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.
Christy Law Blanchard, Director of Program Outreach and Development
Denise Davis, Managing Editor, differences
Donna Goodnow, Center Manager
Wendy Korwin, Archivist
Martha Hamblett, Programs and Stewardship Coordinator
Deborah Weinstein, Assistant Director and Director of Gender & Sexuality Studies
Areas of Expertise:Leadership in Education 
Projects & Campaigns
Brown Women Speak
Brown Women Speak presents oral histories of Brown alumnae. Brown University first admitted women students in 1891. The founders of the Women's College in Brown University went on to raise money to build Pembroke Hall, dedicated in 1897, to provide the college with a permanent home. The Women's College was renamed Pembroke College in 1928.
Pembroke College merged with the men's college and Brown University became fully coeducational in 1971. The Pembroke Center for Teaching and Research on Women  was founded in 1981. In 1982, the Center began collecting oral histories of Brown alumnae. This project was led by Barbara Anton, who served as director of Alumnae Affairs for many years.
The digitization of these interviews has been sponsored by the Pembroke Center Associates , a group of alumnae and friends that supports the Pembroke Center. Photographs and other documents have been scanned from Brun Mael and Liber Brunensis, the Pembroke and Brown yearbooks; from the Pembroke Record  and the Brown Daily Herald ; and from the University Archives  held at the John Hay Library. We invite you to explore the oral histories, photos, and related materials.
Advancing Innovative Research
The Pembroke Center's interdisciplinary research programs, curriculum, publications, lectures, and public events advance scholarship across the humanities and social sciences. Our richly international and cross-cultural research programs explore issues involving women's lives on the global stage.
The Center is home to Brown University's Gender and Sexuality Studies  program, which examines the construction of gender and sexuality in social, cultural, political, economic, and scientific contexts.
2012-13 Pembroke Seminar: Economies of Perception
What are the economic dimensions of perception? Does it make sense to speak of the “distribution” of perception? Is perception anything other than a given of human social existence? Across the disciplines, contemporary thinkers and scholars are paying renewed attention to perception, in particular, to the economic and political conditions of perception, to the inequalities that are implicit within the category, and to the possibility of forging modes of critical engagement that do not depend upon or reiterate perceptual structures. Recent work on affect and the emotions, on new technologies, on contemporary aesthetics, on the neurosciences, and on the ethics and politics of alterity has found itself increasingly alert to the processes of organization, distribution and individuation that are occluded in any straightforward understanding of subjective perception.
In 2012-13 the Pembroke seminar will explore as many aspects of a differentiated approach to the economies of perception as possible. Questions to be addressed include the following: Can the feminist critique of vision and visuality, and of the implication of a centered, universal subject, be generalized to perception as such? How dependent is the concept of representation on an unreflective understanding of perception? Does a more complex theory of perception require us to dispense with representation entirely? To what extent are challenges to representation explicable as attempts to establish art and literature on grounds other than perception? What forms of dialogue are taking place between current scientific approaches to perception and older philosophical ones, such as Merleau-Ponty’s insistence on the “embodied” quality of all perception, or Bergson’s category of “universal” or “pure” perception? Are there any grounds for discarding what seem to be the very conditions of human social being – the apparatus of self and other –in a new orientation towards or understanding of perception? What are the implications of any such reorientation for political and subjective agency?
Chinese Women’s Documentaries in the Market Era
Film Festival and Symposium
March 17-18, 2012
Cable Car Cinema
204 South Main Street, Providence
March 21, 2012, 9:00 am – 5:00 pm
Joukowsky Forum, Watson Institute
111 Thayer Street, Providence
Chinese Women’s Documentaries in the Market Era will screen and examine important documentary films by Chinese Women directors from Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Mainland China. The symposium will feature directors and international scholars who will discuss the role and significance of women’s documentary films in articulating different human concerns, critical visions, and visual aesthetics in the rapidly changing Greater China area. Directors confirmed to attend include:
Ho Chao-ti (My Fancy High Heels, 2010)
Tammy Cheung (Election, 2008)
Lee Ching-hui (Money and Honey, 2011)
Shi Tou (Women 50 Minutes, 2006)
Miao Wang (Beijing Taxi, 2010)
Feng Yan (Bing Ai, 2007)
These Chinese women directors have made some of the most important and influential documentaries of the past decade on issues relating to the female self, sexuality, social migrations and transformations, and history. The symposium will explore these and other issues. Scholars to present include:
Hongwei Bao, Assistant Professor, Nottingham Trent University
Sylvia Lin, Associate Professor of Literature, University of Notre Dame
Tze-lan Sang, Associate Professor of Chinese Literature, University of Oregon
Qin Shao, Professor of History, The College of New Jersey
Louisa Wei Shiyou, Associate Professor, School of Creative Media, City University of Hong Kong
Lu Xinyu, Professor of Journalism, Fudan University
Films to be screened include:
About Love, 2012 (directed by Tammy Cheung)
Beijing Taxi, 2010 (directed by Miao Wang)
Bing Ai, 2007 (directed by Feng Yan)
My Fancy High Heels, 2010 (directed by Ho Chao-ti)
Money and Honey, 2011 (directed by Lee Ching-hui)
Women 50 Minutes, 2006 (directed by Shi Tou)
Reports & Resources
Opportunities, Grants & Fellowships
For questions or for additional information, contact Donna_Goodnow@brown.edu .
There are two different ways graduate students may participate in the Pembroke Seminar :
- Apply to take the seminar for course credit.
Register for GNSS 2010, 2020. Research Seminar: Advanced Topics in Feminist Theory. Permission is required.
A limited number of graduate students may participate in the Pembroke Seminar for course credit. There is no stipend in this category.
- Apply for non-credit participation as a Graduate Student Fellow. Graduate students who do not need or want course credit and who have research interests related to the upcoming Pembroke Seminar topic may apply. Up to three students will be selected. Each Graduate Student Fellow will receive a research stipend of $1,000 for two semesters of participation.
Applications must include the following items:
- A three-page description of your research project, including a brief representative bibliography
- A brief letter of support from a faculty member who knows your work
- An information sheet indicating your current year, department, and (if relevant) your dissertation director
- Indicate whether you are applying to be a fellow or to take the seminar for course credit
- Register for GNSS 2010, 2020. Research Seminar: Advanced Topics in Feminist Theory. Permission is required. A limited number of undergraduate students may participate in the Pembroke Seminar for course credit.
- Undergraduates who will be in their 5th semester or above in the fall are invited to apply to be Fellows in next year's seminar; a limited number will be selected. Undergraduate Student Fellows will receive a research stipend of $1,000 for two semesters of participation.
- A brief description of your background in the seminar topic, and a three-page detailed discussion of your interest in the topic
- A brief letter of support from a faculty member who knows your work
- An information sheet indicating your current semester and concentration