WUSTL Sociology Professor Zakiya Luna Wins 2023 Distinguished Feminist Lecturer Award

The Sociologists for Women in Society recently awarded WUSTL Sociology Professor Zakiya Luna, Ph.D. this year’s Distinguished Feminist Lecturer Award. Created in 1985, this award recognizes and celebrates “members whose scholarship employs a feminist perspective.” 

Prof. Zakiya Luna earned a Master's in Social Work and a joint Ph.D. in Sociology and Women’s Studies from the University of Michigan. She was named a UC President’s Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of California - Berkeley, and co-founded the Center on Reproductive Rights and Justice at Berkeley Law. She also was the Mellon Sawyer Seminar Human Rights Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Wisconsin, a Woodrow Wilson Career Enhancement Fellow, and a member of the inaugural cohort (2019) of the Society of Family Planning Changemakers in Family Planning.

Professor Luna’s work employs intersectional epistemology and centers on social movements, reproduction, health, sociology of law, and inequality. Her book Reproductive Rights as Human Rights: Women of Color and the Fight for Reproductive Justice published in 2020 was recognized on Oprah’s Daily List “The 12 Books You Need to Read Post the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade Smackdown.” She also co-edited Black Feminist Sociology: Perspectives and Praxis with University of California Professor Whitney Pirtle, Ph.D. who described Luna as one of the “most visible advocates of Black feminist  sociology and praxis with an inspiring record of service, community activism, and public scholarship.” 

I recently sat down with Professor Luna to ask what this award means to her: 

Q: You recently won the Sociologists for Women Society’s Distinguished Feminist Lecturer Award. How long have you been a part of SWS and what does this award mean to you? 

Dr. Luna has been a member of SWS since she was a postdoc in 2011. Her mentor for the Mellon postdoc gathered people to attend an SWS meeting in St. Petersburg, FL. She felt it was a welcoming space for her. She acknowledges that SWS had its challenges, but a big part of its origins is creating a space for mentorship. For Dr. Luna, SWS has been a space for receiving and giving mentorship. She says it's incredibly meaningful to be recognized. 

Q: This award is for Professors who center feminist scholarship and I know you tend to center Black feminist thinkers. What role does Black feminism play in your life? Why do you feel centering Black feminist epistemology in your work is important?

SWS, and this award, makes space for a range of feminisms. She says it is hard to describe the role of Black feminism in her life because it has been a part of her since very young due to her upbringing. Part of why she centers Black feminism is to redefine what knowledge we see as valid. While mainstream Sociology hasn’t always seen the work of women of color as important, in particular Black women, Dr. Luna tries to refute this idea by centering it within her work. 

Q: How do you design courses that center a variety of feminist thinkers? What is your process for designing syllabi such as the one for your Black Feminist Theory and Race, Reproduction and Justice courses?

Dr. Luna has been teaching those courses for years in different ways and under different titles. She has been fortunate to be at institutions where students are interested in those courses. When designing courses, she thinks about courses she took, what worked well and what she would have liked to see. She also had extensive training during her doctoral program at University of Michigan. She trained in workshops and spent a large amount of time thinking about what it means to teach. Dr. Luna claims that there are misconceptions that anyone who has been in school can teach, but there are very specific practices. She is always looking at how students respond and adjusting as she goes. 

Q: What’s next for you after winning this incredible award and once you return from Sabbatical? What topics are you interested in exploring and what projects are you a part of?

In the Fall 2023 term, Dr. Luna will teach undergraduate courses on Black Feminist Theory and Social Movements. Dr. Luna enjoys teaching social movements because there is always something going on in current events that relates to her course. What’s next for Dr. Luna and what topics she investigates? We will have to look to the news for new current events. 

Congratulations to Dr. Luna for winning this prestigious award!