About the Pembroke Center

The Pembroke Center supports interdisciplinary research and teaching across the humanities, social sciences, and creative arts. With a focus on the human cost and potential of social change, the center’s research agenda has a transnational perspective that includes the global south. We examine the circulation of bodies and markets, technologies, and transnational labor. In a related vein, the Center investigates questions of representation, values, and the production of knowledge as issues in their own right and as methodological tools. The scope of the Center's research activities will continue to expand to deal with fields such as international public health, legal studies, the history of science and medicine, and new media studies. All of these research initiatives are firmly linked to our commitment to the training of undergraduate and graduate students.

The Center's research framing is not solely on gender but rather on difference. We draw here also on literary and artistic representations of difference, on investigations into forms of meaning, as well as into values and ethics. In a theoretical vein, we examine critical approaches to how difference operates in texts, media, and arts. We draw on qualitative research methods and critical theory from the humanities, social sciences, and gender studies. We are interested in how the arts, public culture, and local media interpret global issues for local audiences, affecting social action and politics.

We are interested in the difference that historical context, culture, and social relations make for the way that transnational issues actually play out in different parts of the world in practical ways. We examine the often-neglected social relations that mediate change -- how families, communities, transnational networks, non-governmental organizations, and institutions of all sorts operate in this globalized world. Our qualitative approach focuses on social relations, rather than the aggregate character of populations with abstract individuals as the unit of measurement. By contrast, we resituate individuals socially and historically and pay attention to their wider contexts and actions as meaning makers.

Our model draws on collaborative research in the sciences where it is more common for distinctive fields to collaborate on issues of common concern. The Center's research activities bring scholars and postdoctoral fellows from all over the world to work with Brown faculty and students from a variety of disciplines on global issues that call for interdisciplinary understanding. The Pembroke Seminar, a year-long forum bringing together faculty, postdoctoral fellows, graduate students, and select undergraduates to interrogate a common set of issues, is a continuing site of critical scholarship and intellectual excitement. Recent topics have included nature and the cultural other, identity and psychoanalysis, the language of victimization, new forms of health activism, markets and bodies, humanitarianism, the language of governance and expertise, and the question of consent.

What makes the Center unique is its emphasis on an evolving agenda of transnational problems addressed through sustained study in a variety of forums: year-long research seminars, conferences, graduate and undergraduate courses, lecture series, roundtables, and longer research initiatives. Departmental faculty, committed to research collaborations that involve different disciplines, play an active role in deciding which particular issues are pursued. Undergraduates and graduate students take active roles in these scholarly activities.

The Pembroke Center also sponsors Brown's undergraduate concentration on Gender and Sexuality Studies, the prominent journal of feminist cultural studies differences, the Nanjing-Brown Joint Program in Gender Studies and the Humanities, the Feminist Theory Papers, the Christine Dunlap Farnham Archives on nineteenth and twentieth-century Brown and Rhode Island women and their organizations, and annual commencement forums. A core focus of the Pembroke Center Associates, a group of alumnae/i, parents, and friends who support the work of the Pembroke Center, is to honor the legacy of Pembroke College in Brown University and women's historical efforts to gain access to higher education.

Notes on Pembroke Center's History: 1981-2011 by Elizabeth Weed