Myesterious Things: The 11th Annual Graduate Symposium on Women’s and Gender History

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

"Mysterious Things”: The 11th Annual Graduate Symposium on Women’s and Gender History

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign / March 4-6, 2010

Submission Deadline: November 1, 2009

The Executive Committee of the Eleventh Annual Graduate Symposium on Women’s and Gender History at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is pleased to announce this call for papers. The Symposium, which is the capstone event of the History Department’s Women’s History month celebration, is scheduled for March 4-6, 2010. To celebrate and encourage further work in the field of women’s and gender history, we invite submissions from graduate students from any institution and discipline. The Symposium organizers welcome individual papers on any topic in the field of women’s and gender history; papers submitted as a panel will be judged individually. Preference will be given to scholars who did not present at last year’s Symposium.

The Symposium Executive Committee is interested in assembling a geographically, temporally, and topically diverse body of papers. This year’s theme, “Mysterious Things,” speaks to a variety of trends that are currently shaping the field of women’s and gender history. This is particularly the case as we march on through a world where things—be they ideas, objects, or some strange mix thereof—continue to delight, baffle, liberate, and ruin individuals, as well as global institutions. Successful proposals could directly explore and build upon the implications of the moment in Marx’s thought concerning commodities, wherein what should become inanimate matter actually assumes a mysterious, yet undeniable kind of life. Proposals could begin to chart out this life in a variety of fields—particularly gender and sexuality—and its
effects upon those with whom it comes into contact. Indeed, gender and sexuality are, themselves, mysterious things, and proposals could also include any work that seeks to expose and demystify their strange functions in the everyday life of people and institutions. We welcome all proposals that seek to examine and interrogate any of the nebulous, enigmatic areas included under the rubric of gender and women’s history. The choice of theme is purposefully broad but provocative, inviting
perspectives and reflections from a variety of temporal, geographical, and inter/disciplinary perspectives.

For this year, the Eleventh Annual Symposium, we are delighted to announce a keynote speaker who engages many of these themes in his work: Kevin Floyd, Associate Professor of English, Kent State University, author of The Reification of Desire: Toward a Queer Marxism (University of Minnesota Press, 2009).

The journal Gender & History will again sponsor a prize for the best graduate student paper presented at the Symposium. Conference presenters will also have the opportunity to publish their work in the on-line proceedings volume. We possess limited resources to subsidize travel expenses for presenters. Giving priority to presenters with limited conference experience, we will allocate these funds based on the quality of presenters’ proposals and the availability of funds.

To submit a paper or panel by email (preferred method); please send only one attachment in Word or PDF format containing a 250-word abstract and a one-page curriculum vitae for each paper presenter, commentator, or panel chair to gendersymp at gmail dot com. The subject line of the email must read "Attn: Programming Committee.” We cannot be responsible for submissions that do not meet these conditions.

To submit a paper or panel in a hard copy format, please send five (5) copies of all abstracts and curriculum vitae to: Programming Committee, Graduate Symposium on Women's and Gender History 309 Gregory Hall, MC 466, 810 S. Wright Street Urbana, Illinois 61801.

For more information, please contact Programming Committee Chair, T.J. Tallie at gendersymp at gmail dot com.


Sunday, September 13, 2009

Today I met with a classmate of mine to discuss a reading for the class we have tomorrow. While the class is a seminar class and the whole point is discussion of the reading, we have opted to meet every Sunday to decide what points we need to bring up in class so as to be sure sure our thoughts are heard on the subjects. We are the black students in the class. I, a fresh master's student, she, a new PhD student. My prof loved the idea of the black kids setting the agenda. He is a white man legitimately holding a black card for all intents and purposes. Let me say, another black classmate of mine who had him as a professor at another school thought he was an albino the first two years she knew him. Yes. He is a white black man. I'd go so far as to say African. He is an African man. In a white guys body.

Anyway, I got to meet with my new friend and we discussed the reading, briefly. But we also got to share our stories of struggles in school and how we overcame those struggles. She is amazing. Let's call her Fancy. Fancy is from Kenya but she is Ethiopian. She has a husband and a two year old and she is smart. I am thrilled. I admire so much what she has gone through to ensure good grades and quality education. But what is more amazing to me is how they live here. As an international student, they have little money. All the money she receives from the school goes towards bills. We do not receive large stipends at all. In fact, of the schools she was accepted to, she choose this one because it offered the largest stipend. She says her son grows too fast and she purchases all of his clothes at second hand stores. Unless she gets some extra money. Then she buys him new things.

The first day of our T.A. training, she came up to me and said how she is so happy to see there are three Africans in our program. She told me that despite being African American, we are sisters and we have to stick together in our department because we are all we got. And she is SO right! I was thrilled as well to see her and the other girl but the way she embraced me was surprising. In undergrad, I was very involved with our African Student Council. But I have been told more times than once that I was not truly African because I was born here and so were my parents. The African students would laugh at us or some times be irate that we were attempting some faux brand of Africanity. Initially, I would fall silent and get hurt feelings, but eventually I realized they were as blind as some of the Africans on this continent. We are all the same people. My new response became, if your sibling was kidnapped away from your family and taken to another place and then they grew and married and had children and you found one another again, would your children be cousins? Are they still your sibling? In the same way, we are all the same people. Especially because the students I was dealing with then were all from West African countries.

But Fancy is from East Africa. And without any hesitation she claimed me as her friend. I feel very close to her already. I know there is so much I can learn from her. At the same time, she wants her minor focus to be on African American Studies. So she has much to learn from me. We had a lovely time. I made dinner and then I showed her the decades old photographs salvaged from the sociology department's incinerator pile and residing in my office while I decide on how to archive them. She was thrilled. Historian's are like that. We get off on historical documents.

I was able to give her all of Sun's winter and fall clothes from last year. It's too small but just the right size for her son. She walked out with four bags of clothes and shoes! I felt good but in the same way, I felt like I should be living way simpler. I am a student. That is my life. Yet I know I have spent over a grand in the past month on clothes and accessories. I am not exaggerating. I have so many clothes and shoes and everyday I find a reason to buy more. I love to buy food from restaurants. I hate fast food so any lunch I buy, even to go is costing at least $10. I dress nice to campus every day. Not undergrad nice, but office nice. I get compliments all day, every day and I love it but now I wonder if I am dressing for the compliments rather than to be appropriately attired. I feel foolish. What is really important to me?

Fancy was able to attend a Midwestern university after getting in bachelor's in Nairobi. Her school gave the top female student full tuition scholarship plus an assistantship at the Midwestern school every year. When she graduated she was that student. When I graduated, I had to finagle my way into grad school on a hope and a prayer. Nonetheless, she says we will push each other to be the very best because as Black women we can do anything. I believe her.
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