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Featured Speakers

Keynote Address: Sara Ahmed
Friday, November 13, 2015 at 7 PM
Wisconsin Center, Ballroom CD
Sara Ahmed is Professor of Race and Cultural Studies and Director of the Centre for Feminist Research at Goldsmiths, University of London. Her work is concerned with how bodies and worlds take shape; and how power is secured and challenged in everyday life worlds, as well as institutional cultures. Publications include: Difference that Matter: Feminist Theory and Postmodernism (1998); Strange Encounters: Embodied Others in Post-Coloniality (2000); The Cultural Politics of Emotion (2004, 2014), Queer Phenomenology: Orientations, Objects, Others (2006); The Promise of Happiness (2010); On Being Included: Racism and Diversity in Institutional Life (2012) and Willful Subjects (2014). She is currently finishing a book,Living a Feminist Life (some of this material is being worked through on her blog, and has begun a new research project on “the uses of use.” 


Plenary Session: Precarity and the Politics of Nation: Settler States, Borders, Sovereignty
Friday, November 13, 1-2:30 PM
Wisconsin Center, Ballroom CD
This plenary examines the role of neoliberal settler-state practices in perpetuating systemic inequality. Evidence of precarity and deep structures of disparity exists all around us--in the precaritization of labor, the heightened criminalization of borders and illegalization of bodies and populations, and the intensified privatization of land, resources, and knowledges. Drawing on decolonial, Indigenous, women of color, Black feminist, and transnational feminist scholarship, speakers in this plenary draw on their wide-ranging work to illuminate differential vulnerabilities, to question asymmetrical violation and harm, and to expose the force and function of law in settler colonial contexts. Collectively, their insightful work offers a range of ways to witness and contest these violent legacies.

Jodi A. Byrd is a citizen of the Chickasaw Nation and associate professor of American Indian Studies and English at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She is the author of Transit of Empire: Indigenous Critiques of Colonialism (Minnesota, 2011). Her articles have appeared inAmerican Indian Quarterly, Cultural Studies Review, Interventions, J19, College Literatures, Settler Colonial Studies Studies, and American Quarterly. Her teaching and research focuses on issues of indigeneity, gender, and sexuality at the intersections of political studies, postcolonial studies, queer studies, and comparative ethnic studies. Her current manuscript in process, entitled Indigenomicon: American Indians, Videogames, and Structures of Genre, interrogates how the structures of digital code intersect with issues of sovereignty, militarism, and colonialism.

Lisa Marie Cacho is an Associate Professor at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign in Latina/Latino Studies and Asian American Studies with affiliations in Gender and Women’s Studies, English, and the Unit for Criticism and Interpretive Theory. Cacho’s book, Social Death: Racialized Rightlessness and the Criminalization of the Unprotected (NYU press, 2012) won the John Hope Franklin award in 2013 for best book in American Studies. The book examines how illegality, criminality, and social death work interdependently to assign and deny human value and to render relations of inequality normative and natural in both dominant and oppositional discourses. She has also published in the edited collections Immigrant Rights in the Shadows of U.S. Citizenship and Strange Affinities: The Sexual and Gendered Politics of Comparative Racialization.
Jasbir K. Puar is Associate Professor of Women's & Gender Studies at Rutgers University. She is the author of Terrorist Assemblages: Homonationalism in Queer Times (Duke University Press 2007), winner of the Cultural Studies Book Award from the Association for Asian American Studies. A redacted version in French was published as Homonationalisme. Politiques queers après le 11 Septembre, (Editions Amsterdam, 2012).
Her edited volumes include a special issue of GLQ ("Queer Tourism: Geographies of Globalization") and co-edited volumes of Society and Space ("Sexuality and Space"), Social Text (“Interspecies”), and Women’s Studies Quarterly (“Viral”).
She also writes for The Guardian, Huffington Post, Art India, The Feminist Review, Bully Bloggers, Jadaliyya, and Oh! Industry. Her writings have been translated into Polish, French, German, Croatian, Swedish, Norwegian, Portuguese, Japanese, Spanish, and Danish. Her publications can be found at
Professor Puar was the Edward Said Chair of American Studies at the American University of Beirut for 2012-13 and a Fellow at the Society for Humanities Institute at Cornell University for 2013-14.
Puar’s other major awards include a Rockefeller Fellowship, a Ford Foundation grant, and the 2013 Modern Languages Association Gay Lesbian/Queer Caucus Michael Lynch Award in recognition of her years of scholar-activist work. She has also received awards from the Graduate School of Rutgers University and the Northeastern Association of Graduate Schools for her teaching.
Puar’s forthcoming monograph, States of Debility and Capacity (Duke University Press, 2016) takes up the relations between biopolitics, disability, and forms of active debilitation pivotal to the operations of war machines and racial capitalism. The book will appear in a new series, ANIMA, which she co-edits with Mel Chen. 

