WGSS Grad Students Travel to Duke Feminist Theory Conference

On March 21 and 22, 2014, the 8th Annual Feminist Theory Workshop took place at Duke University. Erin Tobin, Phoebe Chen and I headed toward North Carolina to attend to this amazing event that required the immediate presence of WGSS students!

The keynote speakers at this year’s conference were: arch-famous Theoretical Physicist and Feminist Karen Barad from UC Santa Cruz; Professor Penelope Deutscher from Northwestern University; Professor Karen Engle from University of Texas; and Professor Alondra Nelson from Columbia University. They were amazing in four different ways and opened our senses to new realities that we weren’t aware of!

During the Friday session Professor Deutscher read a piece called: “This Death Which is Not One” where she explores a “conversation” between Derrida and Foucault and links both of them to issues such as the death penalty. It was an engaging and challenging talk, it made us think of the philosophers in our department and how they would have enjoyed it (Shannon Winnubst and Ellie Flohn). Later on, Professor Barad used quantum physics to complicate our conception of linearity of time called: “Re-membering the Future, Re(con)figuring the Past: Temporality, Materiality, and Justice-to-come”. We followed Dr. Barad through a presentation that engaged us in subatomic physics and made us think about justice. Professor Barad is also the co-Director of a program called Science and Justice in UCSC. The program is interdisciplinary and it’s aim is to think about justice while doing science, and not after (like it is normally done).

Saturday, Professor Nelson talked about “DNA Diasporas” in a truly interesting talk where she explained how DNA is being used to trace ancestry, by private companies, and how this research has a particularly deep meaning for the African American community. This is partly due to the US denial of ethnic politics to the African American people. Dr. Nelson used as a starting point in her conference the Combahee River Collective statement, to talk about identity politics and to remind us all where things come from. She then moved on to the New York African Burial Ground Project that was found in 1991 and explained how this finding was highly politicized. In the afternoon session Professor Engle’s talk was called: “The Grip of Sexual Violence: Reading UN Security Council Resolutions on Human Security”. In it, she explained three trends in human rights: sexual violence as the quintessential harm of war; criminal enforcement; and the use of celebrities for the cause (celebrity diplomacy she called it).

The conference was fascinating. We met feminists from all over the country and we had the chance to spend the weekend in a great University! We highly recommend the workshop and we are so grateful to the Department for giving us the opportunity to make this trip. We met people from Indiana University who told us that they would love to do the same thing OSU does and sponsor some of their students the next year. So we even inspired another university! – Sara Rodriguez Arguelles-Riva (PhD)

Pictured left to right: Sara Rodriguez Arguelles-Riva, Pheobe Chen, and Erin Tobin


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