New Chair Aims to Bring GSF to the Forefront of Black Feminist Theory

Headshot of Jennifer Nash

As of July 1, the Department of Gender, Sexuality & Feminist Studies will have a new chair: Jennifer C. Nash, the Jean Fox O'Barr Women's Studies Distinguished Professor. 

After obtaining her J.D. from Harvard Law in 2004, Nash stayed in Cambridge to complete a Ph.D., studying African American studies as well as sociology. She finished in 2009, then spent a year as a postdoctoral fellow at the Columbia University Society of Fellows in the Humanities. She later held assistant professorships at The George Washington University from 2010 to 2016 and Northwestern University from 2016 to 2020 before joining the Duke faculty in 2020.

Nash’s research focuses on black feminist theory, black sexual politics, race and visual culture and theories of intersectionality. She is the author of three books —“The Black Body in Ecstasy: Reading Race, Reading Pornography,” “Black Feminism Reimagined” and, most recently, “Birthing Black Mothers” — and writes about a variety of topics, from the history of reproduction in slavery to birthing while black in a pandemic. Nash’s work has also been featured in The Atlantic, Ms. Magazine and The San Francisco Chronicle, among others.

As chair, Nash aims to build on GSF’s national reputation as an intellectual center devoted to feminist theory, and to deepen the department’s intellectual commitments to Black feminist theory and women of color feminist theory.

Building on the annual Feminist Theory Workshop, which has established GSF’s commitment to contributing to the field of gender and sexuality studies by helping scholars across the world get access to talks by cutting-edge scholars. Nash is hoping to launch the first Black Feminist Theory Summer Institute at Duke this August.

“I’m also looking forward to championing the work of my amazing colleagues,” Nash said.

As for Nash’s legacy for the department, she hopes “to build on the legacy of extraordinary chairs who have come before me, including Jocelyn Olcott and Robyn Wiegman, and to learn from their profound commitments to feminist institution building,” she said. “I hope to always prioritize intellectual community, and to create spaces for my colleagues, graduate students and undergraduate students to be in dialogue about the questions that intellectually nourish us.”