With a new name and a series of special events including a keynote speech by internationally renowned activist, professor and author Angela Davis, the Fisher Center will celebrate two decades leading the campus and community dialogue on pressing issues around gender and social equity.
Since its founding in 1998, the Fisher Center for the Study of Women and Men has brought hundreds of national and international experts to campus to explore the facets and implications of one driving question: “How do we more nearly realize, through our educational program, scholarship and presence in the larger community, our democratic ideals of equity, mutual respect, and common interest in relations between men and women?”
This year, Hobart and William Smith Colleges will rename the center the Fisher Center for the Study of Gender and Justice “to reflect the broader social awareness of the limits of binary conceptions of gender as well as the emphases of the millennial generation on broadening gender understandings and choices,” says Jodi Dean, the Donald R. Harter ’39 Chair of Humanities and Social Sciences and director of the Fisher Center. “The Fisher Center enlivens faculty research, brings innovative speakers to campus, and develops workshops and programming responsive to campus, community and national concerns. We are grateful to the Fisher family whose generosity in endowing this important center has galvanized the intellectual life of Hobart and William Colleges.”
The Colleges will kick off celebrations for the Fisher Center’s 20th anniversary during Homecoming and Family Weekend 2018, with public events beginning Sept. 28. Continuing throughout the academic year, Fisher Center’s 2018-19 speaker series will examine the theme “On the Move,” bringing “together a variety of contemporary concerns with mobility, movements and migration,” Dean says.
In her keynote public lecture, Davis will address themes for the future of feminism, beginning at 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 18.
Davis has engaged in a “lifetime of political struggle in the movements of the oppressed” and “has been at the vanguard of struggles for Black, women’s, working class and prisoners’ liberation,” explains Dean.
Davis was an assistant professor of philosophy at UCLA in 1969 when then California governor Ronald Reagan pressured the state university system’s Board of Regents to fire Davis for her membership in the Communist Party. The following year, she was charged with kidnapping and murder and named to the F.B.I’s most wanted list, before her arrest and 1972 exoneration, when an all-white jury found her innocent.
In numerous books on peace, justice, prison abolition and the movements of the oppressed, “Professor Davis’s work highlights the concerns with justice, the abolition of white supremacy and other forms of oppression, and equality in the lives of women and men that have been the focus of the work of the Fisher Center for the last 20 years,” Dean says. “Her vision inspires how we see the work of the Fisher Center continuing into the next decades.”
Endowed with a $1 million gift from Emily and the late Richard Fisher, whose son Alexander graduated from Hobart College in 1993, the Center was inaugurated in October 1998 with an event titled “Engendering the Future: Educating Women, Educating Men, Educating Women and Men,” featuring noted experts Carol Gilligan, renowned feminist psychologist and professor; and Michael Kimmel, author and editor of many influential books on the topic of masculinity.
Since then, the Fisher Center has hosted nearly a dozen events per year, bringing together faculty, students and experts in gender-related fields in the arts, humanities, and social and natural sciences to foster mutual understanding and social justice in contemporary society. Reflecting the intersection of the Colleges’ coordinate history and trends in the study of gender throughout academe, the Fisher Center builds upon the Colleges’ long-held commitment to interdisciplinary liberal arts education.