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NWSA, A History 1996 – 17th National Conference

Friday, May 8, 2020  
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Cover of the 1996 conference program book

17th National Conference | "Borders/Crossings/Passages: Women Reinterpreting Development" | June 12-16, 1996 | Skidmore College | Saratoga Springs, New York

Program Highlights

Taking place in the wake of the fourth and last United Nations World Conference on Women in 1995, the 1996 NWSA National Conference was the first opportunity for NWSA members to collectively reflect on the new stage of relationships between women and global development. As the theme – "Borders/Crossings/Passages: Women Reinterpreting Development" – suggests, the conference was a chance for scholars, artists, activists, and community members to assert their reality of globalization and the implications of the UN conference. And, so, they did:

    Women's Rights are Human Rights: Building on Beijing
    An Interactive workshop highlighting the United Nations 4th World Conference on Women In Beijing, China. It will focus on the UN Women's Action Plan and its implementation.

    Whither Gender, Science & Technology Beyond Beijing: Transforming Policy into Action
    This session will explore ways In which science and technology recommendatIons In the Platform for Action can be used to formulate policies and programs for implementation.

    Implementing Beijing: Valuing Unwaged Work as the Cornerstone of Development Policy
    Implications for development, opposing structural adjustment programs/cutbacks, sexual choices, pay equity, domestic and sex workers' rights.

    Beijing Conference: A Source for Teaching & Action
    Papers: "Pedagogical Implications of the Fourth World Conference on Women" and "Beyond the Beijing World Conference on Women"

    Peace Train Journey from Helsinki to Beijing
    In this workshop, peace train participants who Journeyed with 252 women and men from 45 countries from Helsinki to Beijing gather to reflect on global women's movement, actions for peace, development and equality, and the nature of personal and political transformation.

Though the programming and sessions throughout the 1996 conference address all twelve of the UN Conference on Women's stated "areas of concern," two significant themes emerge in the conference program: girls and queering borders. Much like the 1994 conference's embedded symposium on science and technology, the 1995 conference hosted an "embedded conference" called "Diverse Paths: Perspectives on Adolescent Girls." The embedded conference's four plenary sessions give an overview of its programming.

    Narratives of Development
    Historically, narrative has often provided the only vehicle for the articulation of gynocentric Interpretations of women's development. The panelists here examine the ways In which women initiate and author their own "master" narratives of development that address identities – racial, national, and gendered, – creativity, and the effects of colonization.
    Speakers: Mary Stange (mod), Peggy Antrobus, Judith Johnson, Uma Narayan, and Janie Victoria Ward

    Redefining sexuality from a feminist perspective involves going beyond notions of women as "the sex" to understanding sexuality in its multiple facets, This panel explores how adolescence, disabilities, lesbianism, and cultural and national identity inflect and contribute to conceptions of women's sexuality.
    Speakers: Papusa Molina (mod), Michelle Fine, Jennifer Pastor, Simi Linton, Melanie Kaye/Kantrowitz, and Carolyn Martin Shaw

    Crossing Educational Borders
    This panel focuses on the ways in which education has and continues to provide an invaluable tool in women's quest to cross borders historically closed to them. The panelists discuss the educational empowerment of women within specific cultural and ethnic communities as well as the role of education in the rewriting of women's and girls' development on the local and national level.
    Speakers: Judith Fetterley (mod), Karin Aguilar-San Juan, Lyn Mikel Brown, Katsi Cook, and Rhoda Kadalie

    Working in the Fields
    Forging new passages for women entails activism in a variety of spheres. The speakers on this panel consider adolescent motherhood, feminist Interventions in the print media, and activism with women around the world.
    Speakers: Betty Harris (mod), Edna Acosta-Belen, Dyann C. Logwood, Judith Smith Musick

As lesbian, Chicana poet, theorist, and writer Gloria Anzaldúa did in her 1987 book, Borderlands/La Frontera, many of the sessions and papers at the 1996 conference proposed queered definitions and understandings of borders and border-crossings. The sessions below reflect differing perspectives on borders facing women in a globalized world, while also begging the question of when queered definitions become appropriations of another's very material experience of state borders.

    Women in Higher Education: Borders, Barriers & Intersections
    Papers: "Time Travel and Tea: A Visit to Gull Lake," "A Cross-Boundary Model for Improving the Climate for Women in Higher Education," and "At the Intersection of Practice & Theory: A Rethinking of the Archive"

    Crossing Pedagogical, Psychological & Ideological Borders
    This workshop explores creative strategies for teaching those difficult topics in the Women's Studies and freshman English classroom – race, class, gender, sexism, homophobia, feminism, etc. – through hands-on teachIng demonstrations and open discussion about successful classroom experiences.

