News & Press: Statements

NWSA Statement in Support of Dr. Lorgia García Peña

Friday, December 20, 2019  
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December 20, 2019

As the Executive Committee of the National Women's Studies Association, the preeminent professional association representing the discipline, we write this letter to express our shock and dismay about the denial of tenure to our esteemed colleague, Dr. Lorgia García Peña, professor of romance languages and literatures. Dr. García Peña was the recipient of the 2017 NWSA Gloria Anzaldúa Book Prize, a highly prestigious award for groundbreaking scholarship in women's studies that makes significant multicultural feminist contributions to women of color/transnational scholarship. The Prize committee that selected Dr. García-Pena's first book, The Borders of Dominicanidad: Race, Nations and Archives of Contradictions, recognized it as a "much-needed critical intervention in Latin American and Caribbean Studies and transnational feminist studies." In addition to her award-winning book, Dr. García Peña has a forthcoming book, Translating Blackness: The Vaiven and Detours of Latino/a Colonialities in Global Perspective. She has also published numerous peer-reviewed articles and is a leading public intellectual and accomplished figure in the fields of literature, ethnic, and women's and gender studies. We are dismayed that a scholar with a proven track record of academic excellence has been denied tenure without justification or explanation at the very moment when the University has an expressed commitment to expanding the number of ethnic studies scholars.

Dr. Lorgia García Peña's scholarship weaves together the interdisciplinary fields of feminist studies, ethnic studies, Latinx studies, Caribbean studies, and Black studies. Her path-breaking contributions give new meaning to comparative and hemispheric analyses of Blackness, indigeneity, and their liminal domains. She pivots the historical archive of anti-Blackness in Hispaniola by foregrounding dominicanidades as decolonial borderlands, both in the island and in the diasporas. With this antiracist feminist approach to literary and cultural studies, García Peña tracks the emergence of Black Latinidades-within the European Union, the English-, French-, and Spanish-speaking Caribbean, and the United States-and delivers an account of dominicanidad as more than a global signifier of economic oppression and disenfranchisement. She speaks to its varying translations across the globe and, more importantly, to the feminist affinities among her own methodology and the Afro-Dominican methods that she finds in carefully selected texts, literary, embodied, performative, and otherwise.

In The Borders of Dominicanidad: Race, Nation, and Archives of Contradiction (2016), García Peña advances feminist studies on different fronts in her engagement with border theory-where Dominican and Haitian experiences reconfigure border processes and subjectivities. Broadly speaking, The Borders consists of two thematic sections, one focused on the "official stories of exclusion" that shape the nation and the other centered on anti-racist movements and practices. García Peña fosters the notion of contradiction which she argues grows out of the interconnected places where multilingual, interethnic, and transnationally interracial dictions contest, negotiate, and even redefine patriarchal visions of Dominican whiteness. The Borders poignantly examines the global linkages between concrete rayanx subjects, across the Dominican Republic and Haiti or the Dominican Caribbean and dominicanyork, and their insurgent Black and Afro-Dominican repertoires. The Borders presents painful and hopeful dialogues that situate justice within projects affirming of global Blackness. Ultimately, García Peña makes vivid the most radical lessons of decolonial feminisms; that is, to shift the geopolitics of knowing by creating the conditions where those who inhabit rayana consciousness come to generate the learning that they seek to know.

Dr. García Peña's scholarship is field-defining and has had reverberations both within and beyond women's and gender studies. As experts in women's and gender studies, it is bewildering to us that a scholar with such a distinguished profile would be denied tenure. Harvard has a track record of a secretive and unjust tenure review process that has historically denied tenure to people of color, particularly women of color. Dr. García Peña's is one example in a much longer pattern of discrimination and inequitable treatment at Harvard.

In addition to her stellar research, Dr. García Peña has been a valuable member of the profession and the Harvard academic community. She has been an important mentor for Latinx students at Harvard, an institution that has proven to be isolating and even hostile to students of color. We support the call by students for the formation of an Ethnic Studies Department at Harvard, which would create a hub for intellectual theory and praxis. Dr. García Peña's role in establishing that program is indispensable. She is currently serving on the committee for the ethnic studies cluster search. Unfortunately, Harvard's commitment to ethnic studies rings hollow in light of this tenure denial case. The University's first step in diversifying its curriculum and faculty should be to recognize, acknowledge, and reward the intellectual and service contributions of its current faculty. We strongly urge Harvard to reconsider its decision.

SIGNED by the EC with affiliations*

Premilla Nadasen, President, Barnard College
Diane Harriford, Vice President, Vassar College
Karsonya Wise Whitehead, Secretary, Loyola University Maryland
Natali Valdez, Treasurer, Wellesley College

(*affiliations for identification purposes only)