News & Updates: NWSA History

NWSA, A History 2011 – 32nd National Conference

Thursday, June 4, 2020  
Share |
Cover of the 2011 conference program book

32nd National Conference | "Feminist Transformations” | November 10-13 | Atlanta, Georgia

Program Highlights

Once again set in Atlanta, Georgia, the 32nd National Conference in 2011 sought to continue having the "Difficult Dialogues" raised by the two previous conferences and led by women of color, especially the critical conversations on national borders and transnational feminism. In the months prior to the 2011 conference, Georgia legislature passed the Georgia House Bill 87 that required businesses in Georgia to use E-Verify to verify prospective employees' eligibility to work in the US legally; granted police broader rights to determine the immigration status of some suspects; made the intentional transportation of undocumented immigrants while a crime is being committed punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 and a prison sentence of up to a year; and punished undocumented workers convicted of using fake identification to gain employment with up to 15 years in prison and up to a $250,000 fine. The conference organizers highlighted and challenged this unjust and xenophobic law both in several ways, including a plenary and special events:

"NWSA leaders and conference organizers believe that the anti-immigration legislation in Georgia, HB 87, will undoubtedly limit immigrants' rights to social justice as well as basic human rights; we view this law as one that conflicts with our feminist values and commitments. We also believe that oppressive measures like HB 87 can be addressed through education and action, and we plan to address the issues driving HB 87 and the struggle against it at our conference. Our conference theme, 'Feminist Transformations,' speaks directly to the potential of feminist organizing to challenge anti-immigrant and xenophobic legislation reflected in HB 87 and similar measures nationally.

"We are pleased to announce a series of conference speakers, sessions, events, and actions that reflect our response to the legislation."

    Plenary – "Resisting Anti-Immigration Backlash: Feminists Respond to HB 87 and Beyond"
    Laura Briggs (University of Massachusetts), Michelle Lapointe (Southern Poverty Law Center), Anna Sampaio (Santa Clara University) will consider immigration from historical, political, public policy; and legal perspectives in light of recent anti-immigrant legislation in Georgia and nationally.

    Representative Stacey Abrams Welcome
    Stacey Y. Abrams is the House Minority Leader for the Georgia General Assembly and State Representative for the 84th House District. She is the first woman to lead either party in the Georgia General Assembly and is the first African-American to lead the House of Representatives. Abrams received her J.D. from the Yale Law School. She graduated from the LB] School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin with an M.P.Aff. in public policy. She earned a B.A. in Interdisciplinary Studies (Political Science, Economics and Sociology) from Spelman College, magna cum laude.
    Abrams has spoken forcefully against HB 87. She has pointed out that this bill would cause the moral blindness, the social ostracization of legal immigrants and economic paralysis across the state.

    Lunchtime Trainings with Somos Georgia/We are Georgia Organizers
    Meet with local organizers to learn about the scope and impact of HB 87, its relationship to similar measures nationally, as well as how you can make a difference.

    NWSA Statements of Support
    NWSA Conference as Sanctuary Zone
    The National Women's Studies Association has agreed to become a Somos Georgia Sanctuary Zone for the duration of the conference. A Sanctuary Zone is a place where people can gather to work towards the well-being of all communities, and a place that can provide a place of sanctuary for the persecuted.

    NWSA Support for the Buy Spot Campaign
    NWSA will distribute to all conference attendees a Somos Georgia Buy Spot list. Buy Spots are business that welcome immigrants of all statuses, and that pledge to not allow police to enter their premises for the sole purpose of checking immigration status.

    NWSA Support for Local Organizers
    NWSA will provide exhibit hall booth space for Somos Georgia/We Are Georgia organizers. Visit them in the exhibit hall to learn more about their work.

In continuing these conversations on borders, human rights, and immigration, the rest of the 2011 conference's special programming also emphasized the active involvement of the field and its constituents in creating local and transnational change. Below are the Keynote and Plenary Sessions, as well as the Author Meets Critics session, a new session format that is "designed to bring authors of recent, cutting-edge books, deemed to be important contributions to the field of women’s, gender, and sexuality studies, together with discussants chosen to provide a variety of viewpoints."

    Keynote – "Feminist Transformations"
    Ruth Wilson Gilmore, a professor of geography in the doctoral program in earth and environmental sciences, is known as an activist as well as an intellectual and is the past president of the American Studies Association (ASA).

    She examined how political and economic forces produced California's prison boom in Golden Gulag: Prisons, Surplus, Crisis, and Opposition in Globalizing California (University of California Press, 2007), which was recognized by ASA with its Lora Romero First Book Award.

    Gilmore's wide-ranging research interests also include race and gender, labor and social movements, uneven development, and the African diaspora. She works regularly with community groups and grassroots organizations and is known for the broad accessibility of her research. She holds a Ph.D. in economic geography and social theory from Rutgers University.

    Plenary – "Feminist Transformations and the Disciplines"
    Linda Martin Alcoff (Hunter College), Michael Kimmel (State University of New York, Stony Brook), and Trinh Minh-ha (University of California, Berkeley) will discuss how feminist scholars have made "(inter) disciplinary trouble in traditional disciplines and how we can understand and assess the limitations and inroads available in these intellectual sites.

