Emory Report

Mar. 15, 1999

 Volume 51, No. 23

Alum Jakobsen will speak on alliance politics March 25

Emory is welcoming back alumna Janet Jakobsen this month as part of its participation in "Equality Begins at Home" week, sponsored by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force March 21-27.

Jakobsen, who earned her PhD in 1992 from the Graduate Division of Religion, will talk about "Bodies Politic: Mainstreaming and the Question of Effectiveness in Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Politics" in 207 White Hall on March 25 at 7 p.m.

Jakobsen's visit to Emory falls during a yearlong fellowship at Harvard Divinity School's Center for the Study of Values and Public Life, where she is writing a book on family values. The author of Working Alliances and the Politics of Difference, Jakobsen has devoted much of her scholarship to studying social movements.

"Dr. Jakobsen is very well known in feminist ethics," said Saralyn Chesnut, director of the Office of Lesbian/Gay/ Bisexual/Transgender Life, which co-sponsored Jakobsen's visit along with the L/G/B/T faculty development committee. "She's been an organizer as well as an academic, so she can talk about politics from both a hands-on perspective as well as a theoretical one." Jakobsen's lecture will focus on building political alliances for social change.

"Within social movements in the United States, there's always this question of whether you claim to be most like, or most unlike, the dominant culture," Jakobsen explained. "The idea of mainstreaming is to say, 'We're just like everybody else, we're normal.' In the talk I'm giving at Emory, I argue that American politics is set up so that there are two extremes: people who hate and people who are hated, and then there's this large, 'tolerant' middle," she said. "Mainstreaming is a way of getting L/G/B/T people into that middle, which keeps the whole structure in place. My suggestion is that if we were to ally with various groups who are different, we would be able to shift the whole structure."

Jakobsen began the activism that has informed her scholarship as a student at Emory. "I participated in the lesbian and gay student group, which later became Queer Emory, and we helped get the Office [of Lesbian/ Gay/Bisexual/Transgender Life] set up. I both study and participate in social movements.

"I still do lesbian and gay activism of various sorts," she continued. "At the University of Arizona, a lot of that has been in the academy, which includes setting up lesbian and gay studies there," she said, and laughed. "Let's just say that has been a challenge."

Jakobsen will remain at Harvard though May of this year and then return to her position as associate professor of women's studies and religious studies at Arizona.

--Erin O'Briant

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