Pembroke Center for Teaching and Research on Women

Founded in 1981, the Pembroke Center supports interdisciplinary research and teaching across the humanities, social sciences, and creative arts at Brown University. With a focus on the human cost and potential of social change, the center’s research agenda has a transnational perspective that includes the global south. We examine the circulation of bodies and markets, technologies, and transnational labor. In a related vein, the Center investigates questions of representation, values, and the production of knowledge as issues in their own right and as methodological tools. The scope of the Center's research activities will continue to expand to deal with fields such as international public health, legal studies, the history of science and medicine, and new media studies. All of these research initiatives are firmly linked to our commitment to the training of undergraduate and graduate students.

The Center's research framing is not solely on gender but rather on difference. We draw here also on literary and artistic representations of difference, on investigations into forms of meaning, as well as into values and ethics. In a theoretical vein, we examine critical approaches to how difference operates in texts, media, and arts. We draw on qualitative research methods and critical theory from the humanities, social sciences, and gender studies.

We are interested in how the arts, public culture, and local media interpret global issues for local audiences, affecting social action and politics. We are interested in the difference that historical context, culture, and social relations make for the way that transnational issues actually play out in different parts of the world in practical ways. We examine the often-neglected social relations that mediate change -- how families, communities, transnational networks, non-governmental organizations, and institutions of all sorts operate in this globalized world. Our qualitative approach focuses on social relations, rather than the aggregate character of populations with abstract individuals as the unit of measurement. By contrast, we resituate individuals socially and historically and pay attention to their wider contexts and actions as meaning makers.

Our model draws on collaborative research in the sciences where it is more common for distinctive fields to collaborate on issues of common concern. The Center's research activities bring scholars and postdoctoral fellows from all over the world to work with Brown faculty and students from a variety of disciplines on global issues that call for interdisciplinary understanding. The Pembroke Seminar, a year-long forum bringing together faculty, postdoctoral fellows, graduate students, and select undergraduates to interrogate a common set of issues, is a continuing site of critical scholarship and intellectual excitement. Recent topics have included nature and the cultural other, identity and psychoanalysis, the language of victimization, new forms of health activism, markets and bodies, humanitarianism, the language of governance and expertise, and the question of consent.

What makes the Center unique is its emphasis on an evolving agenda of transnational problems addressed through sustained study in a variety of forums: year-long research seminars, conferences, graduate and undergraduate courses, lecture series, roundtables, and longer research initiatives. Departmental faculty, committed to research collaborations that involve different disciplines, play an active role in deciding which particular issues are pursued. Undergraduates and graduate students take active roles in these scholarly activities.

The Pembroke Center also sponsors Brown's undergraduate concentration on Gender and Sexuality Studies, the prominent journal of feminist cultural studies differences, the Nanjing-Brown Joint Program in Gender Studies and the Humanities, the Feminist Theory Papers, the Christine Dunlap Farnham Archives on nineteenth and twentieth-century Brown and Rhode Island women and their organizations, and annual commencement forums. A core focus of the Pembroke Center Associates, a group of alumnae/i, parents, and friends who support the work of the Pembroke Center, is to honor the legacy of Pembroke College in Brown University and women's historical efforts to gain access to higher education.


Brown University
Providence, RI 02912
Ph. 401-863-2643
Fx. 401-863-1298


Principal Staff

Kay Warren, Director
Ph. (401) 863-3466

Christy Law Blanchard, Director of Program Outreach and Development
Ph. 401-863-3650

Denise Davis, Managing Editor, differences
Ph. 401-863-1211

Donna Goodnow, Center Manager
Ph. 401-863-2643

Wendy Korwin, Archivist
Ph. 401-863-6268

Martha Hamblett, Programs and Stewardship Coordinator
Ph. 401-863-3433

Deborah Weinstein, Assistant Director
Ph. 401-863-3585

Featured Events


Areas of Expertise:

Center News

Pembroke Center Awards Seed Grants to Four Research Groups
Friday, January 4, 2013 - 5:53pm

Projects receiving funding from the Pembroke Center this academic year include:

Dialogues in Feminism and Technology: A Distributed Online Collaborative Course 2013

Does it Help or Hurt Women to Marry withinthe Family? Consanguineous (Cousin) Marriage and Genetic Risk in Egypt

Performing Native América: Indigenous Public Culture in Transnational Perspective

Perspectives on International Health  Non-governmental Organizations (NGOs)

For more information about these research projects, please visit our website at:

International Conference on Gender Research and Chinese Studies Held in Nanjing, China June 9-11, 2012
Wednesday, September 19, 2012 - 2:38pm

 The International Conference on Gender Research and Chinese Studies brought together an international group of scholars from fifteen universities to explore gender issues relating to late imperial Chinese literature and culture, (trans)gender performance and the body, modern Chinese literature, history, and culture, and the market era. The conference also included a roundtable discussion concerning feminism, theory and practice, and keynote speeches from Kam Louie (Hong Kong University), Tani Barlow (Rice University), Julia Kristeva (University of Paris VII), and Kay Warren (Brown University). In addition, scholars and officials celebrated the Inauguration of the Center for Gender Studies and the Humanities, a collaboration between Nanjing University and Brown University.