Plenary Session: Action/Resistance/Action: Intersectional Activism and Praxis
Saturday, November 14, 1-2:30 PM
Wisconsin Center, Ballroom CD
This plenary features three outstanding scholar-activists who will discuss their contributions to radical intersectional justice work and to combating systemic inequality across a range of contexts. In different ways, each speaker practices intersectional ways of knowing/being, contests lived injustices, and works in solidarity to meaningfully transform material reality. Their work offers a compelling vision of a more just world, demonstrates how the lived conditions of oppression are differentially experienced and resisted, and illuminates how myriad inequalities can be contested and transformed, together. Longstanding forms of inequality continue to shape contemporary life, but there are also legacies of ongoing resistance that can be drawn on to effect change. Speakers in this plenary explores how we might best understand and dismantle inequality and examines how intersectional work can be employed to address and counteract precarity.

Karma R. Chávez is an associate professor in the Department of Communication Arts and affiliate in the Program in Chicaná and Latiná Studies and the Department of Gender and Women's Studies at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. She is co-editor of Standing in the Intersection: Feminist Voices, Feminist Practices (with Cindy L. Griffin, SUNY Press, 2012), and author of Queer Migration Politics: Activist Rhetoric and Coalitional Possibilities (University of Illinois Press, 2013). Karma is also a member of the radical queer collective Against Equality, an organizer for LGBT Books to Prisoners, and a host of the radio program, "A Public Affair" on Madison's community radio station, 89.9 FM WORT.
Nirmala Erevelles is Professor of Social and Cultural Studies in Education at the University of Alabama.  Her teaching and research interests lie in the areas of disability studies, critical race theory, transnational feminism, sociology of education, and postcolonial studies. Erevelles has published articles in the American Educational Research Journal, Educational Theory, Studies in Education and Philosophy, the Journal of Curriculum Studies, Teachers College Record, Disability & Society, Disability Studies Quarterly, & the Journal of Literary and Cultural Disability Studies, among others.  Her book, Disability and Difference in Global Contexts: Towards a Transformative Body Politic was published by Palgrave in November 2012.

Mia Mingus is a writer, community educator and organizer working for disability justice and transformative justice responses to child sexual abuse. She is a queer physically disabled Korean woman transracial and transnational adoptee, born in Korea, raised in the Caribbean, nurtured in the U.S. South, and now living in Oakland, California. She works for community, interdependency and home for all of us, not just some of us, and longs for a world where disabled children can live free of violence, with dignity and love. As her work for liberation evolves and deepens, her roots remain firmly planted in ending sexual violence. Mia is a core-member of the Bay Area Transformative Justice Collective (BATJC), a local collective working to build and support transformative justice responses to child sexual abuse that do not rely on the state (e.g. police, prisons, the criminal legal system). Her work, on disability justice is widely used and cited across educational, activist and political spaces. Her writing can be found at

