Sarah Pettit Doctoral Fellowship in Lesbian Studies at Yale University, USA

Publish Date: Dec 29, 2015

Deadline: Feb 15, 2016

Yale LGBT Studies is pleased to announce that the Sarah Pettit Doctoral Fellowship in Lesbian Studies at Yale University is welcoming applications for a biennial dissertation-writing workshop for a select group of doctoral fellows coming from universities outside of Yale. The 2016 Yale Pettit Doctoral Fellowship Workshop will take place May 16-20th, 2016 in New Haven, CT and will be organized around the theme “Freaks.”

2016 Pettit Fellowship Thematic

What are the behaviors, embodiments, and habits of mind that constitute the freakish? How do reactions to divergence—from a nervous giggle to a scream—produce and maintain boundaries of acceptable difference, between assimilation and exclusion? Freaks, as a group designation, have particular salience in colonial histories and empire’s present. The forced relocation of individuals from the colonies to the metropole for display operated according similar logics as later freak shows. Freak shows and carnivals are spaces of confrontation between putatively “normal” spectators and the entertainment: bodies marked as other by virtue of their gender, race, sexuality, and disability. Given these histories and their contemporary sedimentations, freaks have suggestive implications for other kinds of meaning-making and ways of being in the world and a productive site of analysis for lesbian studies.

We welcome applicants from the humanities, social sciences, performing and fine arts, and beyond, within the field of lesbian studies (read broadly), to engage with the concept of freaks, conceived expansively as problem, provocation, subjectivity, ethic, and/or aesthetic. Possible topics include but are not in any way limited to:

·       Female masculinities, trans-femininities, and other queer subjects in freak shows, carnivals, and international exhibits

·       Lesbianized subjectivities and histories

·       “Savages” and “Freaks of Nature”

·       Disability and the cripped female body

·       Policed bodies and sexualities

·       Freaks in pop culture and media

·       Performances of the freaky and/or freak lifestyles

·       Transgender and transfeminist lesbian culture, politics and desire

·       Spectacles and the spectacular

Fellows will first come together for a two-day intensive workshop at Yale University, where they will present and engage with each other’s work. They will meet with and receive feedback from the workshop’s three faculty mentors: Prof. Karen Nakamura (Yale/UC Berkeley), Prof. LaMonda Horton-Stallings (University of Maryland) and Prof. T.L. Cowan (The New School and Yale University).

Following the workshop, fellows will stay in New Haven for an additional three days to take advantage of Yale University libraries and resources.  Selected fellows will receive small stipends and travel funding in addition to room and board for the week of the workshop.  We also envision a follow-up meeting in 2017 of the fellows and mentors as part of a longer-term mentoring relationship.


Applicants must be enrolled doctoral candidates who have completed coursework, qualifying exams, and submitted their dissertation prospectus (e.g., ABD status). Students studying or located in all geographical regions are welcome. However, funds from the Pettit Fellowship may not be able to cover the total cost of travel for many students coming from international locations. We encourage students from non-US locations to apply for supplementary travel funding from their home institutions.

Students who are working on projects within the thematic and within the scope of lesbian studies are encouraged apply. The committee interprets “Lesbian Studies” in this context as being able to encompass the study of a broad range of genders, gender identities, and sexualities within multiple disciplines.


The Sarah Pettit Fund was established in 2003 as a permanent endowment to honor and perpetuate the memory of lesbian activist Sarah Pettit, who earned her BA from Yale in 1988. Pettit died in 2003 in the midst of a high profile career as a writer, editor, and LGBTQ advocate. She was for many years the editor-in-chief and vice president of OUT Magazine, which she co-founded in 1992. In 1999, she was appointed the senior editor of Newsweek’s Arts and Entertainment section. She served on the advisory board of the New York Lesbian and Gay Anti-Violence Project.

From 2006 to 2014, the Sarah Pettit Fellowship was run as a biennial fellowship providing a year of support to a graduate student, from an institution other than Yale, who was writing a dissertation in LGBT Studies, with lesbian studies as its focus. From 2016 onwards, the format changed to a biennial dissertation-writing workshop for scholars working on select themes in lesbian studies.


Applications are due February 15, 2016 and should include:

• cover letter

• dissertation abstract

• one-page chapter or topic proposal for presentation and discussion at the workshop

• curriculum vitae

• letter of support from the dissertation advisor and the name of two additional references

Instructions for submission are at

Questions about the program may be directed to

We expect notifications by mid-March. 

Sponsored by Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Studies at Yale.

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