    Crossing the Borders of Multiculturalism on Campus: One Surprisingly Absent Voice
    Examining the ways in which different definitions of multiculturalism developed on the nation's campuses, this panel seeks to understand the complex manner in which Jewish voices have been Included and excluded In those definitions.

    Redefining the Self, (Re)Telling the Story, & Reimagining the World
    A Cuban-American author, an African-American ethnographer, and an American artist cross borders of gender and cultures as they reject traditional boundaries, redefine communal identity, and reinvent a sense of self.

    Redefining the Borders of Curriculum, Pedagogy & Publishing
    The editors of Transformations, an interdisciplinary journal devoted to supporting curriculum transformation, will highlight some of the theoretical and ethical issues involved In feminist pedagogy and publishing.

    Borders, Boundaries & Feminist Pedagogy: Internationalizing Women's Studies Core Courses
    Panelists present strategies for revising core introductory and advanced Women's Studies courses to incorporate emerging issues In global feminism. Presenters draw on their experience as participants in the 1995 Summer Institute of the Curriculum Transformation Project at the University of Maryland, "Thinking about Women and Gender In International Contexts."

    Crossing Borders: Taking Feminist Pedagogy to a Union Hall
    This panel will provide multiple perspectives on the feminist strategies used in helping working-class women students make a transition from the steel mills into the academic world.

List of 1996 program committee members

See the full program here

From the Skidmore College Women's Studies Program Director

Mary Zeiss Stange, Director

The first women's studies course at Skidmore, a year-long upper-level study of "Woman in History," was offered more than seventy years ago. While it would take second-wave feminism to spur the development of a bona fide women's studies curriculum, the heritage of the school as a college for women, and its mission "to prepare liberally educated graduates to continue their quest for knowledge, and to make the choices required of informed, responsible citizens," are important foundations of the Women's Studies Program.

Today, Skidmore College has a vibrant, interdisciplinary Women's Studies Program involving faculty and students across the curriculum. It has grown exponentially since the introduction of the Women's Studies Minor degree in 1977. In its first thirteen years, the program recorded twenty-eight minors and three self-determined majors. Since 1990, the year which saw the appointment of the first full-time Director of Women's Studies, twenty-nine minors and three self-determined majors have graduated. In December 1995, the college faculty voted approval of an academic major in Women's Studies.

Forty senior and junior faculty, representing fifteen disciplines, participate in the Women's Studies Program. There are currently about four dozen courses on the Women's Studies Major/Minor curriculum, representing both disciplinary and interdisciplinary perspectives in the arts, humanities and social sciences, with an average of five new courses being added annually. Each year, Women's Studies courses enroll approximately 500 students (a quarter of Skidmore's total student population), in addition to participants from the University Without Walls and Master of Arts in Liberal Studies programs. The student who produces the most outstanding thesis, paper or project in women's studies each year is awarded the E. Beverly Field Prize, at the spring Honors Convocation.

In addition to the academic program, Women's Studies annually sponsors an array of co-curricular events, including major lectures and theatrical performances, and a March Women's Festival now entering its fifth year. These events are increasingly being undertaken in concert with the Skidmore Women's Network, the feminist students organization on campus.

Prior to hosting this year's NWSA Conference, the Women's Studies program sponsored two other national conferences. The first, "Towards Equitable Education for Women and Men: Models from the Past Decade," was held in 1983, to mark the college's shift to coeducation approximately ten years earlier. Five years later, in 1988 Skidmore hosted "Breakthroughs: Women and the Visual Arts." Now, as we are poised to celebrate twenty years of academic excellence in feminist studies, we are pleased to be hosting "Borders! Crossings! Passages: Women Reinterpreting Development."

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About the Writer

Victoria Agunod is the office assistant at the National Women's Studies Association, as well as an adjunct faculty member in the Peace, Justice, and Conflict Studies Program at DePaul University. Victoria received their BA and MA in Women's and Gender Studies at DePaul. They first attended NWSA in 2018 and presented their research on university students organizing for racial justice against the new alt-right galvanized by the 2016 U.S. presidential election. They joined the NWSA team the following year. Their teaching emphases are on women of color feminisms, racial justice movements and organizing, and neoliberal rhetorical and cultural influences.

Please note: The information compiled in this project comes from the archived conference programs at the University of Maryland, College Park.