For more information, please visit:

Kay Warren's Acceptance Speech: NCRW Lifetime Achievement Award - June 20, 2012
Wednesday, July 25, 2012 - 4:22pm

The Pembroke Center for Teaching and Research on Women is grateful to accept the National Council for Research on Women's Lifetime Achievement Award. Receiving the award this evening is especially meaningful as we celebrated our thirtieth anniversary this academic year.  I would like to thank the Center’s former directors – Joan Wallach Scott, Karen Newman, Ellen Rooney, and Elizabeth Weed – for helping build such a strong foundation for our work.

The Center’s transnational research agenda examines the circulation of bodies and markets, technologies, and transnational labor. Our research framing is not solely on gender but additionally on difference – such as race, ethnicity, class, language, citizenship, and so forth. The Center’s research informs many of the policy debates that surround issues of gender equity, reproductive rights, human rights, education, work, and violence. Our focus is both theoretical and practical, concerned with real world issues and important choices faced by those who seek to reform existing social institutions and create new ones.

Since our founding, we have awarded 91 postdoctoral fellowships, providing critical support to young scholars who spend a year at the Pembroke Center where they work with other scholars from a variety of disciplines. By supporting these scholars, the Pembroke Center plays a crucial role in developing the careers of outstanding feminist scholars, many of whom go on to hold senior leadership positions at universities in the United States and around the world.  Our investment in transnational research includes the Center’s ongoing “Nanjing-Brown Joint Program in Gender Studies and the Humanities,” which meets in China and the U.S.

The Pembroke Center’s teaching program – including our Gender and Sexuality Studies concentration – has trained hundreds of undergraduates, women and men, in a wide variety of fields who pursue their own work and activism with a gendered perspective.  They are capable of offering insightful social critiques so that wider publics become aware of the inequalities faced by women and girls and are moved to action.

The Pembroke Center’s Feminist Theory Archives preserve the work of scholars who have transformed their disciplines and the landscape of universities around the world. To date, over a hundred of the world’s leading feminist scholars have pledged their personal papers and research materials. This growing collection offers unique perspectives on the risk taking work that brought feminism to the vanguard of academic research and challenged entrenched thinking starting in the late 1960s.  An impressive legacy of wider debates and  path-breaking projects  continues today.

Looking forward, next year we will be offering seed grants for Brown faculty who wish to create novel research groups from different disciplines to explore transnational issues of common concern.  We will be supporting innovate combinations of researchers from the humanities, social sciences, creative arts, health sciences, and science and technology studies, and we look forward to sharing the fruits of this new collaborative research with groups throughout the NCRW network.


The Pembroke Center is building new bridges between higher education and the world of policy making and implementation on a range of issues.  We have the privilege and pleasure of educating many talented young adults so they can think for themselves and analyze major social issues in productive ways.  Brown is a university with need blind admissions and great diversity in its student body.   Our students learn by working on research projects in the U.S. and all over the world.  These students represent new generations of potential collaborators for activist groups, NGOs, the professions, and the government -- working on issues nuanced by gender, diversity, and global perspectives.   


The Center has benefitted from excellent leadership at Brown.  After eleven wondrous years with Ruth Simmons at the helm, we are now welcoming another woman leader, public health economist Christina Paxson, as our new president.


Thank you so much for this wonderful award. 


Feminist Theory Papers Archive Expands
Thursday, December 16, 2010 - 4:12pm

 The Feminist Theory Papers is an archival collection of the papers of scholars who have changed the intellectual landscapes of universities in the United States and internationally.  Established by the Pembroke Center, the collection offers a rare perspective on the rigorous interdisciplinary work that brought feminism to the vanguard of academic research.  In the last thirty years, feminist thinkers have examined and challenged entrenched patterns of thinking by articulating questions of difference and identity and by exploring the complexities of cultural practice.  These same scholars have also been responsible for profound intellectual changes not limited to feminist theory.  

