Studying issues of race, gender
Founding director begins work to bring new center to reality

By Cathy Cockrell, Public Affairs


Evelyn Nakano Glenn

Evelyn Nakano Glenn will direct the campus’s new Center for Race and Gender.
Peg Skorpinski photo

28 February 2001 | Berkeley, home of the country’s first ethnic studies program, will soon have the nation’s first academic institute dedicated to the study of both race and gender.

The Center for Race and Gender is scheduled to open this fall under the leadership of Evelyn Nakano Glenn, professor of ethnic studies and women’s studies. Glenn, who became founding director last month, is currently laying the groundwork needed to “bring this center into reality,” including staffing, budget, an advisory board and space.

“It’s time to do this,” Glenn said. “It fits in with a number of real issues (facing) the university” – among them “what our faculty is going to look like in 20 years.”

“The university is committed to leading the discussion on how issues of race and gender impact our campus and society at large,” Chancellor Berdahl said. “I am delighted that Professor Glenn has agreed to head up the center and look forward to its presence here on our campus.”

Berdahl has committed $100,000 per year for five years in funding for the faculty-directed center, which will serve as a campuswide resource for faculty, students and visiting scholars from a broad array of fields. The center will be structured in the manner of an organized research unit and report to the executive vice chancellor.

A committee chaired by Charles Henry, faculty equity associate and professor of African American studies, spent the 1999-00 academic year developing a proposal for the center. In its report, issued last April, the committee noted the unique role of California as the “homeland, refuge, temporary residence or workplace for people of many origins” now immersed in a global economy and as a “national testing ground for policy and for social movements.”

Glenn notes that in the three decades since the founding of the ethnic studies program, Berkeley scholars have made important contributions to the national conversation on race and ethnicity. Examples include Michael Omi’s work on race as a social construct (as opposed to a fixed biological reality); accounts of American history as a many-stranded, multicultural story, for which Professor Ron Takaki is best known; and the pioneering work of Barbara Christian, Elaine Kim and Norma Alarcon on literature by African American, Asian American and Chicana women writers.

As a continuation of that tradition, Glenn says she’s “very excited” about the Center on Race and Gender and its potential to address cutting edge themes — among them relations among various communities of color, transnational community formations, comparative multiculturalism, and intersections between race, gender and other axes of difference.


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