The Center for Research in Feminist, Queer, and Transgender Studies (FQT Center) is Penn’s premier institutional site supporting collaborative academic research, artistic production, and public engagement for scholars, artists, students, and activists who are invested in gender and sexuality studies. This includes scholars of feminist, queer, transgender, disability, and environmental studies that center a history of U.S. enslavement, genocide, settler colonialism, and exclusionary immigration policy—all of which continue to shape gender and sexuality in the present—as well as those who stress the colonial, imperial, transnational, and global frameworks within which gender and sexual categories and identifications take shape. Since its founding in 1982, the FQT Center (originally named the Alice Paul Center) has hosted cutting-edge speakers, postdoctoral fellows, visiting scholars, and artists-in-residence and sponsored field-defining workshops, conferences, symposia, and year-long research programs. Our core and affiliated faculty represent more than 20 departments, programs and schools at Penn, and are national and international leaders in the study of gender, sexuality, and women. In partnership with the Program on Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies, our primary mission is to facilitate disciplinary and interdisciplinary feminist scholarship and promote the connections between research and public engagement. As we move into our fifth decade, the FQT Center will continue to support academic and artistic work and to build connections between research initiatives and social justice movements, the Penn community and the city and world beyond.
The history of the FQT Center has been shaped by a commitment to critical self-reflection and to making the structural changes necessary to become a space of inclusion, collectivity, and respectful debate. The Center was established to support scholarly research in conjunction with the teaching mission of Penn’s academic program in what was then known as “Women’s Studies.” Like many Women’s Studies programs of its time, Penn’s focused largely on a single axis of identity and tended to privilege white, middle-class, Western ciswomen. The choice to name the affiliated research center after Alice Paul, a U.S. suffragist and Penn Ph.D., fell in line with this vision of the subject of women’s studies. Over the past forty years, the curriculum of Penn’s “Women’s Studies” program has been repeatedly revised to address a more complex and intersectional understanding of gender and sexuality. Two name changes registered shifts in the program’s perspective since the late 1990s: “Women’s Studies” became “Gender, Society, and Culture,” which in turn became “Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies” (GSWS). Since its founding, GSWS has become a major educational presence on campus offering numerous courses at both the undergraduate and graduate levels; an undergraduate major, minor, and honors program; and a graduate certificate open to all students earning advanced degrees at Penn. The FQT Center has similarly sought to cultivate a scholarly community that affirms and welcomes speakers, fellows, artists, activists, students, and intellectuals of all genders, sexualities, races, ethnicities, religions, abilities, nationalities, and socio-economic and documentation statuses.
Realizing that the name of the research Center had not kept up with this intersectional and collective spirit—and in fact ran counter to it—in Spring 2021, the Executive Board voted to rename it the Center for Research in Feminist, Queer, and Transgender Studies. Our decision not to name our Center after a single figurehead was meant to register our commitment to collaboration, coalition, and solidarity: any proper name would inevitably prioritize some identities and struggles over others, even as it would perpetuate a patriarchal elevation of the individual, charismatic leader over the many less celebrated persons working for change. We wanted instead to accentuate the collective work of both scholarly endeavors and social justice movements, both now and in the past.
Our 2021-2022 program explores this ethos of interdependence and collectivity. Our theme for the year is Care for the Future, and we will host a number of talks, workshops, performances, and other events exploring the local and global politics of care work and environmental responsibility. We will also sponsor speakers and events to commemorate the fortieth anniversary of two landmark publications for BIPOC queer feminist writing, This Bridge Called My Back and But Some of Us Are Brave—volumes whose foundational insights on the mutual formation of gender, sexuality, race, class, ability, environment, slavery, and colonialism have often been excluded from queer theory’s traditional genealogies. All Center events are free and open to the public, and we welcome everyone in the Penn community and beyond to join us in shaping the future of feminist, queer, and transgender studies.
Past reflections on the namesake of Alice Paul can be found here: