growing the IRWGS community. She believes that “it provides a stimulating interdisciplinary meeting space for students and faculty. I look forward to organizing events that focus on the relationship between visual culture and feminist, queer and intersectional theory.” Leah hopes to invite artists to present their work to students and faculty and engage with the academic community at Columbia.
Liz Dolfi, a fourth-year doctoral student in the Religion Department, has a strong background in gender studies. She has a B.A. in Women’s Studies and an M.A. in Religion and Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. She has also recently completed her Graduate Certificate in Women’s Studies here at IRWGS and was a TA for Professor Ciolkowski and Professor Jordan-Young’s Intro to Women’s and Gender Studies course this past semester.
Liz says she is “interested in developing workshops on research methods and prospectus writing that address the particular needs of students working across multiple academic disciplines.” She also believes that “making feminist scholars more familiar with the critical language of religious studies is a politically urgent project, and critical studies of religion and secularisms are too frequently neglected in feminist scholarship.” As a Graduate Fellow, Liz hopes to invite to IRWGS guest lecturers who “explicitly engage questions about religion and are able to make these subjects accessible to students from other fields.”
Victoria Wiet, a fourth-year doctoral student in the English and Comparative Literature Department, has been a part of the IRWGS community since she started at Columbia. Last semester she was a TA (with Liz) for Intro to Women’s and Gender Studies, and she has also taught the Gender and Sexuality-themed section of University Writing.
As a graduate fellow, Victoria would like to “promote teaching in affiliation with IRWGS as a building block for teaching in one’s home discipline.” She also looks forward to developing pedagogical workshops and continuing to attend IRWGS events, which she says have provided “surprising points of contact between my work and those working in different disciplines and time periods.”