Presidential Letter: Looking Forward to 2020
Tuesday, February 4, 2020
February 3, 2020
Presidential Letter: Looking Forward to 2020
Greetings and Happy New Year!
The opening of a new decade is a fitting time to pause and reflect. Nearly ten years ago, the occupy movements spread rapidly around the world and economic inequality was a front burner issue. Since then we witnessed the power of the Movement for Black Lives, trans organizing, labor protests led primarily by women of color, and a powerful movement against sexual harassment and assault.
More recently, however, the forces arrayed against progressive change have become emboldened. A global rise in authoritarian, right-wing governments such as those in Brazil, Hungary, India, the Philippines, and the US, where it is most brazenly on display, have sought to bolster ultra nationalist, heteropatriarchal, xenophobic, and racist forms of capitalism. Multiple crises, from military aggression to climate change, political repression to unprecedented refugee crises, are either upon us or imminent. Despite the right-wing shift--or perhaps because of it--the momentum of movement-building continues, defying human-made borders and meeting hate with compassion and hope.
NWSA’s last decade similarly marks the growth of on-the-ground resistance and progressive scholarship. Ten years ago NWSA was under the formidable leadership of Beverly Guy-Sheftall. Since then we have been stewarded by a group of people deeply committed to creating a progressive agenda for change, making academic scholarship relevant, and uplifting the best that women's, gender, and feminist studies has to offer. If our 2019 conference in San Francisco was any indication, NWSA is poised to lead. The intervention of scholars of women’s, gender, and feminist studies is critical for shaping what the next decade might look like.
Our upcoming conference “The Poetics, Politics, and Praxis of Transnational Feminism” seeks to engage the radical potential of transnational feminisms as praxis and theory. Transnational feminism has deeply influenced feminist praxis and theory for the past 40 years by destabilizing western-centric (especially US-centric) theories of feminism and pushing the boundaries of feminism in new directions.
We hope to engage with difference both across and within and to think about borders in a more encompassing way. In what ways might the framework of transnationalism--which seeks to transcend the nation--end up privileging the construct of the nation and flattening out differences within the nation or obscuring other spatial and racial relationships between regions and continents? Feminists have long sought to disrupt borders and boundaries. But which borders? The border between Europe and Africa that we call the Mediterranean Sea? The borders that have created distinct categories of people that we refer to as migrants and refugees? The internalized border between the full and free expression of our gendered selves and dominant norms? The borders we construct around our political communities at the expense of coalition-building? The borders that keep various types of environments inaccessible for humans with disabilities? The border between the human and nonhuman? The multiplicity of borders that exist between the elite university and the surrounding community? The border between a parent and a child? The porous and perpetually redefined sovereign border between indigenous communities and settler colonial powers? How have borders been constructed between poetics and politics? How does feminist praxis and theory, and especially the development of new theoretical phrases and lines of inquiry, create boundaries?
We hope to consider how borders and boundaries are generated and their possibilities for both opening and closing avenues of analysis. Minneapolis, Minnesota, is an apt place for this conversation to unfold, as a place rich with indigenous history and futurity, as well as contemporary struggles. It is also a place where all of the national debates around immigration and refugee policies have tangible local stakes; and where borders divide nations, bisect states, delimit federally recognized reservations, and more.
Our 2020 CFP is an invitation to consider the contributions of transnational feminism and move us in new directions in a new political moment. My amazing conference co-chairs, Dána-Ain Davis and Robyn C. Spencer, are working with me on an exciting line-up of featured speakers that we hope will illuminate the connections between the local and the global. Both invited guests as well as the papers, panels, and workshops of NWSA members will offer insights into the multiple crises we face and illustrate the importance of transnational feminist responses.
The interconnectedness of our world is more clear than ever. Even as walls and checkpoints, lockdowns and detention centers act as barriers, we know that our ideas and the voices of grassroots feminist activists and intellectuals will continue to flow across the artificial boundaries constructed to divide us.
We encourage you to submit a proposal for the 2020 NWSA Annual Conference by the February 28, 2020, deadline. We look forward to an enriching experience in Minneapolis this November!
President, NWSA (2018–2020)