PROTEST: Graduate Student Conference

Friday, April 22, 2016 - 1:30pm

The Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies Program at the University of Pennsylvania is hosting its 3rd biannual graduate student conference, co-organized with the Annenberg School for Communications’ Media Activism Research Collective. The theme this year is “Protest” and will feature a keynote address by Marcia Ochoa. We are grateful for generous support from the Alice Paul Center, Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies Program, Media Activism and Research Collective, Annenberg School for Communication, English Department, Comparative Literature Department, History of Art Department, Project for Advanced Research in Global Communication, Scholars Program in Culture and Communication, History Department, French Department, and Gender & Sexuality Studies Reading Group.

Protest defines our contemporary moment. From #BlackLivesMatter in the US to anti-austerity movements in Europe to popular uprisings in the Middle East, people have claimed public and digital spaces in response to local and global injustices, such as structural racism, sexual violence, material inequalities, political oppression, environmental degradation, and corrupt governments and corporations. In light of mass mobilizations and creative insurgencies, this conference asks: what is the role of protest in bringing about social change? What forms can protest take? What can protest achieve, and what are its limits? “Protest” is interested in tracing the contours of protest along its varied historical, geographical, social, political, and legal axes.

Protest is at risk of being perceived as obsolete in light of civil rights victories that promote the illusion of living in a world resolved of structural injustice, suggesting we are living in a post-racial, post-feminist, post-gay, and/or post-colonial moment. For example, as trans activist Jennicet Gutiérrez reminded us when she interrupted President Barack Obama’s celebration of LGBT rights at the White House, marriage equality does not begin to address the social, economic, and political grievances of many in the queer community. As a political performance, protest, whether individual or collective, brings the public’s attention to neglected or marginalized causes, making these issues the subject of public contention and policy deliberation. For example, “Carry That Weight,” the mattress performance art of Columbia student Emma Sulkowicz, triggered nationwide debate around how universities handle sexual assault on their campuses. Protest may also incite backlash, leading to state-sanctioned violence, repression, surveillance, or other disciplinary measures. The arrest, detention, and persecution of activists in Egypt illustrates the dangers that protest poses for authorities and protesters alike.

Our presenters' presentations grapple with the many dimensions and manifestations of protest across time and space. Who gets to protest? Who does protest leave out? What is the role of affect (e.g. hope, despair, depression, shame, anger) in protest? How do new media technologies reconfigure the ways we protest, express dissent, build coalitions, inhabit material space, and mobilize for collective action? What new repertoires of protest are made available by these technologies? Is there a space for protest in the neoliberal university? What is the relationship between art and protest, aesthetics and politics? What is the scale of protest? What are the differences between covert and overt, planned or spontaneous, individual or collective forms of protest? Which protests are heard, and by whom? When does protest slip into speaking for, over, or silencing? How do identity politics reinvigorate or circumscribe protest? PROTEST takes gender, sexuality, and race as pivotal axes along which to consider these questions, and we look forward to addressing the complex personal, institutional, and political meanings of protest from all disciplinary and intellectual backgrounds.

Our conference website is:

Protest Schedule
Thursday, April 21, 2016, Terrace Room, Cohen Hall

9am-9:15am: Opening Remarks: Rosemary Clark (Annenberg), Julia Cox (English), Mary Zaborskis (English)

PANEL 1. 9:15am-10:30am
Politicizing Spaces in the #BlackLivesMatter Movement
Moderator: Jennifer Wilson (Slavic Languages and Literatures)
1. Erica Richardson (Columbia), “The Politics of Space in Lynching Play Revivals and the Black Lives Matter Movement”
2. Daryl Adkins (Oregon State University), “Rediscovering the Demonic: (Re)Imagining the Significance of Natural Hair Politics in #SayHerName Protests”
3. Kristi Carey (University of British Columbia) and Melissa Melendez (Princeton), “‘I hear you’: The Legibility of Affect and Emotion in Student Protest”

PANEL 2. 10:45-12:15pm
Aesthetic and Affective Responses
Moderator: Heather Love (English)
1. Christine Capetola (UT Austin), “Embodied Repetition: Moving with Black Queer Working Class Histories in FKA twigs’ ‘Glass & Patron’”
2. Raegan Truax (Stanford), “Sustaining Discomfort: Duration and Protest in Marilyn Arsem’s Wintering Over”
3. Lakshmi Padmanabhan (Brown), “‘Untraced’: Remembering Rape Through Performances of Protest in Kashmir”
4. Andreea Micu (Northwestern), “Performing Indignation: Affect, Protest, and Neoliberal Temporality in the European Economic Crisis”