The collection now houses the papers of fourteen scholars, and has commitments from more than one hundred additional scholars to donate papers in the future.   Each collection contains a unique set of documents representing that scholar's contributions to feminist theory as well as to her discipline and, in some cases, to political work and institution building.  Examples of the research documents include correspondence, research notes, manuscript drafts, syllabi, and other relevant materials. 

Please visit or website for more information about the Feminist Theory Papers.

Kay Warren Appointed Incoming Director of Pembroke Center
Thursday, December 16, 2010 - 3:48pm

Anthropologist Kay Warren Appointed Director of the Pembroke Center for Teaching and Research on Women

The Pembroke Center, celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2011, is expanding its support of path-breaking research that spans the humanities, social sciences, and creative arts.

Anthropologist Kay Warren, the Charles C. Tillinghast Jr. ’32 Professor of International Studies and professor of anthropology, has been appointed director of the Pembroke Center for Teaching and Research on Women.

“Since its inception in 1981, the Pembroke Center has played a crucial role in advancing research and teaching on gender, and more generally on the notion of difference,” said Rajiv Vohra, dean of the faculty. “The center has been developing a richly international and cross-cultural research perspective. Professor Warren’s interests make her ideally suited to provide leadership as the Pembroke director.”

Warren, a cultural anthropologist, joined the Brown faculty in 2003 as professor of anthropology and international studies, based at the Watson Institute. She directed the Watson’s Politics, Culture, and Identity Program and pursued her own research interests in culture, violence, and peace processes; international law and human trafficking; and gender and politics. In 2009-10 she directed a year-long Pembroke seminar titled “Markets and Bodies in Transnational Perspective.”

“The Pembroke Center has long been interested in critical theory and representations of difference — the histories of these constructions, the power of media and artistic expressions, and the ways difference becomes a political and social tool,” Warren said. “The Pembroke Center’s growing attention to transnational issues and the benefits and risks of change build on the Center’s longstanding intellectual engagement with issues of difference.”

Under Warren’s directorship, the Pembroke Center’s research programs will continue to pursue the ironies and complexities of the emergence of new social media, the arts and humanities as sites of cultural critique, the circulation of new health technologies, and hostile responses to international labor migration. The Center’s approach will continue to be intensely interdisciplinary and global in scope.

“I think the range of what people can do at the Pembroke Center is only limited by people’s imaginations,” Warren said. “Our agenda is very open-ended, given the diversity and talents of the faculty — from the humanities, social sciences, creative arts, and life sciences – who work with us. This collaborative environment expands the concerns that people can bring to the Center, and we welcome new involvement from faculty and students.”

Warren is on sabbatical for the 2010-11 year, completing work on her next book, Human Trafficking, Transnationalism, and the Law. Although she will remain involved in planning and fundraising for the Pembroke Center, Suzanne Stewart-Steinberg, associate professor of comparative literature and Italian studies, will oversee day-to-day operations as acting director while Warren is on leave.

2011-2012 Pembroke Center Postdoctoral Fellowships "The Question of Consent"
Tuesday, July 20, 2010 - 12:00pm

The Idea of consent has always been fundamental to the notion of a just and democratic order. Consent is tightly linked to the idea of desires that can be met by way of claims made on the basis of natural, poltical, or ethical rights.

The Pembroke Center seeks applicants to address these issues from a variety of perspectives.
For additional information please click here!


Opportunities, Grants & Fellowships

Seed Grants for Collaborative Interdisciplinary Research

The Pembroke Center seed grant program supports transnational research initiatives that involve faculty from the humanities, social sciences, creative arts, health sciences, and science and technology studies. In keeping with the Pembroke Center’s intellectual mission, these new research initiatives will examine intersecting dimensions of difference such as gender, sexuality, generation, work, class, race, ethnicity, language, citizenship, and religion.
Candidates are selected on the basis of their scholarly potential and the relevance of their work to the research theme. Recipients must have a PhD and may not hold a tenured position. Fellowships are awarded to postdoctoral scholars who received their PhD degrees from institutions other than Brown University. Brown University is an EEO/AA employer. The Center strongly encourages underrepresented minority and international scholars to apply.
Graduate Fellowships provide an enhanced context for advanced doctoral students, including the opportunity for presentation of work and benefits or critique from an exciting group of Pembroke Center Faculty Fellows, Postdoctoral Fellows and distinguished Visiting Fellows. The Pembroke Research Seminar meets on Wednesdays from 10:00 am - 12:20 pm.
Graduate students who have research interests related to the upcoming Pembroke Seminar topic may submit a proposal. Up to three students will be selected. Each Graduate Student Fellow will receive a research stipend of $1,000 for two semesters of participation. Graduate Student Fellows may also receive course credit by registering for GNSS2010G (Fall), and GNSS2020G (Spring).