|Oral History Archives at Columbia|
At a Glance
Arranged in two series. Interviews are arranged alphabetically by last name of narrator, followed by Columbia Center for Oral History Research project documentation.
Scope and Content
The Institute for Research on Women, Gender, and Sexuality Oral History Project is comprised of interviews with 36 individuals involved in the founding and development of the Institute for Research on Women, Gender, and Sexuality (IRWGS) at Columbia University. Interviewers conducted these interviews over 68 sessions, creating over 90 hours of recordings. Nine of these sessions were recorded on video, and interviews have been transcribed. Three documents prepared by the Columbia Center for Oral History Research as a part of the project are also included in the collection: a timeline of the history of IRWGS, an overview of the collection, and project design documentation.
Interviewers were guided by a set of research questions, which emphasized the role of IRWGS as a political actor within the broader context of Columbia University, agitating for the inclusion of feminist analysis and practice. As the project progressed, questions expanded to explore issues of generation, activism, the developments within feminism(s), evidence of increasing support of IRWGS by the university, and the challenge of addressing diversity, sexuality and other forms of social difference theoretically and as professional practice.
The narrators include directors of IRWGS, affiliated and allied faculty, administrators, and students. Interviewed individuals are Lila Abu-Lughod, Rachel Adams, Annie Barry, Marcellus Blount, Sarah Chinn, Laura Ciolkowski, Julie Crawford, Patricia Dailey, Victoria DeGrazia, Mario DiGangi, Joan Ferrante, Melissa Fisher, Eric Foner, Farah Griffin, Hilary Hallett, Robert Hanning, Marianne Hirsch, Jean Howard, Martha Howell, Alice Kessler-Harris, Shamus Khan, Gillian Lindt, Ellen MacKay, Sharon Marcus, Christia Mercer, Maya Meredith, Rosalind Morris, Alondra Nelson, Greg Pflugfelder, Victoria Rosner, Barbara Simon, Gayatri Spivak, Vina Tran, Karen Van Dyck, Priscilla Wald, and Patricia Williams.
Using the Collection
Rare Book and Manuscript Library
You will need to make an appointment in advance to use this collection material in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room. You can schedule an appointment once you've submitted your request through your Special Collections Research Account.
This collection is located on-site.
Most interviews are open. Certain interviews in this collection are closed, and audio for certain interviews is conditionally closed. Access restrictions are described at the interview level.
Restrictions on Use
Copyright held by Trustees of Columbia University in the City of New York.
Certain interviews in this collection have additional use restrictions, which are described at the interview level.
Additional historical information and interview excerpts can be found at the Columbia Center for Oral History Research's website www.irwgsoralhistory.org.
Anticipating its 25th anniversary, the Institute for Research on Women, Gender, and Sexuality (IRWGS) approached the Columbia Center for Oral History Research (CCOHR) in 2012, about an oral history project to document the history of the department and the growth and development of feminism at Columbia. The IRWGS Oral History Project was conducted with funding from the President's Office and was the first project undertaken by CCOHR in its new home at the Interdisciplinary Center for Innovative Theory and Empirics (INCITE). Interviews with current and past directors of IRWGS, affiliated and allied faculty, administrators, and students were conducted between 2014 and 2015.
Columbia Center for Oral History Research Transfer 2015
About the Finding Aid / Processing Information
Columbia University Libraries, Rare Book and Manuscript Library
Finding aid written by David Olson, Rebecca Breslaw, and Kelsey Decker, with adaptations of description by Sarah Dziedzic and other CCOH staff, and including faculty biographies collected by CCOH-R. 10/2015
2015-10-23 xml document instance created by David A. Olson
2019-06-08 EAD was imported spring 2019 as part of the ArchivesSpace Phase II migration.
History / Biographical Note
The Institute for Research on Women, Gender, and Sexuality (IRWGS) at Columbia University is an interdisciplinary institute for feminist scholarship and education. It was established as the Institute for Research on Women and Gender (IRWAG) in 1987. The foundation of an institute for feminist studies at Columbia occurred late compared with peer institutions, due in part to the fact that Columbia College did not accept female undergraduates until 1983.
The Institute was first headed by Carolyn Heilbrun of the English Department as the university initiated the search for a director. After a yearlong search from 1988-1989, Martha Howell was appointed as a Professor of History and the Director of the Institute. Funding from the Ford Foundation supported the initial design of undergraduate coursework, and at first the Institute relied heavily on Barnard College's course offerings.
In 1989, IRWAG received a grant from the Ford Foundation to integrate race and gender into its curriculum. By 1990, two students were awarded the university's first degrees in Women's Studies. In 1995, an Academic Review Committee called for the cross-appointment of four senior faculty lines, which were filled between 1998 and 2004. In 2007, an Academic Review Committee report on the Institute supported the establishment of the Center for the Study of Social Difference to serve as the research arm of the Institute and operate in conjunction with the Institute for Research in African American Studies, the Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race, the Institute for Comparative Literature and Society, and the Barnard Center for Research on Women. The Institute's name was changed to IRWGS in 2013.
Disciplines represented by Institute faculty have included History, English and Comparative Literature, Anthropology, Law, and Philosophy. Directors of the Institute have included Carolyn Heilbrun (1987-1989), Martha Howell (1989-1994), Victoria de Grazia (1994-1996), Jean Howard (1997-1999), Rosalind Morris (1999-2000, 2001-2004), Christia Mercer (2000-2001), Lila Abu-Lughod (2004-07), Marianne Hirsch (2007-2008, 2015), Elizabeth Povinelli (2008-2011), Saidiya Hartman (2011-2013), Alondra Nelson (2013-2014), and Patricia Dailey (2014).