Former staff

Kecia Ali

Kecia Ali (Ph.D., Religion, Duke) is Assistant Professor of Religion at Boston University. She previously held research and teaching fellowships at Harvard Divinity School and Brandeis University. Her research interests center on Islamic religious texts, especially jurisprudence, and women in both historical and contemporary Muslim discourses. She is the author of Sexual Ethics and Islam: Feminist Reflections on Qur'an, Hadith, and Jurisprudence (Oneworld, 2006), which grew out of her work with the Feminist Sexual Ethics Project. She is also the co-author (with Oliver Leaman) of Islam: The Key Concepts (Routledge, in press).

Ali's forthcoming book Marriage and Slavery in Early Islamic Law (Harvard University Press) examines the ways that jurists employed the conceptual language of slavery and ownership to frame laws governing marriage.  She also explores how interdependent gendered roles and responsibilities were constructed for both husband and the wife.  Ali delves into the jurists' discourse on marriage: they shared an understanding of the basics of marriage while disagreeing regarding some specifics.  Her project means to sort out how the process of argumentation in debates and written polemics regarding marriage shaped the jurists' conclusions.

Another forthcoming work from Oneworld Publications, part of a series focusing on significant figures in Muslim history, will be a biography of 9th Century jurist al-Shafi'i.  Al-Shafi'i, best known for his work in legal theory, was also instrumental in drafting positive law. In addition to offering a biography of this influential early legal thinker and an introduction to his thought, Ali will investigate the connection between his life and work.

Ali's next project is in its early stages. In The Lives of Muhammad,  she will look at biographies of Islam's prophet written over the centuries by Muslim and Western authors.  She will track the development of these biographic sketches from their earliest Muslim accounts through the medieval and Victorian eras up to the present time.  By understanding the portrayals of Muhammad's marriages, military conduct, and revelation at various historical moments, Ali will show the eventual interdependence of Muslim and Western discourses about his life. This book is under contract with Harvard University Press.

Contact: ka -at-

Visit Kecia Ali's web page

Marissa Collins

Undergraduate Research Assistant

Marissa Collins (Brandeis '06) is currently working toward her bachelor of arts in mathematics with a minor in women's studies. Her academic work at the Feminist Sexual Ethics Project concentrates on Jewish/Christian intermarriage and the children of these intermarriages; her technical work includes Web site design and editing. A committed feminist activist, Marissa has served as vice president of the Brandeis chapter of the Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance, a chapter that has garnered multiple awards for its members' achievements.

Contact: mrkc -at-

Anne Gardner

Former Project Coordinator

Having just graduated from Harvard Divinity School, Anne is a new arrival to Brandeis University, having joined the Feminist Sexual Ethics Project in October 2005. Previous to attending seminary Anne worked for twenty years in higher education, holding a variety of positions within the field of student services. In addition, she has extensive training and experience as a social worker, has spent time as a missionary with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, and is currently pursuing ordination within the Episcopal Church, U.S.A. Along with her work at FSE Anne holds a position at St. Paul's Episcopal Church (Bedford, MA), is the Associate Protestant Chaplain at Phillips Academy (Andover, MA) and works as a freelance writer for New England Tennis Magazine. As Project Coordinator she provides managerial and research support while serving as an editor for articles, Web content, and other Project publications.

Melissa J. de Graaf

Research Analyst, Musicology

Melissa J. de Graaf is Assistant Professor of Musicology at the Frost School of Music at the University of Miami. She holds a B.A. degree in Music and English from the University of California, Davis, an M.A. degree in Music and Women's Studies from Brandeis University, and a Ph.D. in Music from Brandeis University. She was a recipient of the American Association of University Women Dissertation Fellowship in 2004.De Graaf recently contributed to Aaron Copland and His World, ed. Judith Tick and Carol Oja, and Ruth Crawford Seeger's Worlds, ed. Ellie Hisama and Ray Allen. Her article on the female composers and gendered reception in the New York Composers Forum will be published in the next issue of American Music. She is currently writing a book about music in the New Deal and the New York Composers' Forum concerts, 1935-1940, in which she discusses issues of modernism, national identity, politics, race, and gender.

Contact: mjdegraa -at-

Raja El Habti

Raja El Habti developed the Arabic language pages on the FSE web site (2002-2003).

