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NWSA, A History 2016 – 37th National Conference

Friday, June 12, 2020  
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Cover of the 2016 conference program book

37th National Conference | "Decoloniality" | November 10-13 | Montréal, Québec

Program Highlights

Decoloniality took center stage at NWSA's 2016 National Conference in Montréal, Québec. Not only did the conference take place for the first time outside of U.S. territory, then-NWSA President Vivian May included what may have been the first land acknowledgement in the program's presidential welcome letter, citing the territory as Tiotià:ke, unceded Mohawk/Kahnawake territory. Noted scholar of Indigenous descent and Indigenous Studies Leanne Betasamosake Simpson gave the Keynote Address. Indigenous Studies and Indigenous scholars also made up the Plenary Sessions and President Session:

    Plenary: "Decolonizing Institutions"
    Speakers: Karen Leong (mod.), Amanda Lock Swarr (mod.), Julia Chinyere Oparah, Audra Simpson, and Kim TallBear
    Tapping into legacies of critical resistance and self- determination, this plenary examines what it means to decolonize institutions. In addition to considering strategies for disrupting settler colonial logics and founding violences embedded in a range of institutions, presenters discuss how to reconceive institutional formations and relations in ways that do not reinforce legacies of trauma and conquest. Rejecting environmental degradation, territorial dispossession, sexual violence, carceral/militarized state practices, coloniality’s divisive dichotomies, and the systematic destruction of languages and cultures, the plenary speakers draw from their experiences with community organizing, radical politics, and social justice work to reimagine the contours of education, law, and science.

    Plenary: "Performing Resistance"
    Speakers: Karma Chávez (mod.), Laura Gutiérrez (mod.), Natalie Diaz, Favianna Rodriguez, and Tali Taliwah
    Highlighting how creative world-making practices have long been crucial to anti-colonial, queer, and coalitional resistances and radical revisionings, this plenary explores the dynamic relationship between performance and social change and engages a decolonial imaginary as vital to producing transformative consciousness. Drawing on experiential knowledges, powerful storytelling, and rhythmic resonances, the presenters address how creative praxis is pivotal to dismantling oppression, contesting empire, and producing new mythologies and ways of living/loving/being/moving/ speaking/creating. Collectively, these artist-activists/activist- artists offer fierce poetics, powerful visions/visuals, and deep insights into the role of the creative in radical transformation, organizing for collective action, and relational (re)imaginings.

    Presidential Session: "Decoloniality, Intersectionality, and Critical Resistance"
    Speakers: Vivian M. May (mod.), Sirma Bilge, Anna Carastathis, and Ange-Marie Hancock
    This session focuses on three new books about intersectionality that highlight its activist roots, complex history, and radical possibilities: Intersectionality, by Patricia Hill Collins and Sirma Bilge (Wiley, 2016); Intersectionality: An Intellectual History, by Ange-Marie Hancock (Oxford, 2016); and Intersectionality: Origins, Contestations, Horizons, by Anna Carastathis (Nebraska, 2016). Drawing on their work across borders and disciplines, the authors will discuss:
    • How to disrupt U.S.-centric, ahistorical, and/or depoliticized approaches to intersectionality;
    • How intersectionality “travels” and is applied (or misapplied) as a critical tool, political lens, and school of thought;
    • How intersectionality remains relevant for social justice work and radical politics;
    • The need to take up decolonial and intersectional feminist projects together—to delegitimize settler logics, challenge state power, generate effective coalitions, contest endemic violence, or focus on sovereignty politics in new ways, for example.

The conference subthemes – "Unsettling Settler Logics," "Movements and Migrations," "Bodies and Biopolitics," "Borders and Be/Longings,” “World-Making and Resistant Imaginaries" – gave space for presenters to contextualize their work and their positions within the narrative, power, realities, and legacies of colonialism. Below are examples of sessions from the 2016 conference that centered decoloniality and Indigenous Studies.

    "Decolonizing Reproductive Justice in Theory and Practice: Toward Indigenous Self Determination"
    Papers: "Colonial Intrusions, the “Sixties Scoop,” and Coercive Sterilization: One Indigenous Woman’s Story;" "Decolonizing Feminism: Reproductive Justice in Support of Indigenous Self Determination;" and "Cogenerating Knowledge with Urban Indigenous Women and Allies to Foster Reproductive Justice: Reflecting on Collaborative Action-based Project Processes"

    "Embodiments of Race, Gender, Sexuality, and Indigeneity in the Criminal Punishment System"
    Papers: "Perverted Justice: Female Juvenile Delinquency and Sexual and Racial Category Formation in U.S. Interwar Popular Culture;" "Postcolonial Colonialism on a Prison Island: Intimate Interactions between Political Prisoners and Indigenous Women on Buru Island as a Site of Colonization, 1969–79;" "Repurposing Zalba et al.: Prison Sociology and Securing Prisoners’ Parental Rights;" "The Indigenous Woman: Canada’s Necropolitical Prisoner;" and "Uniform Feelings: U.S. Police Psychology and Emotional Labor"