12:15pm-1:45pm: LUNCH

PANEL 3. 1:45pm-3:00pm
Imaginative Strategies in Histories of Protest
Moderator: Guobin Yang (Annenberg)
1. Kersti Francis (UCLA), “Prophecy as Protest: Anti-Norman Attitudes in the Works of Geoffrey of Monmouth”
2. Sara Sligar (Penn), “Outrage in the Galleries: London Museum Security and the Militant Suffrage Movement, 1912-1914”
3. Keith Riley (Temple), “‘I Have My Mind!’: U.S.-Sandinista Solidarities and the Imagined Nicaragua”

PANEL 4. 3:15-4:45pm
Modes of Protest on Contested Grounds
Moderator: Felicity Paxton (Penn Women’s Center and Annenberg)
1. Rowan Howard-Williams (Penn), “Divestment Protests and the Moral Politics of Climate Change”
2. Hao Jun Tam (Penn), “‘A Torch for Liberty’ at Penn: Kathy Change, Madness, Freedom”
3. Michelle Munyikwa (Penn), “Refuge from Blackness: The Case of Kyle Lydell Canty”
4. Sarah White (Lehigh), “Civil Initiative as Protest on the US-Mexico Border”

Keynote Address: Marcia Ochoa (UC Santa Cruz) and Alexandra Rodriguez de Ruiz (El/La Para Translatinas), “Translatina Is about the Journey: A Dialogue on Social Justice for Transgender Latinas in San Francisco”
5:30pm-7:00pm, Cohen Hall G17


Friday, April 22, 2016, Terrace Room, Cohen Hall

8:30am-9am: COFFEE

PANEL 5. 9:00am-10:30am
#blacklivesmatter: Strategies of Resistance
Moderator: Omari Weekes (English)
Penn undergraduates in #blacklivesmatter course: Kelsey Desir, Kendall Finlay, Taylor Hickman, Rob’n Laurelli, Lonnie Lucas, Claris Park, Hadejia Ross, Natasha Stanley, Raheem Veal

PANEL 6 10:45am-12:15pm
Gendered, Sexual, and Feminist Approaches to Protest
Moderator: Melissa Sanchez (English)
1. Elena Cohen (CUNY Graduate Center), “Valuing Sexual Protest”
2. Di Wang (UW Madison), “‘Radicalness and Feminism are Just Like a Pair of Stinky Socks’ —Radical Disruption in Repressive Regimes”
3. Nahida Nisa (San José State University), “The Language Barrier as a Form of Protest in the Muslim Feminist Community”
4. Shehnaz Haqqani (UT Austin), “#NextTimeRememberHer: New Avenues of Protest in Muslim Women’s Fight Against Patriarchy”

12:15pm-1:30pm: LUNCH

PANEL 7. 1:30pm-2:45pm
Protest, Pedagogy, and the Classroom
Moderator: Andrew Lamas (Urban Studies)
1. Marlana Eck (Independent Scholar), “Protest, Pedagogy, and Practice: Igniting Communities”
2. Sarah Heidebrink-Bruno (Lehigh), “Toward a More ‘Social’ Justice: Social Media Activism and Public Humanities Syllabi in the Classroom”
3. Joanna Grim (Lehigh), “Who Will Not Be Silenced?: Pedagogical Insights Drawn from Highlighting Prisoner’s Speech in the First Year Writing Classroom and in the Streets”

PANEL 8. 3:00pm-4:30pm
The State and Unsettling Sites of Protest
Moderator: Jessa Lingel (Annenberg)
1. Shruti Mukherjee (SUNY Stony Brook), “Protesting State Violence: Case Study of Manipur, India”
2. Luke Messac (Penn), “When the ‘warm heart of Africa’ turns hot: Protest Against Corporate Land Alienation in Malawi Amidst Media Indifference”
3. J. Sebastián Figueroa (Penn), “Taken Schools: Notes Toward a Deschooling of Chilean Society”
4. Lauren Deal (Brown), “Faking the Mathapi: Resignification and Performative Ideologies of Protest”

Closing Remarks 4:30-4:45: Alicia Lochard (Africana Studies)

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