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NWSA, A History 2004 – 25th National Conference

Wednesday, May 20, 2020  
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Cover of the 2004 conference program book

25th National Conference | "Women in the Middle: Borders, Barriers, Intersections" | June 17-20 | Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Program Highlights

The theme of the 25th NWSA National Conference in 2004 was another one dedicated to women living and working across borders – "Women in the Middle: Borders, Barriers, Intersections." One way in which the conference programming explored these areas was through a "Gender Bender Ball," digitally displayed artworks and on-site art exhibits, and a new performance art showcase that took on the theme of the conference. The Gender Bender Ball called on participants to "dance dressed as her/his favorite gender" and hosted a performance by local drag king troupe Miltown Kings. Organizers of the art exhibits "sought to provide multiple opportunities for audiences to contemplate artists' responses to and visions for addressing the intersection of gender and other axes of difference, and to acknowledge how the theory and practice of art is a part of feminist anti-oppression work." They used digital displays in the conference's Book Exhibit to showcase over 900 submissions from hundreds of artists and managed to include the work of 83 artists in two juried, on-site art exhibits. The new performance art sets were headlined by Laila Farah's "Hyphen Nation," her solo show that considers institutional racism as enacted by the U.S. government, particularly post 9/11 nationalist legislation; Raquel Almazan's "She Wolves," which critically examines female artchetypes [sic] like of the Ancient Warrior, the Falsely Enlightened Corset, the Modern C.E.O., and Futuristic Virgin Stripper; as well as a piece from Joelle Ruby Ryan based on her documentary "TransAmazon," which concerns gender identity and social justice.

The embedded conference, "Coalitions and Conflict Across Difference," also set a tone for discussions of how feminists could work to dismantle the borders and barriers alluded to in the general conference theme. Some of the sessions included were:

    "Don't You Speak English?: Feminist 'Talk Back' to Linguistic Oppression in the United States"
    This roundtable will share perspectives on how different Americans - across race, class, gender and professional lines - are responding to linguistic bias and oppression to effect concrete social and political change. We hope to forge connections between those who respond through writing literature and theory, those who form unions to combat discrimination, and those who revise language in business and government documents.

    "Rethinking Accountability in Local Governance: Approaches to Using International Human Rights Law to Achieve Equity for U.S. Women"
    This workshop will explore how women's membership associations, local politicians and political appointees, and issue advocacy groups can use the framework of the U.N. Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the U.N. Convention on the Elimination of All Form of Racial Discrimination (CERD) to change the accountability structures of state and municipal governments.

    "Working-Class Women in the Middle: The Dynamics of Race, Class, and Gender in Working-Class Communities"
    This session focuses on how borders have been both effective and ineffective in policing race and class identities in women's Ives. We present three studies of working-class communities, past and present: inner city Baltimore, industrial Sparrows Point (Baltimore County) and inner city Pittsburgh.

    "Remembering We Were Never Meant to Survive: The Intellectual and Physical Health and Survival of Women of Color in Academia"
    From a diverse range of institutional histories and experiences (public and private, historically black college, elite private university and more) panelists will both name the specificities of the diverse challenges women of color face in academia and invite a discussion of possible solutions for support and survival.

    "Out of the West and into the World: An Investigation into Slavery, the Environment, and Immigration"
    As feminism continues to transcend disciplinary boundaries and make connections with myriad of social injustices, there are still injustices experienced by women which are largely ignored. We will show the intersection between our research and activism on issues of religious slavery, destruction of the environment, and immigration, all significant issues in the lives of the majority of the world's women.

    "Sexual Subjects and Transnational Citizens"
    In this panel, we offer three feminist considerations of the contemporary operation of gender, race, sexuality, and citizenship within national and transnational spaces. We do this through an interrogation of the ways that multiple constructions of race and sexuality get produced in particular local sites.

The embedded conference also included an interactive plenary in which breakout group discussions with the audience were facilitated after a panel of local artists shared their experiences working on issues of peace, domestic violence, gun violence. The general conference's plenaries established questions at the forefront of imagining a feminist future of coalition, community, and working across differences.

    "Generations of Feminism"
    Generations of feminism: A concept that can be understood to suggest, quite simply, the various "stages" (or waves) in the development of feminism as a movement. At the same time, it is a concept that can be understood as so much more. It can (and should) bring to mind the many ways in which feminism has developed, been produced, and proliferated over the years. It also can (and should) remind us of the many ways in which barriers, borders, and intersections (of class, race, and sexuality, to name a few) give rise to (i.e., generate) new understandings and enactments of feminism.
    Speakers: Barbara Smith, Gerda Lerner, Ellen Bravo, and Lisa Jervis

    "Feminist Uses of Science and Technology"
    How and to what extent is scientific activism used to advance feminist, anti-oppression goals and to create science and health work for all women? What dilemmas and challenges do women confront in their quest for safer, alternative medicines? How does the lack of scientific information available about alternative medicines impact women? How did the grandmothers of Argentina put science and the technology of forensic anthropology to political use? How and to what extent is science and technology used to advance global human rights work? Why is it that many women who engage in feminist science and health work in other countries do not call themselves feminists? These are some of the issues that will be explored in this interesting and engaging plenary.
    Speakers: Rita Arditti, Cynthia Pearson, and Adriane Fugh-Berman, M.D.

    "Women and Globalism: Coalitions and Conflict across Difference"
    The embedded conference "Coalitions and Conflict Across Difference" will take place primarily on Saturday of the 2004 NWSA, with a final forum on women's spirituality on Sunday. The embedded conference will feature a morning plenary session, which will address the theme of the embedded conference in a global context. It will focus on the consequences of recent political, economic, and social developments for women internationally and ways in which women across national borders have banded together both to help shape and to challenge global issues. The panels, workshops, and roundtables of the embedded conference will bring together theory and practice, and provide examples of coalition-building from around the world.
    Speakers: M. Jacqui Alexander and Cynthia Enloe

    List of 2004 program committee members List of 2004 program committee members

    See the full program here

    NWSA Governance

    Below are the 2004 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.

    2004 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.