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New Course: Radical Lesbian Thought


Kailah Carden, who is pursuing her MA in Educational Studies, has forged an exciting and quite unique course of study. A year ago, she joined forces with Associate Professor Sabina Vaught to develop a new course. In addition, with the assistance of a number of department and university grants, she has been able to do some really exciting on-the-ground research related to the course material.

Early on in her graduate studies, Carden learned from Educational Studies MA program director Sabina Vaught that she would be developing a new course on radical lesbian thought. In the fall of 2014, with the support of an Education Department course development grant, Carden teamed up with Vaught to develop the course and syllabus, an exciting and unusual collaborative project between professor and student. In spring 2015, when Professor Vaught offered the course for the first time, Carden worked as the Teaching Assistant for the course.

Radical Lesbian Thought, as Carden describes it, is framed around archives - the material culture by and about lesbians - so it was fitting when, last April, Professor Vaught and her students, including Carden, ventured off campus to spend time at the Lesbian Herstory Archives in Park Slope, Brooklyn, where they explored the materials and stories housed there; for their final project, the students created their own archives.

Associate Professor Sabina Vaught and her Radical Lesbian Thought students at the Lesbian Herstory Archives in Brooklyn

Carden then secured travel funds from the Graduate School to further her study of these and other archives, and in the summer of 2015, she traveled to Los Angeles to explore the June Mazer Lesbian Archives in West Hollywood and the ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives at the University of Southern California. In addition, she made her way north to San Francisco to sift through the materials at the GLBT Historical Society. In addition, research visits to the Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America at Harvard University and The History Project, an LGBTQ archive in Boston, have informed her MA thesis, for which she is working on two papers: one is an ethnography of the archives and how teaching and learning takes place in those spaces, and the other is an exploration of the pedagogy of the Radical Lesbian Thought course. The pedagogies of both, Carden explains, are tightly linked, and she proposes that the pedagogies operate with three key features: specificity, collaboration, and intergenerationality.

She is presenting her research at two upcoming conferences: at the 5th Annual Tufts Graduate Humanities Conference on Friday, October 16, 2015 in a talk called "Queer Times in the Lesbian Archive" and at the 16th Annual Curriculum and Pedagogy Conference in Cleveland, Ohio in November, 2015; there, she will present a paper entitled "Toward Radical Lesbian Praxes."