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Call for Submissions: Isom Student Gender Conference

Deadline extended to Feb 15, 2023

The Sarah Isom Center for Women and Gender Studies at The University of Mississippi is pleased to announce its 23rd Annual Isom Student Gender Conference (ISGC). The conference is scheduled for March 22-24, 2023, in Oxford, MS.

This year’s conference theme is The Body and Embodiment. The topic is timely with the end of Roe v. Wade and the recent push of anti-gay and anti-trans legislation seeking to deny the lived experience and subjectivity of queer individuals. Susan Bordo’s groundbreaking book, Unbearable Weight: Feminism, Western Culture, and the Body, explores embodiment in feminist theorizing and analyzes how ideology and popular culture discipline and shape actual bodies. Heteropatriarchy, she argues, constructs women’s bodies as deviant and other, in need of ‘improvement’ and correction, based on abstract ideologies and distinctive cultural norms. 

What is the relation of gender to this dualism? As feminists have shown, the scheme is frequently gendered, with woman cast in the role of the body, “weighted down,” in Beauvoir’s words, ”by everything peculiar to it.” In contrast, man casts himself as the “inevitable, like a pure idea, like the One, the All, the Absolute Spirit.” . . . The cost of such projections to women is obvious. For it, whatever the specific historical content of the duality, the body is the negative term, and if woman is the body, then women are that negativity, whatever it may be: distraction from knowledge, seduction away from God, capitulation to sexual desire, violence or aggression, failure of will, even death. (Unbearable Weight 5)

And yet, embodiment is not simply a cautionary tale. If the body is a site of trauma and punishment, it is also, potentially, the site of liberation. Early women’s liberation focused on embodied knowledge and embodied theory, rejecting the notion that the body is inferior and positing that bodies had their own kind of knowledge and wisdom. The slogan “the personal is the political” went beyond individual experience to the embodied specificity of raced, gendered, and sexualized bodies. Early anthologies, like This Bridge Called My Back: Writing by Radical Women of Color and Home Girls: A Black Feminist Anthology, framed the experiences of women of color within culture and community, and that insistence on particular embodiment continued in the queer of color critique in queer studies.

At the core of this theory is an understanding of the ways we experience reality through our bodies, and any system or theory that devalues or humiliates particular bodies is harmful.  Our culture accepts and recognizes only certain kinds of bodies, in particular places, and demands disidentification, deformation, and denunciation from those who are accepted by the mainstream. Resisting that cultural hegemony is central to any liberation politics. It is central to standpoint epistemology in Gender Studies research.

At the ISGC this year, we want to situate the body and embodiment at the intersections; to contemplate the past, the moment, and the future through a myriad contexts and theoretical lenses. Potential areas for exploration are social movements, immigration, climate change, war, education, public policy, public health, economics, and popular culture.

The Center’s interdisciplinary conference is open to both undergraduate and graduate students. Students are welcome to submit papers from all disciplines, along with creative writing projects such as fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. Additionally, we are seeking submissions of student films that will be part of an evening event on Thursday during the conference. 

Lastly, proposals for roundtable discussions that center on community building, advocacy, and social change both on and off the campus through the arts, social media, and student engagement with broader communities are encouraged. A small number of domestic travel grants will be made available to non-UM students. 

The submission deadline is February 7, 2023.