Sagarika Gami '18
I did not anticipate being a Gender & Women’s Studies (GWS) major, and it was at the end of sophomore year when I realized that I had already completed half the major. Until that point, I chose classes based on the professors who taught them which was for me a foolproof strategy. Every professor I came to love and admire taught at least one GWS course, either within the department or cross-listed with another. These brilliant individuals - Professors Erin Runions, Zayn Kassam and Aimee Bahng in particular - have challenged my perceptions of the world and guided me to have a critical and nuanced approach to the discipline. Such professors are the heart and soul of the GWS department and are the reason I decided to be a major.
I wanted to continue my academic journey in a challenging and thorough environment. I wanted to continue being taught by professors who gave so much of themselves in class discussion, inspiring everyone in the room. And, I wanted to move far beyond what I knew and critique the institutions I had grown accustomed to. I'm happy to say that the GWS major offered me all of this and so much more.
I loved the ability to take cross-listed courses such as Prison, Punishment, Redemption (CP) and Women in Islamic Traditions, both of which are housed in the Religious Studies department. I find that applying a GWS framework to other disciplines is extremely valuable and heightened my understandings of queer theory, intersectionality, and feminist praxis.
As a culmination of my interdisciplinary and praxis-focused approach to GWS, I wrote my thesis about sexual violence within the South Asian-American community. Looking at how the rule of law fails to achieve justice for South Asian American survivors of domestic violence, I analyzed how the South Asian-American community mobilizes in response to this failure. I focused on alternative modes of justice, ranging from direct service organizations which provide culturally and linguistically accessible services to survivors to pre-violence educational models. I argue that modes of resistance through educational initiatives aimed towards South Asian-American youth (ages 10 to 18) against rape culture will more effectively deter the cycles of intra-community violence from occurring, specifically when oriented from sites of religious worship and/or cultural centers – spaces that create a sense of South Asian identity. These educational spaces currently do not exist as an intra-community effort, so I analyze various feminist pedagogies as well as examples of this work being done within other communities to extend these praxes back to the South Asian community.