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NWSA, A History 1999 – 20th National Conference

Thursday, May 14, 2020  
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Cover of the 1999 conference program book

20th National Conference | June 17-20, 1999 | Albuquerque, New Mexico

Program Highlights

Time to close out not only a decade but a millennium! Though the 20th NWSA National Conference in 1999 wasn't officially themed, its plenaries and keynote address show a turn toward transnational and post-colonial feminisms:

    Keynote
    Feminism Without Frontiers
    Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak

    Plenaries
    Interdisciplinarity
    Marilyn J. Boxer – "Unruly Knowledge Women's Studies and the Problem of Disciplinarity"
    Marjorie Pryse – "Trans/Feminist Methodology: Bridges to Interdisciplinary Thinking"
    Mary Romero – "Framing Interdisciplinary Debates in Women's Studies: An We Part of the Cultural Wars?"

    Life After Graduation: Women's Studies Students Enter the World
    Angela Bowen – "An Interdisciplinary Women's Studies Ph.D: What's Not to Like?"
    Vivian N. May – "Discipline or Punish? Women's Studies at a Crossroads"
    Shareen Ahmed – "Changing the World' Reconciling Differences between Academic and Activist Feminisms"
    Robin Melavalin – "Changing the World: Feminist Photography and Activism"

    Feminism and (Post)-Colonialism
    Inderpal Grewal and Caren Kaplan – "Postcolonial Feminist Scholarship: Theorizing Gender in a Transnational World"
    Winona LaDuke – "Colonialism, Feminism, and Indigenous Women"
    Sylvia Rodriguez – "Tourism, Whiteness, and the Vanishing Anglo"

As for the rest of the 220 sessions, they also expressed questions, ideas, and discourses around post-coloniality, particularly around feminist epistemologies. Below are some constructed subthemes and examples.

    Geographies of Feminism
    "Indigenous Women Rights: Who Speaks? Who Cares? A Case Study From the Southeast of Australia"
    "African (Diasporan and Continental) Women's Perspectives on the Articulation of Feminist and Post-colonial Discourse Debate"
    "Expanding Identities: Bridges, Boundary Crossings, and Asian Difference"
    "Cultivating Feisty Feminists Among Frail Flowers: Women's Studies in the Conservative South"

    Contested Histories
    "Medieval and Early Modern Women Writing About Religious Experience: What Makes a Mystic?"
    "Revisions in Lesbian History: Rethinking Public and Private Identities in the 1940s and 1950s"
    "Lesbian, Bisexual, Trans, Queer: Women's Identities, Community, and Conflict From World War II to the Millenium [sic]"

    Politics of the Body
    "Can a Disabled Woman Be a Feminist"
    "Remapping Our Bodies, Reconstructing Our Selves:A Dialogue Across the Disciplines"
    "Black Bodies, Asian Bodies, 'White' Bodies: The Traveling Figure and Embodied Deviance"

    Queer Emergences
    "My Dad Wants to Know Why I'm Taking This Class: Teaching Lesbian and Gay Studies in Women's Studies"
    "Lesbian Feminism and Queer Theory: Beyond the Great Divide"
    "Lesbians Defining Themselves: Identity and Community"

    Women's Studies outside the Classroom
    "Talking the Walk: Teaching Feminist Activism"
    "Feminism Behind Bars: Rebuilding the College Program at Bedford Hills Correctional Facility for Women in New York State"
    "AIDS, Women, and the Academy"

    Feminist Constructions of Knowledge
    "Perspectives: Women Artists and the Creation of Feminist Consciousness"
    "Teaching Mathematics and Science from a Multicultural and Feminist Perspective"
    "Teaching as Feminist Resistance to 'Expert' Knowledge Claims"

    Inter/Disciplinarity
    "Professional Philosophers and Philosophizing the Personal, or: Since the Unexamined Life is Not Worth Living, Can I Examine Mine and Put it on my CV?"
    "Un/disciplined Women: Forging New Identies [sic] in Women's Sports, Lesbian Co- parenting, and Feminist Theories of the Disciplines"
    "Assessing Feminist Scholarship in the Disciplines: Political Science and International Relations"

    Post-coloniality and Transnational Feminism
    "Translating Theory, Translating Practice: Teaching Feminism and (Post)Colonialism in the Two-Year Community College"
    "Problematizing the Role of Feminist Scholars as Observers of Our Own and 'Others' Cultures"
    "Intersections of Post-Coloniality and Feminism in the Americas: Waves and Currents"


List of 1999 program committee members


See the full program here

From the NWSA President

Dear Conference Participants,

Welcome to the 1999 NWSA Conference, the twentieth we have held since the founding meeting in 1977. Although I was not at the founding conference, I have been "doing" Women's Studies for the past 30 years, first as a graduate student and then as a faculty member. I remember the debates we had during the early years: Should Women's Studies be a program or a department? Should we focus on developing independent programs or on transforming the curriculum? Would there always be a need for Women's Studies or would it, like the state, wither away after the revolution? These "either-or" debates seem almost quaint now, as we recognize the need to pursue our work at all levels, in all ways, and for all times. We also know there are new and urgent questions to be debated: What do we mean by terms like "discipline" and "interdisciplinary"? How can/should Women's Studies relate to fields like gender studies and sexuality studies? How can Women's Studies become truly diverse, both global and multicultural? How can we survive the restructuring of universities in response to political and corporate pressures? NWSA—through its publications, its conferences, and its policies and programs—can and must be, first and foremost, the place where these questions are addressed and answers produced.

This year is the first time we have held a large-scale conference with a full range of programs and activities in a hotel. In order to do so, and to keep the conference accessible to students, adjuncts, and community activists, we have made a number of changes. Most obvious is that the conference has been reduced from four days to three, but with very little loss in content. The compromise is that there are more severe choices required than ever before. We have kept about the same number of sessions as last year—and the Program Committee was still required to reject many worthy submissions—in a shorter span of time. So we are starting earlier, ending later, and skipping lunch breaks. We also have had to use three hotels to provide enough meeting rooms, and even with shuttle service, time between sessions will be very tight. We have had to put the regional meetings at breakfast and the Constituency Council and Membership Assembly in competition with sessions. So we will all be called upon to make even more choices this year than in the past. But, of course, that is part of what feminism historically has been about—giving women the right and responsibility to make their own choices.

I hope you will be patient with the inevitable challenges offered by a hotel conference, even as you enjoy the comforts and amenities (will anyone really miss dorm rooms?). The GC is especially interested in your comments on this year's conference, as we consider whether to pursue hotel conferences in the future. But mostly, I hope you will find the 1999 NWSA Conference a rich environment in which to discuss the intellectual, political, and pedagogical issues that we in Women's Studies must grapple with as we bring 30 years of history to a close, and open up an undefined future.

Bonnie Zimmerman
President, 1998-99


NWSA Governance

Below are the 1999 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.


1999 Governance Members 1999 Governance Members

See the rest of the history project here

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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.