by Bri Becerra
Can you introduce yourself?
My name is Christa Craven. My pronouns are she/her/hers. I am the interim dean for faculty and development and I am a faculty member in anthropology and women’s, gender and sexuality studies (WGSS). I’m currently chairing WGSS, and the global queer studies minor is being incorporated into the WGSS program.
Can you give a brief explanation of what the new Global Queer Studies (GQST) minor is?
Like many minors, it has six courses. Some of those courses are introductory, like we have a course called “Introduction to Global Queer Studies.” There’s also a course that we have on the books in WGSS that’s called “Queer Lives.” That’s a 200-level course that will continue to be part of [the minor]. Then there are going to be cross-listed courses across the College: there’s a couple of courses offered in history by Dr. Jordan Biro Walters, there are courses in anthropology and theater and English. So there’s a lot of different areas that are going to contribute to the minor.
The description of GQST emphasizes theory and activism. How will these two facets come to life in the classroom?
One thing that is really important to feminist pedagogy is thinking about praxis, which is where practice and theory come together. We very much thought about that in terms of the GQST minor because activism has been so important to LGBTQIA+ movements, and that is often people’s entry into learning about that history. But there’s also really well developed scholarship in queer studies and queer theory; we wanted to bring those together so it’s not a fully theory-based discussion where we’re not actually engaged and involved in current issues that are facing LGBTQIA+ communities. That was really the genesis for bringing this together.
You have previously mentioned that the approval of this new minor in the spring of 2021 was a bit contentious. What do you think led to this?
We have a complicated history at the College with regard to queer issues. Even some of the earliest classes in WGSS that talked about lesbian and queer history were listed under women’s studies but not actually in their home department. There has been a lot of hesitancy at The College of Wooster, and nationally as well, about lifting up the scholarship. When we came to the faculty for a vote, it was really interesting to me that there was barely any discussion. We live in a moment where that would be a very difficult discussion to have, [for someone] to come out and say, “I really just don’t think we need this minor.” There was very little discussion. Much like when I look back on the history of what was then the Black Studies program, how it was voted on via secret ballot, and ultimately it was approved and we have Africana Studies today, but it was not an easy path. When this came up, it was approved on the first vote. We were thrilled. But then taking a look at how many people supported versus how many people voted against it and how many abstained, a third of the faculty either voted against it or abstained. There’s a lot of reasons for that. There are some folks who vote against any new program because they feel like we need to support the programs we have. But then looking at other minors throughout the past thirty years or so that have come into being, this was definitely the most contentious vote. It’s a good reminder that we’re at a really exciting moment and a really historical moment seeing this minor come into being, but that we also face opposition in ways that other scholarly disciplines don’t.
How do you envision the creation of the GQST minor impacting our campus as a whole?
I’ve already heard from admissions that several students in their applications have said they want to come here because there is a global queer studies minor. We were very intentional in our research looking at what these majors and minors were called at other schools because there are a lot of different names. We, to my knowledge, are the only global queer studies minor in the country and probably internationally. One of the reasons for that is with my background in anthropology and Dr. Atay’s background in communication studies, and particularly diaspora studies, we really felt like we wanted to bring a global perspective to this minor and not have it solely focused on U.S. experience. The students really took that on when they started looking at all of these other programs because they were really U.S.-focused and they weren’t really explicit about it. We did want to be intentional about making it global in focus because The College of Wooster is a place that attracts people from so many places in the world.
Are there any GQST events or WGSS events that you would like to plug?
On Feb. 14, we’re having the official launch [of the GQST minor]. There is also newly acquired art in the art museum that is by a genderqueer artist; it’s from their series “Soft Butch Blues.” They’ll be on display for the very first time this semester.
Anything else that you’d like to share?
Folks should check out the Kauke display case in the second-floor atrium. That display case had the same stuff in it when I arrived at the College eighteen years ago, so I got permission to revamp it and the class [Intro to GQST] already has some stuff in there. They’re going to be putting things up for display there, quite literally at the center of campus. That feels really exciting.