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Scholars champion ‘Women’s Studies as Virus’ concept: ‘infect, disrupt traditional fields’

Feminist academia should ‘infect, unsettle, and disrupt,’ instructors argue in journal

Two academics at the Arizona State University authored an academic article arguing that students of women’s studies should “serve as symbolic ‘viruses’” in order to “infect, unsettle, and disrupt traditional and entrenched fields.”

The article, published in Géneros: Multidisciplinary Journal on Gender Studies and titled “Women’s Studies as Virus: Institutional Feminism and the Projection of Danger,” was authored by Arizona State University women’s studies professor Breanne Fahs and Arizona State graduate student Michael Karger.

The paper “theorizes that one future pedagogical priority of women’s studies is to train students not only to master a body of knowledge but also to serve as symbolic ‘viruses’ that infect, unsettle, and disrupt traditional and entrenched fields.”

“While this metaphor works imperfectly—we do not advocate the killing of the host, for example,” the authors write, “it situates women’s studies as an insurrectionary field and extends its already ‘dangerous’ status in compelling ways.”

Noting that viruses replicate “by attaching to and exploiting the DNA synthesis process of host cells,” and alleging that “both capitalism and academia already function with the virus as one of their guiding metaphors,” the authors state that a virus is nevertheless “capable of more than merely replication in relation to the host:”

It also acts as a dangerous mutagen that can radically alter the design and operation of cells…In this sense, the virus may work as a powerful metaphor for women’s studies pedagogical practices. Rather than simply inducing harm among its victims, viruses can also represent transformative change. Though viruses technically lack “intention” in the most classic sense, they nevertheless can have a powerful impact merely by unworking and unsettling the existing blueprint of the host cells.

The article was published in February 2016. Contacted repeatedly by The College Fix over the last several weeks via email for comment on the claim that women’s studies should act as a “virus,” as well as the assertion that women’s studies is an “insurrectionary field,” neither author responded. The Arizona State University women’s studies department likewise did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

Breanne Fahs is a prolific author of works on academic feminism and women’s studies. Her list of publications includes titles such as “Slippery desire: Women’s qualitative accounts of their vaginal lubrication and wetness,” “Exploring stigma of ‘extreme’ weight gain: The terror of fat possible selves in women’s responses to hypothetically gaining one hundred pounds,” and “Superpatriarchy meets cyberfeminism: Facebook, online gaming, and the new social genocide.”

According to the Arizona State University website, this semester Fahs is teaching four courses including “Race, Gender and Class” and “Abject Bodies & Politics Trash.”

On her website, Fahs identifies Michael Karger as part of a “Feminist Research on Gender and Sexuality (FROGS) Group.” Karger is listed as a “doctoral student in Justice Studies at Arizona State University” whose research interests include “popular political discourses of suburban America and their impact on underprivileged classes; critical middle-class studies” and “bisexuality studies.”

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About the Author
Bethany Torstenson is a sophomore at Vanguard University of Southern California. She is double majoring in broadcast journalism, and in political science. Bethany has previously worked with the Republican Party of Wisconsin, and Americans for Prosperity. One day, Bethany hopes to become a multimedia broadcast journalist, and eventually run for president.

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