    Plenary – "Women's Studies without Borders"
    Barbara Ransby (University of Illinois, Chicago) and Lisa Yun Lee (Jane Addams Hull-House Museum) will discuss their collaborative work and their successful efforts in transgressing barriers and constructions that separate the "ivory tower"from the "real world."

    AMC – Making Up the Difference: Women, Beauty, and Direct Selling in Ecuador by Erynn Masi de Casanova
    This first in-depth study of a cosmetics direct selling organization in Latin America uses women's experiences of informal employment to illuminate our understandings of work and gender, offering an analysis of the global and local economic conditions that make selling cosmetics an appealing option.

    AMC – Gendered Citizenships: Transnational Perspectives on Knowledge Production, Political Activism, and Culture edited by Kia Lilly Caldwell, Kathleen Coll, Tracy Fisher, Renya Ramirez, and Lok Siu
    Gendered Citizenships is the product of collective scholarship undertaken by the Gender and Cultural Citizenship Working Group. It explores the ways in which, feminist conceptualizations of intersectionality, feminist approaches to citizenship and ethnographic studies of cultural citizenship allow us to reframe our thinking about knowledge production, political activism, and culture.

    AMC – Digital Dead End: Fighting for Social Justice in the Information Age by Virginia Eubanks
    The idea that technology will pave the road to prosperity has been promoted through boom and bust. Today we are told that broadband access, high-tech jobs, and cutting-edge science will pull us out of our current economic downturn and move us toward social equality. In Digital Dead End, Virginia Eubanks argues that to believe this is to engage in a kind of magical thinking: a technological utopia will come about simply because we want it to. This vision of the miraculous power of high-tech development is driven by flawed assumptions about race, class, gender, citizenship and politics. The realities of the information age are more complicated, particularly for poor and working-class women and families.

    One of the questions addressed by the book, which is based on four years of participatory action research with women living in the YWCA community of Troy, NY, is how engaged scholarship can both support progressive social movements and create better knowledge. This Author-Meets-Critics session will be focused on how, in the context of the growing immigrants' rights struggle in Georgia and beyond, NWSA members can become more informed allies and more effective forces for social, economic and political change.

    AMC – Spiritual Mestizaje: Religion, Gender, Race, and National in Contemporary Chicana Narrative by Theresa Delgadillo
    In this volume, Delgadillo contends that spiritual mestizaje is central to Anzaldua's life and thought, and that it provides a critical framework for interpreting contemporary Chicana narratives. Defining spiritual mestizaje as a transformative process involving a radical, sustained critique of oppression, and a renewed engagement with the sacred, Delgadillo analyzes the concept in Anzaldua's work and in relation to existing theologies and theories of oppressions. Reading contemporary Chicana narratives, she critically examines the literary and visual technologies through which Chicana novels and documentary films engage spiritual mestizaje. In powerful cultural critiques, Chicanas offers alternative visions of spirituality as they challenge normative categories of gender, sexuality, nation, and race. Well-known scholars and critics of Women's Studies, Chicano/a Studies and Religious Studies will discuss this volume in light of debate and research in these three fields.

See the full program here

From the NWSA President

Dear Colleagues,

As National Women's Studies Association president and conference co-chair, I am happy to welcome you to Feminist Transformations. Feminist Transformations will extend the conversations begun in the past two years by NWSA on "Difficult Dialogues" by exploring how we as feminists and women's studies scholars are transforming the academy—even as it experiences its own transformation—and how it has also transformed us: how we understand and assess the limitations and inroads we have made in transforming our relationship to traditional disciplines; and how we continue the struggle to make social justice a central aim of our scholarship and a core value of this society.

We know that such concerns demand our urgent attention, especially as we gather to meet in Atlanta, Georgia, where recent anti-immigrant legislation will undoubtedly limit immigrants' rights to social justice as well as basic human rights; we view this law as one that conflicts with our feminist values and commitments. We have chosen to use our time here to raise our individual and collective voices to speak out against oppressive measures like HB 87 because we believe education and action are important steps in mobilizing opposition to such policies throughout the U.S. I encourage you to support the work of local organizers who will be present at the conference and take part in sessions that reflect our response to both local and national anti-immigration policies.

The program committee and staff have worked hard to proved [sic] a dynamic program, which I hope you will find both challenging and enjoyable. I remain excited about NWSA's future and the role you can play in its growth, and once again I welcome you to the conference.


Bonnie Thornton Dill
NWSA President 2010-2012
Dean, College of Arts and Humanities University of Maryland

NWSA Governance

Below are the 2011 NWSA governance members. You can see the current Governing Council members, conference co-chairs, and staff members here.

2011 Governance Members

See the rest of the history project here

Have any pictures, stories, or fun facts from past conferences? Let us know! Email us at

If you'd like to help us keep making NWSA history, consider donating!


NWSA Program Archives

banner image of

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.