Janet Jakobsen

Claire Tow Professor and Chair of Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies

Janet R. Jakobsen is Chair and Claire Tow Professor of Women's Gender and Sexuality Studies at Barnard College, Columbia University.  She served for fifteen years as Director of the Barnard Center for Research on Women (BCRW), and she has also served as Barnard's Dean for Faculty Diversity and Development and Chair of the President's Committee on Online and On-Campus Learning (COOL). As Director of BCRW, Professor Jakobsen founded the webjournal, Scholar & Feminist Online (http://bcrw.barnard.edu/publication-sections/sf-online/), along with the New Feminist Solutions series of activist research projects with community-based organizations, such as the National Domestic Workers Alliance, Queers for Economic Justice, the New York Women’s Foundation, and A Better Balance: Work and Family Legal Center (http://bcrw.barnard.edu/publication-sections/nfs/). 

She is the author of Working Alliances and the Politics of Difference: Diversity and Feminist Ethics and with Ann Pellegrini she co-wrote Love the Sin: Sexual Regulation and the Limits of Religious Tolerance and co-edited Secularisms. With Elizabeth Castelli she co-edited Interventions: Academics and Activists Respond to Violence. Her current book project, "Why Sex?: Religion, Secularism and Possibilities for Justice," is forthcoming from New York Univesrsity Press.

She is currently a Principal Investigator along with Elizabeth Bernsteain for the "Gender Justice and Neoliberal Transformations Working Group," a collaboration among thirteen scholars working transnationally on questions of gender justice in the contemporary world, which is spronsored by the Barnard Center for Research on Women (http://bcrw.barnard.edu/projects/transnationalfeminisms/gender-justice-n...).. She is also a Project Director with Lila Abu-Lughod, Rema Hammami, and Nadera Shalhoub-Kervorkian of the "Religion and the Global Framing of Gender Violence" project at the Columbia University Center for the Study of Social Difference (https://socialdifference.squarespace.com/projects-/religion-and-the-glob...). 

Professor Jakobsen has held fellowships from the American Association of University Women, the Udall Center for Public Policy at the University of Arizona, the Center for the Humanities at Wesleyan University, and the Center for the Study of Values in Public Life at Harvard Divinity School. She has taught as a Visiting Professor at Wesleyan University and Harvard University. Before entering the academy, she was a policy analyst and organizer in Washington, D.C.

Selected Publications


Secularisms, edited with A. Pellegrini (Durham: Duke University Press, 2008)

Love the Sin: Sexual Regulation and the Limits of Religious Tolerance, with A. Pellegrini

(New York: New York University Press, 2003; Boston: Beacon Press, 2004, paperback edition)

Interventions: Activists and Academics Respond to Violence, edited with E. Castelli (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004)

Working Alliances and the Politics of Difference: Diversity and Feminist Ethics (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1998)

Articles and Chapters:

“Gender, Sex, and Religious Freedom in the Context of Secular Law,” with Christine M. Jacobsen and Myanthi Fernando, Feminist Review, 113 (2016): 93-102.

“Visions of Justice: New Economies and New Solidarities,” Journal of the European Society of Women in Theological Research (2014).

“Collaborations,” American Quarterly, 64.4 (December 2012): 827-32.

“Perverse Justice,” GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies, 18.1 (2012): 19-28.

“Religion, Politics, and Gender Equality in the U.S.,” with Elizabeth Bernstein, Third World Quarterly,  31.6 (2010). 

“Work is Not the Only Problem,” Got Life?: Roundtable Discussion on Work-Life Balance, Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion, 23.2 (Fall 2007).

"Different Differences: Theory and the Practice of Women's Studies," in Women's Studies for the Future: Foundations, Interrogations, Politics, ed. E. Lapovsky Kennedy and A. Beins (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2006)

“Sex + Freedom = Sexual Regulation: Why?” Social Text, 84-85 (Fall/Winter 2005): 285-308.

"Sex and Freedom" (with E. Lapovsky Kennedy), in Regulating Sex, ed. E. Bernstein and L. Schaffner (New York: Routledge Press, 2005)

"Can Homosexuals End Western Civilization as We Know It?: Family Values in a Global Economy," in Queer Globalization/Local Homosexualities, ed. A. Cruz- Malavé and M. Manalansan (New York: New York University Press, 2002)

"Queer Is? Queer Does?: Normativity and Resistance," GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies 4 (1998)

Academic Focus: 

Feminist theory
Queer theory
Religion and politics
Public policy


Theorizing Activisms

Gendered Controversies

Religion, Gender and Violence

Knowledy, Practice Power

Feminist Theories

Queer Theories


Ph.D., Emory University, Ethics and Society, Graduate Division of Religion

M.A., School of Theology at Claremont

A.B. Dartmouth College, Highest Distinction in Philosophy and Distinction in Economics

Related Web Sites: 


In the News

Kayla Levy ’19 was awarded the inaugural Ingeborg, Tamara, and Yonina Rennert Prize in Jewish Women’s Studies on April 16, 2019.

The Cheryl and Philip Milstein Center for Teaching and Learning will be a new academic hub in the heart of campus bringing students and faculty together, facilitating collaboration, and fostering dialogue.

Learning, Thinking, Leading

In an anniversary year, BCRW focuses on feminism’s future

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