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[MARCH 15, 2024] “Feminist Foundations, Feminist Futures: Celebrating Signs at 50”, the annual WGSS Women’s History Month Symposium

Friday, March 15, 2024
9:00 am – 4:30 pm
Cabral Center at the John D. O’Bryant African American Institute
40 Leon Street
Boston, MA 02115
Free registration required!

The annual Women’s and Gender Studies (WGSS) Symposium at Northeastern University brings together feminist thought leaders—scholars, journalists, activists, and public intellectuals—to address an urgent concern of the moment from varieties of feminist perspectives. This year, the symposium will celebrate 50 years of Signs: Journal of Women Culture and Society on the occasion of the anniversary of its founding half a century ago. The journal has been in residence at Northeastern WGSS since 2015. The symposium will use the journal as a lens to examine the past, present, and future of women’s and gender studies and will pay special attention to public feminism and its place within the history of feminist studies.

Signs was founded in 1975 as part of an emergent tradition of feminist scholarship and has been publishing continuously ever since, establishing itself as a preeminent journal in the field of women’s, gender, and sexuality studies. At the time of the journal’s founding, its editorial staff sought to raise consciousness and develop theories about women’s oppression in both academic disciplines and society more broadly. The journal has consistently strived for intellectual nuance and robust interdisciplinarity, engaging with questions of concern to academics and activists. To honor half a century of publication, our fiftieth anniversary celebration aims to think big. This symposium addresses persistent conundrums and theoretical throughlines that have shaped our field for over half a century. Over the course of four roundtables (emphasizing discussion and dialogue), panelists will engage the continuing power of feminist theory, always cognizant of our own contested histories and imagined futures.

All invited panelists have published in the journal or its open-access arm, the Feminist Public Intellectuals Project (FPIP). The day will also include a video retrospective featuring past and current editors reflecting on the journal and what it has meant to the field. Panels include “Our Histories, Ourselves” where we will ask how we build on a 50-year legacy of intersectional, interdisciplinary feminist theory, “Feminist Praxis in Periolous Times” where we will discuss resources for reframing the present in ways that highlight the big questions and challenges that feminists face, “Public Feminism and the Place of Provocation” where we will address the importance of feminist voices in public debate and the strategies we can use to enable more feminist voices in mainstream media venues, and “Thinking Feminism for the Future” where we will imagine what a feminist future may look like and adress the resources we need to help build this imagined future. A full schedule is below.

This year’s events will begin at 9:15 on Friday, March 15 with a welcome from WGSS program director and Signs editor-in-chief Professor Suzanna Walters. Roundtables will be held throughout the day as scheduled below.

FRIDAY, MARCH 15

8:45 am: Check in begins

9:15 am: Welcome from the Program and the Journal

9:30 – 10:45 am: “Our Histories, Ourselves”
Lorna Bracewell (Flagler College), Beverly Guy-Sheftall (Spelman College), Sherie Randolph (Georgia Institute of Technology; Founder, Black Feminist Think Tank)
Moderator: Susan Ware (Signs Board of Associate Editors)

How do we build on our 50+-year legacy of intersectional, interdisciplinary, and international feminist theory to address the future of feminist thought and feminist resistance? What are the principal resources of our past? Which resources, especially, do we need to return to in this critical and challenging time? Which questions emerged that we might not have predicted, and which have faded in importance over the decades, and why?

10:45 – 11:00 am: Coffee/Snack Break

11:00 am – 12:15 pm: “Feminist Praxis in Perilous Times”

Mary Anne Case (University of Chicago Law School), Breanne Fahs (Arizona State University), Chandra Talpade Mohanty (Syracuse University)
Moderator: Durba Mitra (Signs Board of Associate Editors)

We live in a moment of extraordinary feminist gains as well as extraordinary feminist challenges. What resources are best for reframing the present in ways that highlight the big questions (and challenges) we face, without overwhelming or paralyzing us? What are the best resources and tactics for building momentum and keeping us moving forward, especially when feminist gains and values are under such attack? What are our resources for both resistance and analysis?

12:15 – 1:30: Lunch

A short video of Signs editors reflecting on the journal and their contributions to it will be shown.

1:30 – 3:00 pm: Public Feminism and the Place of Provocation

Marcie Bianco (Stanford Social Innovation Review), Soraya Chemaly (Women’s Media Center), Salamishah Tillett (Rutgers University – Newark), Andi Zeisler (Founder, Bitch Media),
Moderator: Suzanna Walters (Signs, Editor-in-Chief)

Signs has a strong tradition of engaging feminist theorizing with pressing political and social issues and more recently, of putting feminist scholars and activists in conversation. This roundtable, on Public Feminism, will continue that tradition by addressing the importance of feminist voices in public debate. What strategies enable more feminist voices in mainstream media venues? How do we keep activists, academics, and journalists talking to and learning from one another, even as we often speak in different registers?

3:00 – 3:15: Break

3:15 – 4:30: Thinking Feminism for the Future

Sophie Lewis (Brooklyn Institute for Social Research), Treva B. Lindsey (Ohio State University), Jane Ward (University of California – Santa Barbara)
Moderator: Carla Kaplan (Signs Board of Associate Editors, Chair)

While certain aspects of the present may have been hard to predict (such as the rollback of reproductive rights), other aspects can be seen as either predictable (such as anti-feminist/misogynist backlash) or as long-realized effects of many decades of political work and feminist thought (such as #MeToo). As feminists, how are we building political power to face unpredictable futures? How can we enhance the relationship between activists and academics going forward? What intellectual resources are needed to help us imagine a truly feminist future?

You are welcome to join for the whole day or to come for just one or more panels. Registration is required as space is limited. Please register for either the whole day or each panel you plan to attend. If you plan to attend every panel, you should register for the full day at once.

This will be the 10th annual WGSS Women’s History Month Symposium. The event is free and open to the public. Registration will be required.

Register for the event here!

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