News & Updates: NWSA History

NWSA, A History 2003 – 24th National Conference

Tuesday, May 19, 2020  
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Cover of the 2003 conference program book

24th National Conference | "Southern Discomforts" | June 19-22 | New Orleans, Louisiana

Program Highlights

The 24th NWSA National Conference in 2003 took standpoint epistemology quite literally – or, geographically. Themed as "Southern Discomforts" and taking place in the major port city of New Orleans, the conference program showed an emphasis on understanding geography-based identities, lives, and experiences. One medium of this investigation were the Constituency Groups' sponsored sessions, which included sessions like the Age and Ageism Caucus's "Global Vill(Age): Constructions of Age from Multiple Subject Positions" and the International Task Force's "Internationalizing Women's Studies" and "Women's Studies and Feminism in Europe." The conference programming also featured three walking tours: "Africans in Louisiana," "Women of New Orleans Walking Tour," "Women of Color Historically Black Universities in New Orleans," and "Honey Island Swamp Tour." The Writers Series took on a special program called the "Creative Writing Component" that "represent[ed] women from seventeen states and the Philippines reading from their own poetry, fiction, and memoir." The series include gothic horror novelist and comedian Poppy Z. Brite from Kentucky, dramatist Elizabeth Brown-Guillory from Texas, and Serbian American poet Biljana D. Obradović with roots in Yugoslavia, Greece, India and the United States, as well as a group called the Southern Women Writers.

The 2003 conference also housed another embedded conference, likewise themed as "Southern Discomforts." Some key sessions were "Southern Discomforts in a University Setting: Women's Center Staff Working through Gender Conflicts;" "Dirtywork and Love: Post-slavery Economics and Eros after Civil Rights;" and "Land and Legacy: The Tainted Inheritances of 'Southern' Women." And lastly, of course, the conference's plenary sessions reflected major questions within the field, particularly questions of discomfort. Below are the sessions' titles, abstracts, and speakers.

    "Southern Discomforts"
    This plenary will contextualize, historicize, and actualize the themes of our embedded conference. It will bring together scholars, artists, and activists, lesbian and straight, black and white; in short, women who have either chronicled or are part of social movements that have worked or are working against white male supremacy in the region. Speakers will bring to the forefront the racial, cultural, and sexual diversity of Southern women's lives and activism and explore how these women fit or may not fit into standard definitions of feminism and feminist activism. The panelists will furthermore explore how southern women have had to negotiate not only gender, but also race, and class in their work and lives.
    Speakers: Mab Segrest; Robin Jacks, Founder, Southern Girls Convention; and Barbara Major, Core Trainer, Peoples Institute for Survival and Beyond, and Executive Director of St. Thomas Health Services.

    "What Ph.D. Women's Studies Graduates Do: A Different Kind of Academic"
    This plenary will invite Ph.D. graduates of Women's Studies programs to discuss how their graduate studies prepared them for their work in Women's Studies. This is the first NWSA panel solely dedicated to the Ph.D. in Women's Studies.
    Speakers: Angela Bowen, Patti Duncan, and Isa Williams

    "The Next Twenty-Five Years"
    This plenary will pose questions about the next twenty-five years of scholarship, art and activism in Women's Studies:
      How can we bridge the perceived tensions between "pure" research or "high" theory, on the one hand, and advocacy and women's "real" lived experience, on the other;
      What are the consequences for Women's Studies of the impact of expanding technologies and globalization on women's lives;
      What is a feminist organization in the twenty-first century and how do we use what we have learned to shape scholarship and activism in the next quarter of a century?
    Speakers: Nancy Naples, Chela Sandoval, and Malika Dutt
List of 2003 program committee members

See the full program here

NWSA Governance

Below are the 2003 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.

2003 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.