Raja El Habti is Vice President and Director of Research of Karamah Muslim Women Lawyers for Human Rights. Her current research focuses on gender and Islamic law and scriptural interpretation, as well as the application of the Shari'a Law in Muslim countries and its repercussions on women's lives. She worked with L'Association Démocratique des Femmes du Maroc, a Moroccan women's organization, from 1999 to 2001, and she was a consultant to the Collectif 95 Maghreb Egalité from 2000 to 2001. She is also a Research Associate of the GREMMO (Groupe de Recherches et d'Etudes sur la Mediterranee et le Moyen Orient) at Lyon 2 University. Ms. El Habti holds a master's degree in Sustainable International Development from Brandeis University, where she focused on issues facing Muslim women, especially with regard to family laws; she has also earned undergraduate and doctorate degrees in Arabic literature from Mohammed V University in Rabat, Morocco. She has published many articles in Moroccan newspapers.

J.L. Hazelton

Former Publications Editor

J.L. Hazelton is a doctoral candidate in the politics department at Brandeis University, where she is studying international security. Her interests include asymmetric warfare, insurgency, terrorism and Islamic political thought.

Hazelton came to Brandeis after a career as an international journalist, including a 12-year stint with The Associated Press as a reporter, editor and broadcaster. Reporting from the United Nations to Tokyo, her byline has appeared around the world. As an editor, she has helped shape coverage of major stories from the Mississippi River Flood of 1993 to the Iraq war. At the Feminist Sexual Ethics Project, Hazelton is editing essays for a volume of the contributors collected works.

Hazelton holds a B.A. and an M.A. in English from the University of Chicago, and an M.A. in International Relations from Chicago as well.

Meghan Henning

Meghan Henning is a Ph.D. candidate in the Religion department at Emory University, where she is studying the New Testament. She is most interested in feminist hermeneutics, post-colonial theory and the theme of suffering. Henning holds a BA in Religion and Economics from Denison University, and an MAR from Yale in Bible.

At Yale, Henning was awarded the Abraham Johannes Malherbe Fellowship (for further study in the New Testament and Early Church History) and the Tew Prize. She was a recipient of the Graduate Arts and Sciences Fellowship at Emory. In 2008 Henning was named a Jacob K. Javits Fellow and received the Society of Biblical Literature-Southeast Kenneth Willis Clark Award for her paper entitled The Intersection of Performance Power and Pain in the Martyrdom of Saints Agape, Irene, and Chione.


Gail Labovitz

As a Senior Research Analyst (AY 2002-2003), Labovitz developed material on Judaism for the FSE Project.

Gail Labovitz received her doctorate from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in 2002, and was ordained as a rabbi there in 1992. Her dissertation, "My Wife I Called 'My House': Marriage, Metaphor, and Discourses of Gender in Rabbinic Literature," explored the use of ownership metaphors ("women are ownable," "marriage is an acquisition of property") in rabbinic texts of late antiquity to construct marriage, and by extension, gender and gender relations.

Her publications and conference presentations have also explored images of the nursing mother in early rabbinic sources, slavery and marriage in rabbinic thought, and the use of rabbinic sources for the study of women and gender in late antiquity. She has taught at JTS and at the Academy for Jewish Religion.

Concurrent with her research for the FSE, Labovitz coordinated the Jewish Feminist Research Group, a project of the Jewish Women's Studies Program at JTS, and taught adult education through the Kollel program of the Hebrew Union College.

Gail Labovitz is currently Assistant Professor of Rabbinics at the University of Judaism in Los Angeles.

Keridwen Luis

Former Project Coordinator

Keridwen Luis is currently an anthropology Ph.D. student in her dissertation stage at Brandeis University. Her dissertation is on the creation of culture and gender in women's intentional communities, and her interests also include folk conceptions of culture and culture theory, women's studies, gender studies, non-heteronormative sexualities, ghost story narratives and belief, and personhood, agency and identity. She holds a Master's degree in Anthropology and Women's Studies from Brandeis, and has been teaching Anthropology, Women's Studies, and Social Theory at various universities in the area for the past few years.

Her recent publications include the entry for "The Anthropology of Women" in The Encyclopedia of Anthropology (2006) and "Les Human Beans?: Alienation, Humanity, and Community in Joanna Russ's On Strike Against God," in On Joanna Russ (2006; upcoming). She was the recipient of a 2005 Brandeis University Prize Instructorship for her class "Unbounded Desires: A Cross-Cultural Look at Non-Heteronormative Sexualities."

