St. Bonaventure University will mark the 25th anniversary of its Women’s Studies program with a March lecture series.
Guest speaker Susmita Talukdar, Ph.D., is a faculty member at Tribhuvan University in Nepal and a Visiting Fulbright Scholar at California State University, Fresno. Talukdar will give two lectures and speak to several classes during her March 20 and 21 visit to campus.
On Wednesday, March 20, Talukdar will deliver the university’s Mary Devereux Lecture, which annually celebrates Women’s History Month by paying tribute to Mary Devereux, one of the university’s founders.
The title of Talukdar’s lecture is “Women’s Narratives in Reading ‘Different’ Multicultural Subjectivities: An Academic Discourse.” The March 20 program, which is free and open to the public, begins at 4:30 p.m. in the University Chapel, Doyle Hall. A reception in Doyle Dining Room will follow.
In her career as a university teacher in Kathmandu, Nepal, Talukdar has found that American literature is sometimes taught without regard for the multicultural diversity of narratives by U.S. writers, and particularly without regard for the distinctive experiences of multicultural women characters in American literature.
Talukdar argues that the concept of multiculturalism has sometimes, paradoxically and unfairly, valued some cultures over others. This hierarchization of difference, which suggests that some differences are better than others, has perpetuated what she calls “the historical process of separation through racism, sexism, and homophobia.”
To better understand differences, says Talukdar, “We have to go beyond the academically sanctioned knowledge through the narratives of (the) marginalized, particularly through women’s narratives.”
Talukdar is eager to foster a true multiculturalism by drawing attention to these narratives by and about women. Her lecture will explore the topics of motherhood and female friendship in short stories and novels by Toni Morrison (a U.S. writer of the African-American experience), Louise Erdrich (a U.S. writer of the Native American Renaissance) and Mahasweta Devi, a celebrated Bengali writer.
Talukdar’s talk will be based on her experience of teaching English literature to students from diverse backgrounds in Nepal. Talukdar has studied how teaching-learning activities can create public awareness in society. Her research shows that the interactive and participatory instruction of a literary text, particularly those by Toni Morrison, may help students understand the contemporary world’s most pertinent issues related to minorities, and that understanding may create empathy for others. Morrison, in 1993, was the first African-American writer to win the Nobel Prize.
History of SBU’s Women’s Studies Program
The Women’s Studies major at St. Bonaventure is a comprehensive program incorporating disciplines and registered programs from all academic schools at the university. The program engages the study of women’s issues in an effort to promote the appreciation of human differences. Because Women’s Studies is interdisciplinary, students are encouraged to take courses that center on women, but do so from a wide variety of perspectives, such as business, journalism, literature and sports.
In 1992, a committee established to study the issues of gender equity at St. Bonaventure decided to change its focus and start a Women’s Studies program. Under the leadership of Dr. Daniel Tate of the Department of Philosophy, the first director of Women’s Studies, courses for a minor were first offered in the fall of 1993.
Sr. Winifred Whelan of the Department of Theology took over the program from Tate and ran it until she retired in 1997. At that point, Dr. Karen Robbins of the Department of History assumed the reins. During the 2003-2004 academic year, the program celebrated its 10th anniversary. At that time, it was apparent that the program had grown to where it could now offer a major in addition to the minor. The university began offering the major in 2005.
The Mary Devereux program, established in spring 2006, is annually supported by the Office of the President at the university.
To learn more about Women’s Studies at the university, visit www.sbu.edu/womensstudies.
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