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IRWGS 2018 Essay Prize Winners

Congratulations to Edward Alexander Crouse (CC ’18 and History major), winner of the 23rd annual IRWGS Women’s and Gender Studies Award for “Sylvia on Trial: Sedition, Censorship and Civil Liberties in 1921,” Sadie Yudkin (BC ’18 and Ethnomusicology major), winner of the 11th annual IRWGS Queer Studies Award for “The Future is Here, It’s Queer: Contemporary New York City Music Scenes as Queer Theory in Practice and Praxis,” and Clara Beccaro (CC’ 19 and Women and Gender Studies major) winner of the 1st annual Feminist to the Core Essay Award for “(M)adam and (St)eve: Queer Theory in Paradise Lost”.

We interviewed the students to learn more about their work and their plans for the future.


1. What inspired you to focus on your topic for your paper?
I wrote this research paper in Professor Susan Pedersen’s history seminar on the British Women’s Suffrage Movement, where we studied a variety of topics from the first local women’s suffrage groups in the 19th century, to the anti-suffragists and the intersection of suffrage groups with Ireland, the British Empire, and nonconformists/Catholics. I became interested in the aftermath of suffrage, especially the trajectories of members of the “militant” suffragette group, the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU). Many of its members, like Mary Richardson, Helen Crawfurd, Sophia Duleep Singh, and Sylvia Pankhurst joined different political movements after the WSPU disbanded during WWI. In preparation of the seminar paper, I chose to research Sylvia Pankhurst, who had a fascinating life and whose radical newspaper the Woman’s (later, Workers’Dreadnought and complete archival collection existed in microfilm at Butler. 

While fumbling through the microfilm collection of Pankhurst’s archival papers, I discovered the trial records of Pankhurst’s appeal against a 1920 charge for publishing seditious communist material against the British government. Everything about the transcript, from the prosecution’s statements to Pankhurst’s self-delivered defense and even occasional public outbursts, felt captivatingly cinematic, so I immediately began to research more about it. I was surprised to read in various biographies and secondary scholarship a tepid consideration of the episode, which ranged from nonexistent or uninterested to even outright hostile. I found myself in particular disputing the claims made in one of Pankhurst’s authoritative biographies that labelled her a “disturbed woman” at the time of the trial. Considering that judgement to be unhelpful, I decided to write my seminar paper as a way of understanding the incredibly complex ways that Pankhurst’s self-representation in the trial engaged with interwar gender politics, state censorship of communism, and the extension of emergency power restriction of civil liberties. 

2. How have you been able to integrate your interest in women’s studies in the work you have done here at Columbia?
In addition to the British Women’s Suffrage seminar, I’m thankful to have had professors in a variety of courses who made concerted efforts to incorporate gender studies into our syllabi. Through exposure to the writings of scholars like Millett, Nochlin, Woolf, Mulvey, de Beauvoir, Butler, and Delphy, I have begun to learn how to consider the questions they raised and use the methodologies they introduced throughout my Columbia education, be it in the Core Curriculum, art history, film studies, literature, or history. Along with the actual content and approaches that women’s and gender studies constitute, I also appreciate the wider impact the field has had broadly speaking (literary criticism and historiographical trends come most immediately to mind). While my time at Columbia is at an end, I hope to be able to continue learning. 

3. What are your plans for the future?
This fall I will be starting at Stanford Law School, and I hope to become involved in legal areas incorporating public interest, government service, and domestic and international contexts.


1. What inspired you to focus on your topic for your paper?
My title, “The Future’s Here It’s Queer” is a lyric from a song called “EROTIX” that my friends Isis Brown, Iyabo Babatunde and myself made last year. The hope of the song is to inspire people to realize that their experiences are painful, magical, and shared, and that they too can fight against the silence. The song is a house beat featuring sound samples from Paris is Burning and Audre Lorde’s “The Power of the Erotic.” I think on a basic level, the direction for my thesis came from that song and our frustration with mainstream culture’s ruthless and silent appropriation of Black queer culture in general.

Otherwise, the inspiration came from the artists themselves: Elysia Crampton, Moor Mother Goddess, Chino Amobi, and Show Me The Body. I have been a huge fan of all of these artists, and each of them have expanded music for me in some way. I wanted to use the opportunity of writing a thesis to understand why these artists are so important to me, and in doing so, I began to learn why they’re important to everyone else too.

2. How have you been able to integrate your interest in women’s studies in the work you have done here at Columbia/Barnard?
Certain professors have done a really amazing job teaching through a queer and/ or Black feminist lenses. American Studies professors such as Manu Vimalassery at Barnard, and certain people in the music department like Prof. Marti Newland, Prof. Ellie Hisama, and Prof. Alessandra Ciucci, fore fronted women’s studies in their classrooms which really inspired me. 

3. What are your plans for the future?
To keep making music and skate.


1. What inspired you to focus on your topic for your paper?  
As a Gender Studies major, I really tried to approach LitHum through a feminist and queer perspective; when I started reading Paradise Lost by Milton, my LitHum Professor, Eliza Zingesser, really encouraged me to focus on what I was perceiving as Milton’s queer paradise. When I started delving into the work through this queer lens, I became rapidly amazed by how much Paradise Lost could fit into queer theories about gender and sexuality.
2. How have you been able to integrate your interest women’s studies in the work you have done here at Columbia?
Being a women’s and gender studies means that all my work is pretty much influenced by my major. Recently, I’ve been particularly interested by Affect Politics and the works of Sara Ahmed, so I’ve been  trying to shape a lot of my work and engagement on this campus and beyond through a practice of emotions and feelings.
3. What are your plans for the future?
Currently, I am thinking of applying to graduate school; I am interested in looking at France’s asylum policies and how they are rooted in notions of homonationalism and humanitarianism that affect LGBTQ refugees lives. As a member of No Red Tape, Columbia’s anti-sexual assault organization, I would also really like to focus on how affect politics and intimacy can create anti-sexual assault activism that doesn’t rely on the carceral state (which is what my senior thesis will focus on!).

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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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