Fraker Prize Awarded by GSFS Department

By Ellie Reinhardt

Last Tuesday, March 8, the Women’s and Gender Studies department honored Elizabeth Dunn ’18 with the Alison Fraker Essay Prize, an annual award that commemorates the memory of Alison Gwen Fraker ’89.

Fraker was a “much-beloved, vocally feminist student” who passed away in a car accident weeks before her graduation. The award ceremony, which is traditionally celebrated on International Women’s Day, is dedicated to her memory and passion for the study and practice of gender equality.

Students are nominated for projects submitted in any department as long as they address issues focused in gender studies. These projects are then presented to a board of faculty who chooses one winner and two honorable mentions.

This year, 13 different projects, completed by 19 students, were nominated. In recent years, nominations have diverged from the traditional essay form and this year included songs, presentations and podcasts, among others.

Director and Professor of Gender, Sexuality and Feminist Studies Sujata Moorti and Director of Chellis House Karin Hanta lead the ceremony and presented the awards.

Dunn’s piece, an essay titled “Race Play and Racism,” was nominated and presented by Anson Koch-Rein, a visiting assistant professor of Gender, Sexuality and Feminist Studies. Koch-Rein commended Dunn’s essay for its success in engaging with the “uncomfortable intersection” between race play and racism “by drawing into the conversation a discussion of racial stereotypes and porn, the history and legacy of rape and sexual exploitation in slavery and writings…theorizing and reflecting on the meaning of race-play scenes”.

“Rather than dismissing race play as either an object of study or immoral practice, the essay engages the possibilities of what it might mean to think through race play,” he said.

One of the two honorable mentions was awarded to Sarah Kotb ’16 for her critical narrative, “The Death of Scheherazade Or How Not to Write About Arab Men.” In her piece, Kotb responds to a class discussion about the novel “Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books,” by Azar Nafisi.

Catharine Wright, director of the Writing Program, nominated Kotb and introduced her at the ceremony. Wright called Kotb’s narrative a “brilliant, sarcastic, biting, self-reflective piece about how to situate herself as a feminist between Arab patriarchy and white, western imperialist brand of feminism”.

The next honorable mention was presented by Moorti to Sarah Karerat ’18 for her essay, “Policing Native Sexualities: Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code” in which she examined how a law from mid 19th-century colonial India continues to affect the lives of people a post-colonial Indian society.

“I was very impressed by the scope of the project and and the broad range of discourses Sarah brings to make us understand how the production of a sodomite in India was the product of both colonial and sexual discourses,” Moorti said.

The ceremony, and the award, allow students to engage with issues of gender and sexuality within larger contexts. “One thing I really appreciate was how intersectional everything sounded,” Dunn said. “Nothing just dealt with one issue; they all coalesced around different issues of marginalizing aspects of peoples’ identities. I appreciated this whole event because it was a spotlight on such a wide range of papers and topics.”