Introduction: On Location
The idea for this collection of essays began over dinner in Berkeley in
1998 when a small group of faculty in Women’s Studies gathered to
discuss our situations in programs and departments in the United States
and Canada. We were drawn to this conversation because of a mutual
recognition: It was rare to have the opportunity to talk to not one or two
but five faculty members with full-time appointments in Women’s Stud-
ies. After our indulgence in the familiar litany of frustration—about the
absence of adequate funding, the way intellectual disagreement was
often recoded as generational strife, and the daily di≈culty of inter-
disciplinary teaching and research—we turned in necessity to a consider-
ation of why Women’s Studies as an institutional location had hailed all
of us. What was it about the contemporary opportunity of Women’s
Studies that drew us not only to take up full-time appointments, but also
to become on our own campuses its most vociferous supporter, if not
department chair or program director? If being in Women’s Studies was
often di≈cult, why did we nevertheless find it not simply necessary but
intellectually and politically indispensable?
My own answers to these questions go back much further than our
conversation that evening. In 1977, at age 19, I found myself in a Wom-
en’s Studies course at Indiana University. To this day, I don’t remember
how I ended up turning to the proper page of the course catalogue, so
nonexistent was my formal knowledge about feminism, but I have al-
ways valued the way that incoherence—and the haphazard—is a central
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