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MacArthur ‘genius’ to deliver annual February Sisters talk

Monday, February 09, 2015

LAWRENCE – A University of Kansas alumna who was named a 2014 MacArthur “genius” will return to campus to give the annual February Sisters lecture.

Sarah Deer will discuss “Sovereignty of the Soul: Native Feminism and Violent Crime” at the 43rd Annual February Sisters Commemoration. Her talk takes place at 3 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 12, at Woodruff Auditorium in the Kansas Union and is free and open to the public. A reception will follow in the Malott Room.

A national leader in the effort to protect Native women from gender violence, Deer is a professor at the William Mitchell College of Law and a citizen of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation of Oklahoma. She has documented in her scholarship a history of inadequate protection for victims of physical and sexual abuse in Indian country. Deer has simultaneously worked with grassroots and national organizations to reform federal policies that hinder the ability of tribes to prosecute offenders. Her efforts were instrumental in the passage of the Tribal Law and Order Act of 2010 and the 2013 reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act.

Deer earned a bachelor’s in women’s studies and philosophy from KU in 1995 and a juris doctor from the KU School of Law in 1999.

The February Sisters lecture commemorates a movement on campus in 1972 to bring about changes to benefit women. Known as the February Sisters, a group of 20 women risked arrest by occupying a building to demand changes long discussed but never happening. Their half-dozen demands resulted in KU becoming one of the first 50 women’s studies degree programs in the nation, the establishment of a campus child care center, full health care services for KU women and the appointment of more women administrators on campus.

Often called “genius grants,” MacArthur Fellowships are awarded to individuals who exhibit exceptional creativity, promise for important future advances based on a track record of significant accomplishment and potential for the fellowship to facilitate subsequent creative work. Deer is among 21 individuals in the 2014 class of MacArthur Fellows who will receive a no-strings-attached stipend of $625,000 over five years.

The February Sisters lecture is sponsored by the Department of Women, Gender & Sexuality Studies with support from the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, School of Law, Indigenous Studies Program and Institute for Policy & Social Research. Questions may be directed to 785-864-2310 or wgss@ku.edu.