In this episode of High Theory, Katherine Turk tells us about Sisterhood, a familial metaphor used to evoke gendered solidarity in women’s movement of the mid-sixties and seventies, and a utopian ideal of equality within the human family. It’s a universalizing but aspirational concept that helped feminists build a political coalition.
Our conversation is based upon Katherine’s new book about the National Organization of Women: The Women of NOW: How Feminists Built an Organization That Transformed America (MacMillan, 2023). This mainstream feminist organization is often neglected in histories of the period, dismissed as a liberal organization dedicated to incremental change. But NOW was an expansive organization that changed over time, shifted the conversation and legal structures in the US, and left an important historical record that we can learn from in social justice work today.
Katherine Turk is an associate professor of History and an adjunct associate professor of Women’s and Gender Studies at UNC Chapel Hill. Her research and teaching focus on women, sex, gender, law, labor, and modern social movements. Her first book Equality on Trial: Gender and Rights in the Modern American Workplace (Politics and Culture in Modern America Series, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2016) studies the history of Title VII of the 1964 US Civil Rights Act, which outlawed workplace discrimination on the basis of such personal attributes as sex, race, and religion.
The image for this week was made by Saronik Bosu. It shows Aileen Hernandez, Mary Jean Collins, and Patricia Hill Burnett, leaders of NOW who are the primary subjects of Katherine’s book.
Swati Moitra explains how reading can be a subversive and even revolutionary act in certain socio-historical contexts. She draws especially from her own work in the history of women’s reading practices in nineteenth and early twentieth century India, in particular the region of Bengal. She talks about the dual indices of literacy and pleasure in her work, and its affiliations to fields like book history and print cultural studies.
Swati Moitra (M.Phil., Ph.D.) is Assistant Professor at the Department of English at Gurudas College, University of Calcutta. Her areas of interest include book history and histories of readership. She is the recipient of the SHARP Research Development Grant for BIPOC Scholars 2022.
Image: © 2023 Saronik Bosu
Kareem Khubchandani talks about aunties, figure across culture that stand for inquiry and succor, at limits of, or outside of traditional family structures. The conversation spans across genres and contexts, mainly focusing on work in the new field of Critical Aunty Studies.
Kareem Khubchandani is the Mellon Bridge assistant professor in theater, dance, and performance studies, and women’s, gender, and sexuality studies at Tufts University. He is the author of Ishtyle: Accenting Gay Indian Nightlife (University of Michigan Press, 2020), which received the 2021 Association for Theatre in Higher Education Outstanding Book award, 2021 Dance Studies Association de la Torre Bueno book award, 2021 MLA/ASA Alan Bray Memorial Prize honorable mention, and the 2019 CLAGS: Center for LGBTQ Studies Fellowship. Kareem is also co-editor of Queer Nightlife (University of Michigan Press, 2021) and curator of criticalauntystudies.com.
Image: © 2022 Saronik Bosu
Music used in promotional material: ‘Like Swimming’ by Broke for Free