Contact: fse_project --at-- -at- brandeis

Palak Mehta

Palak Mehta had served as web editor for many projects including the African and Afro-American Studies at Brandeis. She was a graduate student in Computer Science at Brandeis University.

Ava Morgenstern

Undergraduate Research Assistant

Ava Morgenstern earned a Bachelor of Arts ('06) in Sociology and Peace and Conflict Studies at Brandeis University and served as an undergraduate research assistant at the Feminist Sexual Ethics Project in 2004 and 2005.

Leslie Morrell

Former Web Editor

Leslie Morrell is an advanced doctoral candidate in the Near Eastern and Judaic Studies program at Brandeis University. She is also Program Coordinator and College Instructor for the Women's Studies Program at New Mexico State University where she teaches Feminist Theory, Representing Women Across Cultures, and Perceptions of Women in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Leslie has served as web editor for many projects including the Graduate Student Association at Brandeis, Desert Humanitarians of the Boderlands, and the Women's Studies Program at NMSU. She enjoys working closely with her husband, Michael Morrell, on web-based projects.

Contacts: lmorrell -at-

Michael Morrell

Former Web Layout and Maintenance

Michael Morrell is a Ph.D. candidate in Computer Science at Brandeis University. He is also an assistant professor of computers for the Engineering Technology program in the college of Engineering at New Mexico State University. His interests lie in Bible Tools for discovering intertextuality between Hebrew and Greek Scriptures. His studies are in Computational Linguistics.

Contact: mgm -at-

Monique Moultrie

Research Analyst, Slavery

Monique Moultrie, a doctoral candidate in Ethics and Society at Vanderbilt University, engages the field of ethics as a discursive field for her research investigating the influence of mainstream Christianity on the sexual decision-making processes of African-American women. She received a Bachelor of Arts in Religion and Sociology from Duke University and a Master of Arts in Theological Studies from Harvard Divinity School, where her concentration was in the sexual ethics of Christianity and Islam. She remains particularly interested in addressing African-American women's expressions of sexuality and the impact of religious communities on these expressions. Moultrie has been awarded a Fund for Theological Education dissertation fellowship for 2009, as well as an honorable mention from the Ford Foundation Diversity Fellowship.

Moultrie's dissertation, "A Womanist and Cultural Analysis of Black Women's Sexual Decision-Making," focuses on the sermons of televangelist Juanita Bynum as the locus of her research into the ways that evangelical Christianity frames black women's sexuality while it promulgates its celibacy-imbued message to this demographic. Bynum's No More Sheets divulges her own sexual history, including waiting for marriage to express herself sexually, in her first marriage and, also, her devolvement into promiscuity as a response to the subsequent divorce. The popular televangelist's message elucidates notions of morality and the dangers of sexual immorality within the context of dating and singleness. To Moultrie, Bynum's message touches on a dynamic within the evangelical world that posits sexuality—specifically black female's sexuality—as problematic and needing constraint through sexual purity and self-control. Bynum's message on both the pleasures of sex and the need to contain that pleasure within matrimonial bonds, in Moultie's estimation, offers itself as a poignant innovation among her Black Christian audience due to the frankness of her language. Antecedent to Bynum, no Black minister had gone to such lengths to expound on sex's pleasurability and thus, for Moultrie, this shift in discourse becomes the point of rich interrogation into the ways that Black women perceive sexuality and religion.

Moultrie dubs ministries like Bynum as engaging in a message of "faith-based sexuality," meaning that Christians who ascribe to this engage a Christian-evangelical ideological center for their worldview, and, through this filter many come to an understanding of their own sexuality. Such a "faith-based sexuality" thus engenders a double emphasis: celibacy on the one hand and the God-given pleasures of sexuality on the other—with its attendant temptations. In light of this, Monique Moultrie claims that a shift towards greater openness has occurred among the subject-demographic. I'm not so sure what this sentence means; could it be stated more plainly? But also, she notes, the messages policing this openness include a punitive measure towards sexualities outside of a heterosexualist framework, such that alternative sexualities (queerness) and alternative couplings (non-married heterosexual domesticated partnerships) fall to the margins as maligned, questioned, and sublimated. Her research also exposes the failure of conceiving of Black male sexuality in the same light—as highly pleasurable and equally corruptive—and thus decries the problematic of only policing female sexual urges. In her dissertation, she makes use of theorists such as Foucault, Stuart Hall, Kelly Brown-Douglas, Marcia Riggs, and Katie Cannon to make her informed and timely observations regarding black female sexuality within the Christian evangelical communities of faith. Further, she forays into black women's literature for discussion of black female sexuality using Toni Morrison's Sula to explore the binary oppositions of sexuality as posed by Nel and Sula.