    "Reframing the Narratives of the Settler State"
    Papers: "Beyond “Decolonized Skies”: Unsettling Civilians and their Anti-Drone Artwork;" "Positioning Academic Success among Refugee- background Students within the Logics of Resistance;" and "Unsettling Colonial Logic in France: From Charlie Hebdo to Génération Bataclan"

    "Violent, Self-Destructive, and Resilient? Disablement at the 'Horizon of Death'"
    Papers: "Understanding Psychiatric Violence in Immigration Detention in Ontario;" "Rehabilitation as Benevolence: Canadian Disaster Intervention in the Philippines;" and "Governing Indigenous and Racialized Bodies through Public Health and Safety Measures"

    "Unsettling Settler Discourses with Disability, Native, and Third World Ontologies"
    Papers: "Decolonized Disablement, Cripped Coloniality: Toward Decolonial Disability Justice" and "We Never Named It “Decolonial” It’s Just Us..."

    "Trans* Lives, Cis Privilege and Decolonial Interventions"
    Papers: “'Everyday (De)colonialism' and Trans* Health Activism;" "A People’s Investigation Against the Militarization of Care: the In-Custody Death of Kayla Xavier Moore;" "Destabilizing the Cisgender Body;" and "Insisting on Life: Popular Epidemiology and Trans* Life Expecte\ancy [sic] in Argentina"

    "Reconceptualizing Sport: From International Solidarity to Multicultural Imperialism"
    Papers: "Marathoning and Menstruation: The Myth of Frailty;" "Muslim American Women in Sports: Constraints, Challenges, and Empowerment;" "The Right Kind of Other: Multicultural Imperialism and Flexible Citizenship in Women’s Olympic Beach Volleyball;" and “'Olympics Without Apartheid' in Rio: Brazilian- Palestine Solidarity Against Israeli Securitization"

    "Violence, Prisons, and the Settler State"
    Papers: "A Recipe to Resist Colonialism: Strategies of First Nations Incarcerated Women and Artistic Inquiry;" "Feminist Politics of Prison and Police Reform: Prioritize Pro Se Prisoner Empowerment;" "La Prison Raciale: Interroger le Système Pénal Québécois;" "Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women in Canada and Grassroots Strategies for Change;" and "Unsettling Settler Logics in the Courts of Women"
List of 2016 program committee members

See the full program here

From the NWSA President

Dear Colleagues,

As National Women’s Studies Association president and conference co-chair (with Adela C. Licona, University of Arizona), I am delighted to welcome you to Decoloniality. NWSA 2016 has over 1,600 registrants and nearly 600 breakout sessions, making our meeting in Montréal one of our largest conferences to date!

As a worldview, decoloniality denaturalizes and disrupts settler colonial practices, structures, and ideas, including settler colonial violences, logics, myths, stories, institutions, affects, desires, embodiments, aesthetics, categories, cartographies, and politics. Its diverse genealogy includes longstanding processes of refusal and resistance. Decolonial work exposes how coloniality is not “past;” simultaneously, it traces forms of critical alliance and creative resistance, showing possibilities for (and the necessity of) decolonial being/knowing/loving/resisting/creating (L. Simpson 2015). Our meeting location, Montréal (Tiotià:ke, unceded Mohawk/Kahnawake territory—territoire autochtone non-cédé), is significant. A city shaped by the juxtaposition of multiple languages, cultures, histories, and imaginaries, it is a place long marked by political contest and myriad forms of resistance.

In addition to Leanne Simpson’s exciting keynote on Thursday, November 10th at 7:00 pm, and our dynamic plenaries, Authors Meet Critics sessions, pre- conferences, panel presentations, receptions, and other events (see, I want to highlight this year’s Presidential session—Decoloniality, Intersectionality, and Critical Resistance will take place on Friday, November 11, from 11:00–12:15 pm, featuring Sirma Bilge, Anna Carastathis, and Ange-Marie Hancock, with myself as moderator.

I’d also like to draw your attention to our extended Membership Assembly meeting on Saturday, November 12 from 12:30–1:30 pm. With this stand-alone program slot, NWSA members have an opportunity to share concerns and ideas with one another as well as with NWSA leadership: we look forward to seeing you there.

The conference committee and NWSA staff have worked hard to develop a dynamic program, which I hope you will find both thought-provoking and invigorating. I am excited about NWSA’s future and the role we can all play in its continued growth: once again, welcome to the conference!


Vivian M. May
NWSA President 2014–2016
Director, Humanities Center and Professor of Women’s & Gender Studies
Syracuse University

NWSA Governance

Below are the 2016 NWSA governance members. You can see the current Governing Council members, conference co-chairs, and staff members here.

2016 Governance Members 2016 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.