Research Initiatives

Research Initiatives

The Pembroke Center sponsors multi-year research initiatives, led by Brown faculty members, to bring together scholars from different fields across the humanities, social sciences, and creative arts to collaborate on common research problems.

Thinking War Differently: A Collaborative Critical Project

Inspired by the 100th anniversary of World War I, the Pembroke Center has launched this four­-year research initiative to re-examine war from a broad range of disciplinary perspectives. The project will include seminars, public lectures, conferences, performances and film screenings.

The scholarship on modern war has broadened the scope of analysis from the battlefield to consider questions such as the relationship between civilian societies and their military engagements, practices of commemoration, modes of representation, global politics of security and humanitarianism, the value of human life, and the militarization of disease. This project also engages with critical discourses in such fields as gender studies, postcolonial studies, and the studies of race and ethnicity that have helped us rethink the "we" of the war experience.

In attending to the ways that analyses of war have expanded possibilities for thinking about the subject, we learn that the subject itself, war itself, has expanded as a category of analysis. It is that expanded category—war as a grid, a concept, an organizing framework, or an archive of knowledge—that will form the object of our critical explorations.

Learn more about Thinking War Differently.

The Nanjing-Brown Joint Program in Gender Studies and the Humanities

The goal of this initiative is to bring outstanding scholars from Nanjing University into dialogue with scholars here at Brown about the global future of gender, feminist studies, and the humanities. With an ambitious schedule of faculty and student exchanges and an exciting series of publications, the Nanjing-Brown Program builds vital connections between institutions and fosters rigorous and imaginative global critical thinking.

Past Research Initiatives Supported by the Pembroke Center

 "Toward a Global Humanities" - 2009

The Project entitled Toward a Global Humanities seeks to explore concerns of human populations that have histories of exclusion and marginalization from the production and practice of dominant knowledges.


“The Emergence of Sexually Differentiated Behaviors in Infancy: a Dynamic Systems Approach”

Embodiment 2004-2008

$200,000 grant from The Ford Foundation for "A Developmental Systems Approach to the Study of Gender and Sexuality". Runs from 1-1-08 to 30 months thereafter.

The examination of the question of embodiment began with Anne Fausto-Sterling's Pembroke Seminar in 2002-03. The project continues under the direction of Anne Fausto-Sterling, Professor of Biology, and Cynthia Garcia-Coll, Professor of Education, Psychology, and Pediatrics. Scheduled for November 5-6, 2004, was a major research roundtable on "Understanding Sexual Differentiation: A New Paradigm for Psychology." To learn more, click here.

“Gender and the Politics of 'Traditional' Muslim Practices” – 2005-2008

Women are central to current international politics involving the Muslim world. The United States counts the liberation of women from the oppression of the Taliban as one of its achievements in the war in Afghanistan. Honor killings (the killing of a girl or woman for acts that are seen to sully family honor) are cited as one of the obstacles to Turkey’s admission to the European Union. Transnational organizations mount efforts to eradicate female circumcision in Africa. France’s anxiety about immigration and assimilation focuses on the banning of schoolgirls’ headscarves. Gendered practices also play a role in internal politics. In Egypt, some women put on the veil as a form of opposition to Mubarak. In parts of Afghanistan, women retain the burka in a concern for preserving local practices. In Sudan, women take up circumcision in the course of Islamization.

The question is how to understand the part the woman question plays in these very different political examples. The most common understanding in western Europe and North America would see the role of women as directly indicative of a struggle between modernity and tradition, with modernization standing in for western values and interests. According to this view, these vastly different practices - the rich practice of veiling, the custom of female circumcision, and the crime of honor killing - are seen to be on the same continuum. While this view is expedient for those wishing to portray a simple ideological picture, it neither adequately describes the realities of gendered Muslim practices, nor the full nature of western interests. But neither can one turn to an exclusively local or national context for full understanding. In a world transformed by economic globalization, there are few localities and populations that remain unaffected by the impact of international economic and political arrangements; by the power of transnational bodies such as the World Bank, the European Union, and the International Monetary Fund; or by the influence of mass media.

Issues that used to be the more or less exclusive concern of local governments and customary law have taken on new relevance as national and transnational politics become more and more entwined with the local and the national. For example, honor killings in Turkey can no longer be contained within national borders given Turkey's candidacy for admission to the EU. The killing itself has one set of meanings at the local level in which it happens; another at the level of the state, which, while traditionally lenient toward such crimes, is keen on admittance into the EU; another at the level of the EU, which demands Turkey’s eradication of honor killings but does not include them in its own agenda of global gender issues; and another at the international level, where Turkey is represented either as admirably modern or unacceptably backward depending on the political forces at work.

This project looks at how the woman question affects - and is affected by - the politics of four interrelated spheres: local practices, the internal workings of states including legal practices such as family law, the transnational, and the international. In all cases, we will look carefully at how the notion of the "traditional" is deployed by examining its various uses and articulations, and how "tradition" is lived by the women and men in question.

Two large questions are raised: how can we better understand the ways gender is mobilized in politics? and how is the welfare of women ultimately affected by the entanglement of these political registers? Within these broad questions, many others emerge, such as the relative roles of the markets, of local activism by women and others, the role of civil society, of the international media, of democratization, and so forth. To address such questions, the project takes a cross-cultural perspective and engages scholars from a range of disciplines.

Plans include local workgroup meetings, a research roundtable in the spring of 2006, and subsequent workshops and conferences at Brown, in Istanbul, and possibly in Cairo. Results will be disseminated in working papers and in the publication of conference proceedings.

Project directors:
Rogaia Abusharaf, Senior Research Associate, Pembroke Center
†Dicle Kogacioglu, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Sabanci University, Istanbul