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NWSA, A History 2008 – 29th National Conference

Wednesday, May 27, 2020  
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Cover of the 2008 conference program book

29th National Conference | "Resisting Hegemonies: Race and Sexual Politics in Nation, Region, Empire" | June 19-22 | Cincinnati, Ohio

Program Highlights

For the first time, the 2008 NWSA National Conference program book offered an extended explanation of the conference theme, "Resisting Hegemonies: Race and Sexual Politics in Nation, Region, Empire." Below is a copy of that text.

    From its role in the time of slavery as a borderland space between North and South to its recent history of racist police violence, community uprisings, federal oversight, and homophobic statutes (subsequently repealed), Cincinnati reflects contemporary political struggles that are regionally unique as well as representative of how politics are manifested in many regions nationally and internationally.

    Confronting racism and homophobia are central to the theoretical work of women's and gender studies and constitute ongoing struggles among the field's practitioners. In the past, Black feminist thought and LGBT, queer, and sexuality studies have offered productive and important challenges to the field of women's studies. Emphasizing race and sexual politics in this conference theme serves to honor these major theoretical contributions and to remind us that undoing the long history of racism and homophobia in women's and gender studies, Cincinnati, and beyond is an ongoing process that requires further study and action.

    Foregrounding local, national, and international politics allows us to examine power relations and the differences they construct. This Call situates race and sexual politics in relation to nation, region, and empire in recognition of the importance of contemporary postcolonial and transnational feminist inquiry to such examinations. For example, feminist inquiry can focus on the structural building blocks of empire, namely regional integration projects that support neoliberal globalization while militarizing borders to keep migrants out.

    Likewise queer scholarship helps identify heteronormative policies as methods by which exclusionist nationalist and hegemonic imperial projects are carried out. And putting feminist area studies in conversation with feminist ethnic/diaspora studies in conversation also enable us to make the connections necessary to resist empire "at home" and "abroad." Finally, these foci can also extend to the arena of electoral politics in this presidential election year, where race and gender issues will play a critical role.

    The overall theme of "resisting hegemonies" was broad enough to invite various forms of interdisciplinary and disciplinary feminist inquiry as well as the full array of feminist pedagogical, activist, cultural, and spiritual work.

The program also laid out conference sessions related to the two subthemes: "Politics of Nation, Region, and Empire" and "Race and Sexual Politics." The former included sessions like "Imploding the Master's House: Subverting Hegemonic Discourses on Race, Sexual Politics, and Nationality" and "Resistance Is Fertile: Direct Action In The Queer, Animal, And Earth Liberation Movements," while the latter included "Sexual Politics And Global Hegemonies: Negotiating Heteronormativities In Trans/National Context" and "Towards A Politics Of Critical Relationality: Navigating The Excesses Of Identitarian And Postrace/Postfeminist Discourses"

True to the theme and subthemes, the conference was headlined by a Keynote Address by Patricia Hill Collins, social theorist and writer of the groundbreaking books Black Feminist Thought and Black Sexual Politics, among many others. While the 2008 conference did not include the usual Plenary Sessions, it did hold a slate of other special sessions. Introduced at the 2006 National Conference, the Critical Issues Sessions were a central part of the 2008 programming. Below are the titles and abstracts of each of the Critical Issues Sessions.

    "Academic Publishing in Women's Studies"
    This session will offer practical advice about how to get published in women's studies, from women's studies journals to books and edited collections. Get tips on selecting chapters for journal publication versus developing a full academic book proposal. Understand how the journal submission process and timeline works, and gain insight into interpreting reviewer reports. Learn the best strategies for identifying a press, approaching an editor, developing a proposal, and understanding the publishing market.

    "Promoting Racial Diversity and Inclusion"
    This session will examine programs and initiatives to promote racial diversity in organizations, curricula, and staffing, among others. Session leaders will discuss efforts underway as they relate to curriculum development, a National Council for Research on Women project titled "Diversifying the Leadership of Women's Research, Policy & Advocacy Centers," and NWSA anti-racism projects. Diversifying the Leadership of Women's Research, Policy, and Advocacy Centers is a Ford Foundation-funded project aimed at promoting the leadership of women of color from historically underrepresented groups in the United States within NCRW and its affiliated research, policy and advocacy member centers.

    "Queer Pedagogies"
    Our session approaches queer pedagogy from the assumption that it represents an intersection between queer theory and critical pedagogy. At the same time, we are leery of certain strands of queer scholarship which seem to position queer pedagogy as a kind of afterthought to academically-hip queer theory.

    As William Spurlin reminds us, "teachinq does matter as a form of queer inquiry and social intervention to the extent that it remains dedicated to deeper understandings of cultural literacy, resistance to discursive and intellectual colonization in a (hetero)normative academy and social order, credible social change, and more democratic spheres of classroom and public deliberation" (15).

    Building on this belief, we examine the issue of feminist collaboration from a queer theoretical perspective. Focusing particularly on our collaboration as authors of Finding Out: LGBT history, politics, and culture (to be published by SAGE Press in 2008), we describe our collaborative process and theorize about the dynamics of that process. We also relate the issues of collaboration and the producing of textbooks to a discussion of queer pedagogy, including their perceived positioning in the academic hierarchy.

