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NWSA, A History 1997 – 18th National Conference

Tuesday, May 12, 2020  
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Cover of the 1997 conference program book

18th National Conference | "Currents & Crosscurrents: Women Generating Creativity & Change" | June 18-22, 1997 | St. Louis, Missouri

Program Highlights

In years prior, the impact of technological advancements on the field of women's studies and the feminist movement was a frequent theme throughout each annual conference, as presenters posed questions of how new tech could shape and augment feminist methodologies and how these advances might pose problems for the humanities. This theme was so prevalent and important for the field that the 2001 conference would be themed as, "2001.WOMENS.STUDIES.COM?" However, at the 18th NWSA National Conference in 1997, it was artistic methods that were centered in NWSA's second embedded conference, "pARTicipate: Celebrating Women in the Arts." Some of those sessions include:

    "Dangerous and Disruptive Ladies: Transforming the Aesthetic and Political Construction of Girls and Women's Disablement Through the Visual Arts"
    "Performance Art Workshop - How to Script Autobiography into Performance"
    "Feminist Midrash in Recent Writing"
    "Story Telling: Women's Answerability to Their Art and Gender"
    "Designing the Carvas of a Neighborhood Art, Activism and Celebration"
    "Colored Memories: Arab-American Women Write About Culture"
    "Sonorous Subversions: The Use of Voice in Trinh Minh-ha's Surname Viet Given Name Nam and Reassemblage"

As they were the year before, the four plenary sessions were organized as part of the embedded conference. With speakers like Florence Howe, Chana Kai Lee, and Papusa Molina, three of the plenary sessions covered "Creativity," "The Future of Feminist Education," and "Organizations/Coalitions: Past and Future," but it was the fourth plenary, "Technology," that best illustrates the growing relationship between the arts as a foundation within the humanities and the new pull of technological advancements and "hard science"-based methods and epistemologies. This plenary included the presentations and speakers below.

    Feminism and the New Reproductive Technologies: Prenatal Diagnosis, Assisted Reproduction, and Maybe Even Cloning?
    Adrienne Asch

    Feminism, Science and Technology: What Should We Teach our Students?
    Anne Fausto-Sterling

    Indian Women Taking Care of Their Destiny
    Winona LaDuke

    Health and Medical Technologies for Women: Sorting Miracle from Menace
    Judy Norsigian

These speakers and others throughout the conference posed complicated questions and perspectives on science and tech in the field of Women's Studies. Fausto-Sterling, in particular, is noted in the program as "a strong advocate of the idea that understanding science is of central importance to feminist students and scholars and that understanding feminist insights into science is essential to science students and researchers," maintaining that the conversation is not only about methods but also about understanding and challenging empirical epistemologies. In other words, such a perspective would maintain that, rather than tech influencing feminism and women's studies, it can be that feminism and women's studies influence science and technology. Others pose questions of how feminist approaches can work to understand and challenge the ways that technological and scientific advancements can exacerbate already-existing social inequalities. Below are examples of various perspectives on, and approaches to, a feminist scientific methodology.

    Women's Studies in Cyberspace
    This session explores the use of live technological innovations in Women's Studies: cable television, compressed video, virtual conferencing, e-mail, and the internet. Issues of technology as served populations, and pedagogical concerns arising from the use of technology will be discussed.

    Women and Computer Technology
    Papers: "The Technology Spiral: Content Analysis of the Employment-Oriented Home Pages of 'Informationally-Privileged' Undergraduates," and "Women Uniting in Cyberspace"

    Using the Internet to Create Learning Communities
    Resistant to technology in the classroom? Too impersonal? Afraid to "lose control" of students? Explore ways to build community within the Women's Studies classroom, within your College, and with the global sisterhood of women around the world using E-mail, Hypernews, and the world wide web. This workshop explores a learning community developed at Clark Community College in Vancouver, Washington, formed by linking two existing courses, "Women Around the World" and "First Course in the Internet."

    Women's Bodies and Healthy Lives
    Papers: "Let the Rivers Run: Medical Technology as Change Agent," "The Body of Abortion's Memory: Anti-abortion Discourse, 1850-1880," and "Is There a Coherent Narrative of the Menopause Experience?"

    Beyond Safer Sex: Challenges of the HIV Epidemic for Women
    This workshop provides a foundation in the issues of the pandemic options for education and collaboration, and personal empowerment for women helping women.

    Women in Science
    Papers: "No Universal Constants: The Case of Women in Science and Engineering" and "Gender Identity in the Engineering/Science Classroom"

    Computers and the Feminist Classroom
    Papers: "A Webpage of One's Own: Implementing Information Technology in the Feminist Classroom" and "Teaching Computer Skills in the Introductory Women's Studies Course"

List of 1997 program committee members

See the full program here

From the NWSA President

Dear Members and Friends of NWSA:

Welcome to the 18th annual NWSA conference in St. Louis, at the confluence of the Mississippi, Missouri, and Illinois rivers, and hosted by the University of Missouri–St. Louis and Saint Louis University. Indeed, the planning of this conference with the theme "Currents and Crosscurrent: Women Generating Creativity and Change" represents a confluence of individuals, ideas, ingenuity, and innovation. In typical NWSA spirit, members throughout the country were involved in developing the program for NWSA '97 in this historic city. They identified and invited plenary speakers, reviewed proposals, and planned the program for the regular and embedded conferences. Our collective success in bringing the conference to fruition demonstrates the resiliency of the National Women's Studies Association!

In the flow of ideas, we had continuity from previous conferences. Frances Hoffmann, the NWSA '97 site coordinator was the program chair the the [sic] embedded conference at Skidmore last year. Paty Rubio, co-site coordinator at Skidmore, served as plenary co-chair with Janet Mary this year. Catherine Hobbs, Book Exhibit chair at Oklahoma, served as Program co-chair with Betty Robbins for NWSA '97, Film Series chair at Oklahoma.

For this year's conference, in addition to Fran Hoffmann, my thanks go out to committee chairs Vicki Knoll, Miriam Joseph, Suzanna Rose, Connie Jeffries, Helen Power and Allison Funk, Shyrln Schutt, Edith Graber, and all committee members. Kit Jenkins, embedded conference chair for "pARTicipate: Celebrating Women in the Arts," did a great job in developing the program for the embedded conference.

In securing the conference structure for "Currents and Crosscurrents," we hope to establish an ambience for the NWSA membership to engage in participatory democracy. This year is a particularly important one because we will have the opportunity to revise the Constitution. The Constitutional Revision Committee, chaired by Bonnie Zimmerman, will hold a special Membership Assembly to address constitutional issues. A copy of the Constitution is contained in this volume. Please read it, consider it, and attend the meeting!

We have also made an effort to highlight certain constituencies within NWSA. Most panels on girls and young women have been scheduled on Saturday. Furthermore, our plenary "The Future of Feminist Education/Women's Studies/Feminism," considers issues relevant to Women's Studies program administrators and faculty. Our plenary descriptions having attracted interesting proposals on women's creativity and aspects of technological development that have enhanced our program.

Do enjoy the currents and crosscurrents in the exchange of ideas, theories, and strategies at NWSA '97 in St. Louis!

Betty J. Harris

NWSA Governance

Below are the 1997 NWSA governance members, as well as the NWSA staff team. You can see the current Governing Council members, conference co-chairs, and staff members here.

1997 Coordinating Council Members

See the rest of the history project here

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NWSA Program Archives

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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.