Gender, Diversity & Social Justice Faculty Research

Gender, Diversity & Social Justice Faculty Research

Catch up with research from the gender, diversity & social justice department at Merrimack College.

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Dr. Debra Michals

Despite the legislative gains made by the women’s movement in the 1960s and 1970s, economic discrimination persisted. One of the obstacles women faced was access to credit, which, in a capitalist system – as many feminists realized – meant access to power. Toward that end, feminists on the left founded their own credit unions, and not long after, mainstream feminists launched women’s banks. This paper explores how, in unique ways, feminist credit unions and women’s banks sought to use the tools of capitalism to thwart economic discrimination, educate and empower women, and help fund the growth of the women’s movement. For years, feminists had increasingly launched businesses to enable women to make a living while promoting economic equality and the growth of the feminist movement. But feminist financial institutions went one step further. Banks and credit unions drew back the curtain on the gendered nature of money and, at the same time, sought to re-gender it. Feminist credit unions did so by seeking to create new anti-capitalist and separatist institutions, whereas the more mainstream women’s banks embraced capitalism but wanted to give women equal access to everything within it. While gender inspired the advent of both feminist credit unions and women’s banks, gender – and gender politics – would also prove to be their undoing as both struggled to thwart bias and to balance economic realities with loftier political, social, and cultural goals. While both institutions were short- lived, they offer a window onto the links feminists made between activism and entrepreneurship.

Dr. Emma Polyakov

The Nun in the Synagogue documents the religious and cultural phenomenon of Judeocentric Catholicism that arose in the wake of the Holocaust, fueled by survivors who converted to Catholicism and immigrated to Israel as well as by Catholics determined to address the anti-Judaism inherent in the Church. Through an ethnographic study of selected nuns and monks, Emma O’Donnell Polyakov explores how this Judeocentric Catholic phenomenon began and continues to take shape in Israel.

This book is a case study in Catholic perceptions of Jews, Judaism, and the state of Israel during a time of rapidly changing theological and cultural contexts. In it, Polyakov listens to and analyzes the stories of individuals living on the border between Christian and Jewish identity—including Jewish converts to Catholicism who continue to harbor a strong sense of Jewish identity and philosemitic Catholics who attend synagogue services every Shabbat.

Dr. Sandra Raponi

Raponi argues that recognizing a human right to adequate food and enforcing it as a legal right is an important way to promote and ensure sustainable food security. Then, consider objections that have been raised against subsistence rights and socio-economic rights, including the argument that such rights are not feasible, that they are not justiciable, and that they are too amorphous—that it is not clear what is required to fulfill these rights and by whom. Dr. Raponi defends the right to adequate food against these objections by considering how this right has been interpreted and applied in international law and how it has been protected in other domestic legal systems. Then, Raponi analyzes different dimensions of the right to adequate food and apply these to recent issues concerning sustainable food security in the United States, such as food deserts.