Alison Kafer, assistant professor of feminist studies, hopes to challenge her students every day. Mostly I want students to ask questions, and then to ask questions about their questions. Southwestern students are willing to let themselvestheir lives, their beliefs, their practicesbe changed by what they learn both in and outside the classroom, and I see my job as making space for them to do so, she says.
Kafer grew up near the coast in New Bern, N.C. She graduated from Wake Forest University with a B.A. in studio art with a concentration in painting. It seemed like the right choice for me, because I love creative people making creative things. I love going to see art and hearing artists talk about their work, she says.
Kafer discovered the disability rights movement and the field of disability studies in graduate school, both of which offered her tools to understand the world around her and her experiences in it. These discoveries prompted her to obtain her masters degree and doctorate in womens studies and religion.
Teaching has been an interest of Kafers for quite some time, and upon completing a few fellowships, she found her way to Southwestern. When I saw the job posting, I knew I had found my dream job. It was great to find a feminist studies program that was committed to feminism both intellectually and politically, she says. Kafer joined the Southwestern faculty in the fall of 2004, and received her Ph.D. in womens studies and religion from Claremont Graduate University in 2005. Her research explores the connections among feminist, queer, and disability theory. Some of the classes she teaches include Ecofeminists and Queer Greens, Feminist Theory, and Transnational Feminism.
In addition to teaching, she is the faculty advisor for Feminist Voices, an activism group on campus to foster awareness of societal issues from feminist perspectives, and sits on the Board of the Society for Disability Studies. She also serves on the Board of Forklift Danceworks, a modern dance company based in Austin that focuses on community-oriented projects and often uses non-dancers in their performances. Im becoming increasingly interested in dance, performance and the visual arts, especially from a disability studies and disability culture perspective, she says. As if those dont keep her busy enough, she also serves on the Board of Generations Ahead, an Oakland-based nonprofit organization focused on cross-movement work around issues of genetic technologies.
In her spare time, she enjoys writing, artwork and the outdoors. She currently is working on manuscripts for two books, Accessible Futures: Queer, Crip, Feminist, and Political, and At the Intersection: Deaf and Disability Studies, which she is co-editing. The outdoors is a refuge to me. I get to the hike and bike trail around Town Lake in Austin every chance I get. Rolling around the river helps me clear my head, and often helps me write. My folks live on a river in North Carolina, so being on or around water has always been important to me, she says.
Kafer appreciates the opportunity to teach at Southwestern. Students are open and earnest, they get involved in issues around them; they ask questions. And my colleagues make me think, which I greatly appreciate, she says. I am incredibly lucky to have a job that feeds me, challenges me and nourishes me. I hope to keep doing it for a very long time.