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Take a Seat: Sarah Doyle Center Collaborative Thesis Writing Collective

By: Billie McKelvie ’21, American Studies Concentrator, Sarah Doyle Center Zine Librarian 

The Sarah Doyle Center is starting a collaborative thesis writing collective.

Maybe the most disheartening thing about being asked to sever ourselves from our in-person networks is the unknown conversations we lose. We can’t predict what they might have been, and only know that for some of us, like me, those moments of spontaneous connection breathed life into our days and our work. The material losses of the center’s quiet nooks and warm embraces are deeply felt. 

We are all called to slow down and peel back the layers of our work to find its emotional core. As a staffer at the Sarah Doyle Center, this question has been present for me in the reevaluation of our community role having lost access to the physical space that had so joyfully become our home. As its absence sets in, I’ve had time to notice the function of the space in my own life and those around me who have used it not just as a landing place but a point of collaboration between students, mentors, artists, texts, and history. It is these spaces of casual cooperation, where we are able to unbutton ourselves and exhale our worries, that we do the real work of living.

Relational exchange is at the core of feminist principles. It is the uniting thread between reproduction, continuance, kinship, solidarity, and collectivity among others. Rejecting the patronizing voice of academia means consenting to speak from where we are situated and to build real networks of collaboration with our peers. The university asks us to have individual schedules, theses, processes, and even ideas. Knowledge should not be an individualist process of personal accumulation, and to be fair, it hardly ever is. When possible, the center strives to be a place where students can step outside of these boundaries of self-ascension to learn and be with each other in the co-making of new worlds. 

So many of the texts we use to ground our work have been written collaboratively, too. Before the pandemic, we had planned to host Margo Okazawa-Rey of the Combahee River Collective, a Black Feminist organizing group from the 1970s. The Combahee River Collective statement continues to jolt the world into action around collective liberation from white supremacy and heteropatriarchy by providing an intersectional framework for analysis and action. The Collective’s work has uprooted and reconstituted the feminist movement, not through an individual process alone at a desk, but in its co-making process with peers and call to collective action. The Combahee River Collective is not just a singular miraculous case of mutual thinking, writing and calls to action–it is far from it. 

In feminist history an overwhelming amount of work has been produced/enacted from a position of collaboration instead of isolation. Texts like This Bridge Called My Back, Our Bodies Ourselves, countless essay collections, oral histories, the more recent Feminism for the 99% and Feminisms in Motion, speak to the power of collective writing as an intervention. This writing inspires us as another way to be in the process of knowledge production. We can challenge ourselves to be knowledge sharers rather than producers, and strengthen our commitment to justice over personal gain. 

Can we resist individualism in isolated times? How can we offer energy as well as support? What does our work need right now? What do students need right now? What is this center? These are questions whose responses have guided this idea. 

See this group as an opportunity–a tool that will be reshaped by the people who come to live in its space. It is an open floor, a support system, a rejuvenation, or a room with a ring of empty chairs. Join us. 

The Sarah Doyle Center Thesis writing group will meet on a regular basis over zoom. It is open to all students who are working on a thesis or capstone project that relates to gender or takes a feminist approach. 

For more information and to sign up, fill out our interest form linked here.