August 25, 2003

Emory partners with UWI in gender studies

By Elizabeth Cloud

This year Emory will solidify its partnership in gender studies with the University of the West Indies (UWI) through an exchange program and the creation of a shared digital image database.

Over the next two years, two Emory graduate students and two UWI graduate students with concentrations in gender studies will have the opportunity to spend a semester on exchange. While the students are on exchange, sponsoring faculty members from their home institutions will visit the students and present public lectures.

The partnership also calls for the creation of a large database of gender-related photos, engravings, drawings and paintings from the Caribbean to be used for teaching and research purposes. The database will contain supplemental images from Central and West Africa, from which a majority of Caribbean ancestry stems.

Edna Bay of Emory’s Graduate Institute of the Liberal Arts and Patricia Mohammed of UWI, who began working together in 2001, already have begun to create the database and expect it to be up and running later this year.

Made possible through a grant awarded by the Fulbright Alumni Initiatives Awards Program, the database and exchange program is designed to enhance the training, teaching and research initiatives of both universities, Bay said. The strengths of the two institutions’ programs complement and support each other; Emory’s gender studies program is more theoretical in nature, while UWI’s strengths lie in empirical research, archival resources and field studies. Additionally, the incorporation of foreign cultures in gender studies will further enhance each program.

“Gender studies from non-Western regions, like the Caribbean and Africa, help to diffuse the centrality of gender teachings, which traditionally are very Eurocentric,” Mohammed said. “To teach the construction of femininity in say, Ghana, as opposed to Europe, really expands the possibilities for teaching and learning.”

The purpose of the image database is twofold: It will serve as a major archival resource for both teachers and students, but it also will stimulate a new way of teaching and learning. The use of such technology will help users become visually literate as well as discriminating.

“Once you stimulate a student by using images like this, it takes him or her in new directions, as it did us when we first began this project,” Mohammed said. “The images encompass everything from ethnicity, gender, cultural activities, religion and so forth. Students and teachers will be able to examine those images and ask what they say about people in numerous aspects.”

In terms of gender studies, Mohammed and Bay also believe personal interaction is essential, which was the primary reason for launching the exchange program.

“Each of the students involved will be presented with a wonderful opportunity to collect resources,” Bay said. “Collegial sharing is an important part of the transmission of knowledge, and now students and faculty members will be a part of that with UWI. Despite today’s technology, personal communication is still very important.”

UWI has three campuses—in Jamaica, Barbados and Trinidad—and participating Emory students will have a choice among the three when deciding where to center their exchanges. No students have yet been selected for the program, which will begin in the spring.

Bay and Mohammed have combined their efforts with Carla Freeman of the Institute for Women’s Studies (co-director of the exchange project), as well as Barbara Bailey, Rhoda Reddock, Eudine Barriteau and June Castello of UWI to develop and coordinate the program. The initial concept was formed several years ago but now has been cemented through the Fulbright award.

For more information, contact Bay ( or Freeman (