Moultrie's methodological approach seeks to decode the humor and personal testimony that Bynum employs in order to shepherd her audience towards a celibate persuasion of sexuality. To explore this, Moultrie has interviewed many subjects within the targeted demographic who are followers of Bynum's ministry; her emphasis in her research includes analysis of the reception of the message and the adjustments enacted, if any, by the subjects. Moultrie also critiques popular culture's images of black female sexuality, casting a critical eye on the approbation conferred on the "Video Vixen" image often portrayed by rap or hip-hop music videos. In an effort to historicize her claims, Moultrie also examines the long trajectory of discourse—from slavery through the Jim Crow era towards the present day—that repeatedly recapitulates the black female body as overtly sexual and therefore systemically problematic within a white bourgeois culture. She concludes that due to the positionality of black women in society, whenever one chooses to be sexual, the subject does so within a discourse of conflicting messages that complicates her choice, often resulting in unwise actions. Moultrie contends for the need to analyze the messages themselves in addition to efforts that seek to broadly inform the sexual practices of these women. By interrogating the link between the conflicting messages and unsafe choices (e.g. practicing unsafe sex), Moultrie hopes to expound on the types of aid that black women receive, so that assistance moves towards inculcating education that centers on better decision-making skills, not just inclusive of proper use of birth control devices or choices. Her dissertation and research, then, offers a needed intervention into issues that concern the ways in which black women are repeatedly singled out as highly sexual and thus targeted by various social entities for various methodologies intent on minimizing such unbound sexual energies.

Contact: monique.n.moultrie -at-

Jennifer Nash

Research Analyst

Jennifer Nash's work challenges the conventional feminist wisdom that racialized pornography degrades and objectifies the black female body. Traditionally, feminist literature has seen pornographic images of black women's bodies as products designed to titillate the white male spectator with proof of black women's imagined sexual differences, but Nash considers the use of black women in pornography analytically rather than as a moral issue.  Nash's dissertation, "The Black Body in Ecstasy: Reading Race, Reading Pornography," examines pornography's racialized, but not necessarily racist, uses of black women's bodies.

Nash analyzes the use of race in pornography at a particular moment in time, the Golden and Silver ages of the 1970's and 1980's, to increase our understanding of the variety of meanings produced by the use of black women's bodies on screen.  In particular, she argues that black female pornographic protagonists often challenge pervasive racial stereotypes and mythologies, exposing the tenacity of racial fictions. Nash raises new questions about the attitudes and pleasures of black spectators, pornography's use of race-based humor, and pornography's inability to provide evidence of racial difference.

Nash received her A.B. in Women's Studies from Harvard College in 2001 and her J.D. in 2004 from Harvard Law School. She received her Ph.D. in African and African American Studies from Harvard University in 2009.  Her other academic interests include black feminism, feminist theory, black sexual politics, and critical race theory.  She will be a post-doctoral fellow with the Society of Fellows at Columbia University in 2009–2010, and in 2010, she will take an assistant professorship of American Studies and Women's Studies at George Washington University. Her most recent publications appear in Social Text and Feminist Review.

Meera Sethi

Research Assistant 2002-2002

Meera Sethi (Brandeis '02) earned an MA/MAT in Children's Literature and Education from Simmons College in 2004, after which she taught middle school Humanities at a Boston charter school and worked as an editor for Houghton Mifflin's school division until 2007. She is currently a freelance writer and editor in Chicago.

Contact: meeralee -at-

Mini Singh

Mini Singh researched and wrote the contemporary slavery material for the FSE Web site in 2003.

She is a recent graduate of the master's program in Sustainable International Development at Brandeis University. Her coursework has focused on human rights based development, gender planning and analysis, and research and advocacy. She conducted her master's thesis with the UN South Asia Poverty Alleviation Programme (SAPAP) and evaluated the gender components of the program in Nepal, India, and Bangladesh.

A citizen of India, Mini holds an MSW from the Delhi School of Social Work and has six years of experience in the field of gendered human development.

Her work experience includes a World Bank consultancy as a gender specialist, qualitative research and evaluation assignments with the UN, and independent research with ActionAid and Brandeis University. She is currently working as a Program Manager with the Center for International Health and Development at Boston University.

