Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Thinking Gender 2014: Deadline for Submissions is October 14, 2013

Thinking Gender, CSW's 24th Annual Graduate Student Research Conference will take place on February 7, 2014. 

This conference, which schedules about 80 presentations over the whole day from 8 am to 5 pm, is highly valuable resource for graduate students studying gender, sexuality, and women from around the world. Thinking Gender provides a rare opportunity for graduate students by providing panel respondents who received the papers in advance of the conference and so have the time to prepare substantial and incisive comments. Senior faculty volunteer to be respondents because they know that their participation will be helpful to the new scholars—presenters and audience—in their field. As a result, the conference offers its participants the chance to receive in-depth feedback on their work, in addition to generative questions and comments from panels’ audience members.  

Attendees of Thinking Gender have often praised it as a comfortable atmosphere in which scholars from different disciplines can meet to present and discuss their work, and to form relationships with other scholars. The conference’s panel participants often come from hugely disparate fields, but are united by their strong interest in issues pertaining to women, gender and sexuality.  As a result, the conference allows each guest to survey work very different from his or her own.  Part of the philosophy behind Thinking Gender is that scholars from hugely different fields might, unexpectedly, come to inform each other’s research.

Mila Zuo, this year’s Thinking Gender coordinator, is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Cinema and Media Studies at UCLA. Mila Zuo is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of Cinema and Media Studies at UCLA. Her dissertation is on body politics in contemporary Chinese cinema and diasporic cinematic cultures. She is particularly interested in issues of embodiment and affect, and how they relate to spectatorial pleasures and dis-pleasures provoked by the female body. When not writing her dissertation, she enjoys creating video work. During her years at UCLA, she has delivered three papers at Thinking Gender. As a presenter and now as coordinator, Zuo values the conference’s interdisciplinarity: “I think that there are implicit limitations to straight disciplinary work insofar as interdisciplinary approaches can help to illuminate aspects of your work and research that you may not have considered before,” says Zuo.  “And there are such brilliant researchers in every single field, so I don’t see how it could not benefit us to incorporate some of their research into our own work.” 

Thinking Gender’s previous plenary sessions exemplify the diversity of topics and fields: 

Feminism and Biopower
Thinking Gender in Space, Place and Dance
Making it Our Business: Development, Coffee, Sex, and the Workforce
Intersectionality Acts from the Margin
Changing the His(story): Women in Film and Television.  

This year, some (although not all) of the topics that the Planning Committee especially seeks to cover in the conference include feminist research on privacy, diversity and/or demographics in the age of big data; appetites; gender, sexuality, and the new brain sciences, and the perils of “postfeminism” (for more topics of special interest, please see the call for papers).

This year, there is also a separate Call for Submissions to the Plenary Session. The topic is 
"Pleasure, Displeasure, and Ethics." Is pleasure problematic? We are looking for papers on topics that concern feminist and queer studies in relation to pleasure, displeasure, and ethics. For the past several decades, feminists have engaged debates concerning, for example, pleasure and danger, “guilty pleasures,” and feminism as anti-pleasure. Clearly a contested notion, pleasure poses theoretical, and sometimes practical problems for many feminist academics and scholars. Are there “good” and “bad” forms of pleasure? What kinds of ethical frameworks are relevant to discussions about pleasure? What are the politics of pleasure facing women, girls, and LGBTQ people in the contemporary age? How is pleasure normalized and/or resisted in hetero-patriarchies? We would also like to consider the consequences of pleasure, whether in material terms (political, economic, social, industrial), or within the affective-emotional-sensorial realms (happiness, excitement, guilt, shame). We invite scholarship engaging compelling, substantive, and even provocative approaches to this subject. We also welcome intersectional analyses concerning gender, race, sexuality, culture, and/or religion as they factor into pleasurable enterprises and practices.

Zuo points out that one of Thinking Gender’s goals is to circulate the scholarship presented there beyond the conference itself: “I hope this year we will receive the widest possible submissions from all over the world,” says Zuo. “I hope that the work that the scholars do at the conference will be recognized in the greater sphere, whether it’s through social media, or through the CSW website, or through the California Digital Library.” CSW does this using various multimedia platforms, including the eScholarship repository at California Digital Library. All presenters can have their presentations uploaded to the CSW site at the California Digital Library:

Zuo also prizes the personal, professional, and intellectual in-person communications that take place at the conference. “It’s important to foster community, and for participants to share one another’s work,” says Zuo.  “I always learn new things at the conference and am inspired by scholars in all different fields and the work that they do.” 

--Ben Raphael Sher

Ben Sher is a doctoral student in the Department of Cinema and Media Studies at UCLA and a graduate student researcher at CSW.

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