Presidential Session: Contesting Precarity, Engaging Intersectionality
Friday, November 13, 4:30 to 5:45 PM
Wisconsin Center, 202C
Precarity, this year’s conference theme, highlights how multiple forms of structural subjugation saturate our time, one marked by violence, dispossession, conquest, and suffering. This presidential session explores how intersectionality remains essential for deciphering and challenging oppressive power relations. It approaches intersectionality as a multidimensional justice orientation and counter-hegemonic way of knowing that can be drawn on to collectively pursue a transformed world. Session participants take up three key dimensions of intersectional work: 
  • Dismantling structural inequalities: how does intersectionality help to name and address the root causes (structural, philosophical, affective, psychological, representational) of discrimination? 
  • Widening (or transforming) the scope: how can intersectionality be used to alter analytical and political frames so that distinct forms of oppression at the “intersections” of lived identities and matrices of relational power are rendered visible, rather than absented, ignored, or erased?
  • Demanding accountability for all lives mattering: how can intersectionality be engaged to push for comprehensive justice orientations and strategies for change?
Sirma Bilge is Associate Professor at the Department of Sociology at Université de Montréal. She is also the Associate Editor of the Journal of Intercultural Studies, elected board member of the Research Committee on Racism, Nationalism and Ethnic Relations (RC05) of the International Sociological Association (ISA) (2014-2018) and elected secretary (2010-2014), and was also the elected Regional Representative for Canada of the ISA Research Committee on Women in Society (RC32) (2010-2014).
Bilge teaches graduate and undergraduate courses on gender and sexualities, ethnic relations, postcolonial and decolonial theories, and cultural studies, and a new graduate seminar on intersectionality. She also founded and directed the Intersectionality Research Unit at the Centre des études ethniques des universités montréalaises (CEETUM) from 2005 to 2010. She is in the editorial committees of several scholarly journals (Journal of Intercultural Studies, Recherches Féministes, etc.)
Her Ph.D. thesis won the inaugural Best Doctoral Thesis Award in Canadian Studies, granted by the International Council for Canadian Studies. Her recent work engages with the intersecting politics of the nation and the governmentality of immigration and integration in their particular articulations around the regimes of gender and sexual normativities across the western national imaginaries with a specific focus on Quebec/Canada.
Recent publications include articles and chapters on sexual nationalism, racialized governmentality of immigration-integration, the whitening of intersectionality, non-oppressive coalitional politics, and incorporation of minority knowledges in academia. Her work have been published in various scientific journals such as Du Bois Review, Politikon, Journal of Intercultural Studies, Diogenes, International Journal of Canadian Studies, and Sociologie et sociétés. She is currently working, with co-author Patricia Hill-Collins, on a manuscript on Intersectionality with Polity Press (Key Concepts).

Elizabeth R. Cole is Professor of Women’s Studies, Psychology and AfroAmerican & African Studies at the University of Michigan, where she is also Associate Dean for Social Sciences in the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts.  She earned her doctorate at the University of Michigan in Personality Psychology and taught at Northeastern University before joining UM in 2000.  She served as chair of the Women's Studies Department between 2010 and 2014.  She is a fellow of the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues, and a consulting editor for Psychology of Women's Quarterly. Her scholarship aims to bring feminist theory on intersectionality to social science research on race and gender identities. Her current project examines young Black women's experiences of gender, sexuality and the body.
Kimberlé Crenshaw, Professor of Law at UCLA and Columbia Law School, is a leading authority on Civil Rights, Black feminist legal theory, and race, racism and the law. She is the founding coordinator of the Critical Race Theory Workshop, and co-editor of the volume, Critical Race Theory: Key Documents That Shaped the Movement. Crenshaw’s groundbreaking work on “Intersectionality” has traveled globally and was influential in the drafting of the equality clause in the South African Constitution.
In 1996, Crenshaw co-founded the African American Policy Forum, a gender/racial justice legal thinktank, which houses a variety of projects designed to deliver research-based strategies to better advance social inclusion.  In 2011, Crenshaw founded the Center for Intersectionality & Social Policy Studies at Columbia Law School, which aims to foster critical examination of how social structures and related identity categories such as gender, race, and class interact on multiple levels, resulting in social inequality.

Vivian M. May, NWSA President, is Director of the Humanities Center and Associate Professor of Women's & Gender Studies at Syracuse University. She has published widely on Black feminist intellectual histories, intersectionality, and feminist theory and literature. She has also published two books: the first, Anna Julia Cooper, Visionary Black Feminist (Routledge, 2007), shows how Cooper deserves a much wider audience for her innovative and often daring contributions to a Black feminist public sphere. Her most recent book, Pursuing Intersectionality, Unsettling Dominant Imaginaries (Routledge, 2015), demonstrates how often intersectionality is resisted, misunderstood, and misapplied and pushes for more meaningful engagement with intersectionality’s radical ideas, histories, and justice orientations.
Beverly Guy-Sheftall, Ph.D. is founding director of the Women’s Research and Resource Center (since 1981) and Anna Julia Cooper Professor of Women’s Studies at Spelman College.  She was for many years an adjunct professor at Emory University’s Institute for Women’s Studies where she taught graduate courses in their doctoral program.
At the age of sixteen, Guy-Sheftall entered Spelman College where she majored in English and minored in secondary education.  After graduation with honors, she attended Wellesley College for a fifth year of study in English.  After a year at Wellesley, she entered Atlanta University to pursue a master’s degree in English.  Her thesis was entitled “Faulkner’s Treatment of Women in His Major Novels.”  A year later Guy-Sheftall began her first teaching job in the Department of English at Alabama State University in Montgomery, Alabama.  In 1971 she returned to her alma mater, Spelman College, and joined the English Department.