Judith Tick

Senior Research Analyst, Musicology

Judith Tick is a music historian who writes about American music, particularly early modernism, and women's history. Among her publications are books and articles about Aaron Copland, Charles Ives, and in particular, the biography of the American composer Ruth Crawford Seeger.A Composer's Search for American Music, which won the Irving R. Lowens award as "Best Book of the Year" from the Society for American Music in 1998 and an ASCAP Deems Taylor award. She is an Associate Editor for the journal Musical Quarterly. A member of the faculty at Northeastern University since 1986, she was named a Matthews Distinguished University Professor in 1999 and was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2004 as an "innovator in the field of musical biography.". Her new book, Music in the U.S.A. A Documentary Companion, with Paul Beaudoin, Assistant Editor, will be published by Oxford University Press in 2008

Contact: j.tick -at-

Emma Wasserman

Research Analyst, Early Christianity

Emma Wasserman is a Ph.D. candidate in New Testament at Yale University. She is currently working on a dissertation that explores ancient conceptions of the self and moral responsibility in Paul's letter to the Romans. Her interests center on Pauline exegesis, Hellenistic moral philosophy, and theoretical approaches to the study of religion.

Her undergraduate thesis on gender and kinship relations in ancient Greek funerals was published as part of the Brown University Senior Honor Theses Series.

Contact: emma.wasserman -at-

Melinda Weekes

1. The African American National Biography Project, published by Oxford University Press. The African American National Biography, a joint project of the W.E.B. DuBois Institute for African and African American Research at Harvard University and Oxford University Press, was published in an eight volume print edition in January 2008. Weekes was one of many contributors to this historical work, having contributed to the biographies of two gospel music living legends, Edwin Hawkins and Tramaine Hawkins.

2. Companion to the Africana Worship Book, published by the United Methodist Church. This volume of essays, interlacing worship pieces with reflections from prominent leaders and emerging thinkers in Africana life, is designed to help churches, professors and students reflect more deeply on worship and practice. Building a bridge of understanding through collective experiences, the Companion to the Africana Worship Book shows the roots and fruits of rich worship. Weekes contributed an essay entitled, Music in Africana Worship.

Doe West

Doe West has served as a social justice advocate for over 25 years, with a special emphasis on issues surrounding Native American Women (she is of the Lenni Lenpe Tribe) and women with disabilities and teaches and is published within the field of bioethics. West holds a PhD in Law, Policy and Society from Northeastern University, a MS in Counseling from Boston University and both a BA in Sacred Literature and n MDiv in Pasoral Counseling from Logos Bible College. She is ordained and serves as a Chaplain on a volunteer basis with hospice organizations. West currently serves as the Director of Student Disability Services part time at Regis College, teaches part time in Psychology at Boston University and at the Feminist Sexual Ethics Project she served as the Project Administrator from November 2007 through spring 2008.

Sara Carrigan Wooten

Former Project Coordinator

Sara Carrigan Wooten is a master's student in Educational Studies at Tufts University. She received her M.A. in Sociology & Women's and Gender Studies from Brandeis University in 2011 and her B.A. in Women's Studies from Purdue University in 2008. She is currently conducting a study on LGBTQ student experiences of sexual violence in Atlanta area higher education institutions.

Wooten has worked as a community activist in numerous positions. She provided individual, policy and legislative advocacy on issues related to sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression while serving as the Advocacy Coordinator for the Indiana Transgender Rights Advocacy Alliance. She also served as a board member for Indiana Equality, a statewide LGBT advocacy organization. Wooten was founding editor of a Purdue University campus magazine of survivors of sexual assault stories and served as a peer leader in Boilers Educating Against Rape at Purdue University. Wooten served as volunteer coordinator and victim advocate for the Coalition Against Rape and Domestic Violence in Missouri. She has successfully presented her work at regional and national feminist and education conferences.

Other former staff members

  • Carly Daniel-Hughes (2000-2001)
  • Tracey Hurd (2000-2001)
  • Laura Hymson (2000-2001)
  • Leslie Caroline Kelly (2002)
  • Elizabeth Kennedy (2003)
  • Molly Lanzarotta (2001-2003)
  • Elizabeth Penland (2002-2004)
  • Dawn Robinson Rose (2000-2001)
  • Humaira Zafar (2002)
  • Elizabeth Stevens (2003-2005)