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14th annual Feminist Theory Workshop continues the conversation online

<p>The 14th annual Feminist Theory Workshop at Duke will proceed with an impressive slate of speakers and scholars, as well as a new synchronous format.</p>

The 14th annual Feminist Theory Workshop at Duke will proceed with an impressive slate of speakers and scholars, as well as a new synchronous format.

The Feminist Theory Workshop (FSW) will be having its 14th annual event throughout the month of March, inviting three scholars from around the country to share their cutting-edge research in the field. Unlike their past workshop events, which were held over the course of two days, it will be spread across three Friday afternoons, each highlighting a different speaker. 

The Feminist Theory Workshop was founded by the Professor of Programs in Literature and Gender, Sexuality and Feminist Studies and former Margaret Taylor Smith director of Women's Studies Robyn Wiegman to fill an intellectual gap at the university.

“Feminist Theory Workshop really came about to give feminist theory scholars a voice,” Program Coordinator Julie Wynmor stated. 

Jean Fox O’Barr Professor in the Department of Gender, Sexuality & Feminist Studies, Jennifer Nash, will be moderating the conversation with Assistant Professor Patrice Douglass. Previously invited as a speaker in 2016, Nash brings a new perspective to the planning of FSW. 

In moving the workshop online, Nash, Wynmor and the rest of the GSF staff were concerned about losing its intensity, its shared comradery and its networking capabilities. 

“In some ways, it’s like a community,” Wynmor expressed about past workshops. “People know each other or they’ve heard of each other or they see them once a year at Feminist Theory Workshops.”

To amend this problem, speakers were invited to reconsider the format for their talks. These discussions led to two scholars switching from a lecture to a dialogue with the audience. 

“They will have the opportunity to engage with scholars in an informal conversation,” Nash said. “We won’t get to have our normal workshops which I think we are all mourning. We are all mourning not being in a physical space together, but I think we are excited for the opportunity to gather virtually to hear questions from the audience and see what conversation sparks.”

Now, the workshop is accessible for individuals around the world to attend. In the past, the lectures were live streamed through YouTube, and 18 to 25 international students were awarded scholarships to attend.  

“This will allow people the capacity to participate in the conversation by asking questions,” Nash noted.

As with previous years, the scholars asked to speak at the event are renowned in their field for their innovative research.

As Nash said: “We have these three folks who come from very different disciplinary orientations who share this kind of grammar of feminist theory but who think about what feminist theory is and practice feminist theory in distinct ways.”

The first scholar is Sharon P. Holland, Townsend Ludington Distinguished Professor of American Studies at the University of North Carolina Her talk will take place on March 12 from 2:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. EST. She was initially invited last year prior to the event being canceled. 

Dr. Holland takes an interdisciplinary approach to feminist theory, examining perspectives from Black studies, gender studies, queer theory and animal studies. Her past works, most notably “Raising the Dead: Readings of Death and (Black) Subjectivity” and “The Erotic Life of Racism,” examined the Black experience through these different lenses. As of late, she is continuing work on her project “hum:animal:blackness,” tying animal studies into conversations about mankind.  

“I think part of what will be so exciting about being in conversation with Sharon,” Nash expressed, “is to hear her talk more about the three lines between these projects, and how her research agenda has changed and evolved over the course of her career.”

On March 19 at the same time, Associate Professor of Government at Dartmouth College, Shatema Threadcraft, will share her most recent research. Threadcraft is known for her work “Intimate Justice: The Black Female Body and the Body Politic,” particularly in the field of political science. 

The event will conclude with a talk by Professor in the Department of Social and Cultural Analysis and the Director of the Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality at New York University Gayatri Gopinath on March 26 from 2:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. EST. Her two works, “Impossible Desires: Queer Diasporas and South Asian Public Cultures” and “Unruly Visions: The Aesthetic Practices of Queer Diaspora,” appeared at the forefront of queer diaspora theories and conceptions of belonging. 

The three speakers will carry on the tradition of revolutionary thinking at the Feminist Theory Workshops, enlivening research possibilities and inviting new and exciting conversations. FSW has become a signature feature of the GSF Department at Duke University. 

“It puts us on the map. There are a lot of Women’s Studies departments, Gender, Sexuality, & Feminist Studies departments around the county,” Wynmor stated, “and I think that hosting this event — which is very different than any event of its kind — allows people to know about Gender, Sexuality, & Feminist Studies but also to know about Duke and what’s important.”

When asked about the value of FSW, Nash responded, “Gender theory is the most cutting edge space in the university. It is a space where we are thinking about gender, class, sexuality, and nation together in a moment when those intersections have never seemed more urgent or pressing.”

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