The 2008 conference also hosted the second NWSA Tribute Panel, "Tribute to Black Feminist Thought," which was " intended to honor past scholarship that has set new directions for the field. 2008 will feature a tribute to tribute to [sic] black feminist thought, emerging both from within and beyond the belly of US American empire, most particularly embodied within the work of Audre Lorde." The panel speakers included Kaila Adia Story, Melinda L. de Jesús, and Emi Koyama.

A slate of special events was also organized this year. They included a musical performance by Amy Carol Webb and Shelley Graff. The performance, titled "Songvoices: Resisting Hegemonies," included "songs about women who consciously chose to change the world through resistance" and was intended " to affirm the many amazing local, regional, national, and international women who not only resisted hegemonies through their choices, but whose courageous, pioneering spirits envisioned a new paradigm for women's power." Kathy Y. Wilson performed a "mash-up of rants, nightmares, open letters and quasi-word associations" under the name "Your Negro Tour Guide" that confronted normative depictions of Black people and Blackness in the U.S. And for the first time, the the Women's Spirituality Interest Group organized a Full Moon Celebration and Midsummer Ritual.

List of 2008 program committee members

See the full program here

From the Executive Director

Dear Colleague,

I am delighted to welcome you to the National Women's Studies Association 29th annual meeting.

Our conference theme is "Resisting Hegemonies: Race and Sexual Politics in Nation, Region, Empire." Confronting racism and homophobia are central to the theoretical work of women's and gender studies and constitute ongoing struggles among the field's practitioners. In the past, Black feminist thought and LGBT, queer, and sexuality studies have offered productive and important challenges to the field of women's studies. Emphasizing race and sexual politics in this conference theme serves to honor these major theoretical contributions and to remind us that undoing the long history of racism and homophobia in women's and gender studies, Cincinnati, and beyond is an ongoing process that requires further study and action.

The conference will include some exciting features that build our past successes. A Tribute Panel celebrates important texts that have set new directions for the field, and we are pleased to feature a tribute to black feminist thought.

The conference program will also include a series of scheduled networking events for various constituencies within NWSA; check the program book to find scheduled meetings of interest. Finally, the exhibit area will include poster session presentations. These features are all intended to create an intellectually engaging conference experience for attendees, offering many opportunities for participants to expand their professional networks and push their thinking in new directions.

When the conference concludes I will look forward to hearing your thoughts on these offerings, and your ideas for future conferences. I am also eager to share in conversations that will emerge here about the state of our field. In today's political climate, feminist voices, ideas, and action offer needed correctives, re-framing public debates that frequently turn on gender myths and assumptions.

Once again, welcome to Cincinnati!

Best wishes,

Allison B. Kimmich
Executive Director

From the NWSA President

Dear Colleagues:

Welcome to my home town and to NWSA's 29th annual conference! I am very pleased to welcome you to Cincinnati, the home of Greater's ice cream. I hope you've had a chance to look at all the wonderful information in "Welcome to Cincinnati: A Brief Feminist Guide for Conference Goers" that Anne Runyan, head of the University of Cincinnati's Department of Women's Studies, provided in the spring NWSAction. This issue of NWSAction also included "A Short (and far from complete) Race, Class, and Gender History" that Anne developed.

We do want you to attend the many stimulating sessions, hear Patricia Hill Collins's keynote address, buy new books or other items from our vendors, and meet many new and old friends. But, in your spare time, you may want to take a short walk up the street to the Isaac M. Wise Temple, the birthplace of Reform Judaism, and to City Hall, where Cincinnati's African American and women mayors have presided over the city. There's probably some event happening on Fountain Square, and don't be surprised to find flying pig statues in various places. Check out the Cincinnati women's organizations which are showcasing their work in the exhibit hall or ride the Route 17 bus up to Northside, the neighborhood where I grew up and now one of the centers of the city's gay and lesbian community.

Last year, we celebrated our thirtieth anniversary as an organization and marked the conclusion of a strategic planning process that was made possible through funding from the Ford Foundation. We are now working on the implementation process for that plan, and there is much exciting work ahead. Some of it may see bureaucratic, like discussing and, I hope, adopting new by-laws, but all of it is designed to make us a stronger organization.

At our Governing Council meeting in January, we decided to focus on five major areas of concern, including advancing women's studies scholarship and continuing our anti-oppression and anti-racism work. To do this, we need your support. Please become involved through constituent groups or as committee members. Please attend the Membership Assembly meeting Friday evening and share your perspectives with members of the Delegate Assembly. During the year, feel free to use our discussion boards to share your ideas. Next year, consider running for a position on the Governing Council, as a Member at Large, or as a member of the Conflict Resolution Committee.

As part of the strategic planning process, we will be moving the conference to November next year. We will be meeting in Atlanta, and I trust there will be many opportunities to explore the city's rich African American heritage while we are there. Moving the conference to November should allow us to offer more opportunities to focus on job opportunities for our members, and we hope that those of you who will have openings will plan to interview at the meeting.

Finally, as I close my two-year term as president, I want to welcome Beverly Guy-Sheftall as the next NWSA president and thank everyone with whom it has been my privilege to work for your passion, your commitment to NWSA, and your commitment to social justice.


Barb Howe
NWSA President, 2006-2008

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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.