Emily A. Owens

Emily A. Owens

A.B. '09 and Ph.D., African & African American Studies '15
Graduate Secondary Field in Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality
Assistant Professor of History at Brown University
Owens photograph

In my first semester at Harvard, I took a course called “Black Feminist Thought,” taught by then Visiting Professor Devonya Havis. Like most of my subsequent WGS courses, “Black Feminist Thought” was a small seminar, marked by rich, robust, and respectful dialogue between students, and by real access to a smart and dynamic professor. Right away, I decided to become a joint concentrator in WGS and African and African American Studies (AAAS).

In WGS, my classes were full of people who really wanted to be there and who joyfully pursued the rigor of feminist and queer theory. Seminar conversations tended to expand out into the hallways and follow me home, as WGS became not only the basis of my intellectual life, but also the meeting ground of the vibrant feminist community at Harvard who became my closest friends and allies. And the professors and graduate students affiliated with the Program became fierce mentors to me. Writing a thesis in WGS and AAAS confirmed for me that the research and writing that I had come to love in my coursework was not something that I could let go of, so in my senior year of college I applied to graduate school.

In graduate school in AAAS at Harvard, I wrote a dissertation that brought together feminist theory, black queer theory, and the history of sex and slavery. Because I also pursued the graduate secondary field in WGS, I remained involved with the WGS community as a member of the Tutorial Board. As a Teaching Fellow in WGS, I learned how to teach in the classrooms of the very professors who had first introduced me to the work that now shapes my life. And, in this role, I was able to connect with the next generation of feminist students in WGS, in their junior tutorials and thesis projects. I am currently an Assistant Professor of History at Brown University, where I teach courses on the history of gender, sexuality, and slavery.

Ten years of studying in WGS has led me to work that I love and that I believe in, and to a rich community of queer and feminist friends and mentors. When I’m not writing or teaching, I spend my time exploring the woods and the shores of New England with my wife and our son Jonah, and sitting in sunny spots at home with our cat.


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