Janet Jakobsen: Queer Ethics in Hard Times: The Promise of Melancholy Utopias

Wednesday, January 24, 2018 - 12:00pm to 1:30pm

Annenberg 500, 3620 Walnut St. 

This location is ADA accessible. 

In this paper, based on her current book project, “Why Sex?: Religion, Secularism, and Possibilities for Justice,” Janet Jakobsen reflects on what she has learned from her experience of living with, caring for, and loving Christina Crosby in relation to struggles for justice.  Specifically, Jakobsen connects what she has learned from activism for disability justice to work she did while Director of the Barnard Center for Research on Women. There she joined forces with community-based organizers working across a range of issues: for prison abolition under the banner “No One is Disposable,” and for “Queer Survival Economies,” as well as with domestic workers organizing through the National Domestic Workers Alliance, and with organizers of Sakhi for South Asian women, on ‘Responding to Violence and Promoting Justice.” Each of these projects represents both the import of universal claims like “no one is disposable,” and the impossibility of realizing those claims in the current world where people are regularly treated as though disposable.  The intertwining of love and loss, happiness and perversity, possibility and impossibility undertaken in this activism allows for a melancholy practice of universal claim-making and utopian world-making. In a queer utopian imagination not everyone must be happy or whole; instead, utopia itself might remain disjunctive, ambivalent, off kilter and possibly perverse.


Janet R. Jakobsen will be joining APC the week of January 22nd, as our second annual Diversity Visting Scholar. Dr. Jakobsen is Chair and Claire Tow Professor of Women's Gender and Sexuality Studies at Barnard College, Columbia University. She served fifteen years as Director of the Barnard Center for Research on Women (BCRW), and she has also served as Dean for Faculty Diversity and Development. As Director of BCRW, Professor Jakobsen founded the webjournal, Scholar & Feminist Online, along with the New Feminist Solutions series of activist research projects with community-based organizations, such as the National Domestic Workers Alliance, Queers for Economic Justice, the New York Women’s Foundation, and A Better Balance: Work and Family Legal Center. She is the author of Working Alliances and the Politics of Difference: Diversity and Feminist Ethics (Indiana University Press, 1998). With Ann Pellegrini she co-wrote of Love the Sin: Sexual Regulation and the Limits of Religious Tolerance (New York University Press, 2003) and co-edited Secularisms (Duke University Press, 2008), and with Elizabeth Castelli she co-edited Interventions: Academics and Activists Respond to Violence (Palgrave Press, 2004). She has held fellowships from the American Association of University Women, the Center for the Humanities at Wesleyan University, and the Center for the Study of Values in Public Life at Harvard Divinity School. She has taught as a Visiting Professor at Wesleyan University and Harvard University.