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Announcing IRWGS Fellows 2020 – 2021

Congratulations to our 2020 – 2021 IRWGS Graduate Fellows Mia Cecily Florin-Sefton (Department of English & Comparative Literature) and Alex Pekov (Slavic Languages and Comparative Literature). Fellows are selected annually, based on the excellence of their scholarship and their commitment to women’s, gender, and sexuality studies.

Mia Cecily Florin-Sefton is a 4th year PhD candidate in the English and Comparative Literature Department whose academic research sits at the interdisciplinary intersection of feminist science studies, disability studies, critical race theory and biopolitics. To be more specific, she examines shifting and evolving theorizations of individual plasticity, developmental discourses and representations of aging alongside their relationship to the long history of eugenics and the science of variation and difference. Before coming to Columbia, she was a Thouron scholar at the University of Pennsylvania and has also previously worked as a curatorial assistant at the Barbican in London; where she helped to curate an exhibition on contemporary feminist and queer science fiction. Prior to that she worked as a magazine editor for the National Association of Writers in Education.

This year as a graduate fellow for IRWGS Mia is excited to explore new, virtual ways to cultivate solidarity and collaboration amongst the IRWGS graduate and undergraduate community; as well as advocating for the decolonizing of the curriculum, intellectual responsibility and feminist pedagogy. Alongside this mission statement she is also eager to create new opportunities for graduate workers to collaborate and share their works in progress.

Alex Pekov is a 5th year PhD candidate in Slavic Languages and Comparative Literature at Columbia. He holds a BA in Philosophy (Moscow State University Lomonosov) and an MA in Slavic and Jewish Studies (Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg). His dissertation-in-the-making, “Toward a Transmediterranean Genealogy: Matrilineal Legacies in Sephardi Women Writers from the Former Yugoslavia and the Maghreb,” focuses on the autofictional family novels, crafted in French and Serbian by the women writers of Jewish Sephardi origin, born in the French-ruled Maghreb and ex-Yugoslavia, respectively. Applying a host of feminist and decolonizing reading and interpretive strategies, Alex studies these literary works as a linguistically diverse and translingual, geographically disconnected, largely untranslated into English, and hence virtually invisible archive of Sephardi women’s writing. Alex’s broader research interests include multilingualism and decolonization, genocide & gynocide, gender in writing, postmemory, queer diasporic lifeworlds, colonial and gay male physique photography.

In the 2020-2021 academic year, Alex will also be joining the CTL cohort of Lead Teaching Fellows in order to reflect on the many intersections of linguistics and feminist pedagogy—the topic that he started to investigate ever since he took the IRWGS Feminist Pedagogy class with Marianne Hirsch under the umbrella of the IRWGS Graduate Certificate. As an IRWGS Graduate Fellow, Alex hopes to serve as the Institute’s ambassador across Columbia’s departments, spreading the knowledge of the Institute’s expertise and asserting the value of immersing in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies not only for one’s research, but also for the authorship, ownership, and exploration of one’s self. With the academic quotidian forced to migrate largely online for the foreseeable future, Alex is committed to being an agent of maintaining and mobilizing our community’s intellectual exchange, co-presence, and togetherness in the virtual format—against and in spite of the disruptions and physical separations, caused by the current health crisis.

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The Institute for Research on Women, Gender, and Sexuality is the locus of interdisciplinary feminist and queer scholarship and teaching at Columbia University.

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