March 02, 2020

39th Annual Gender Studies Symposium Explores the Tensions of Possibility

For almost 40 years, the Lewis & Clark Gender Studies Symposium has been fostering cutting edge academic discourse on gender and sexuality. From March 11–13, this year’s theme, Tensions of Possibility, transcends traditional scholastic boundaries and takes an interdisciplinary approach to research on gender and sexuality.

by Yancee Gordon BA ’21

From March 11–13, the 39th annual Gender Studies Symposium will open a dialogue about possibilities and the varied responses that accompany them. This year’s theme, Tensions of Possibility, will explore themes of invention, intimacy, community, ideology, and artistic expression through a lens of gender and sexuality. Possibilities tie the past, present, and future together, and this symposium will challenge participants to learn from the possibilities brought by nontraditional sources, such as radical disruptors or marginalized voices.

“I find it exciting to think about what it means for something to be possible, and I’m pleased that we call attention to the ways in which “possibility” isn’t exclusively positive,” said Director of the Gender Studies Symposium and Associate Professor With Term of Humanities Kimberly Brodkin. “Doing that imaginative work with a focus on gender and sexuality is especially compelling.”

Students from Lewis & Clark will join representatives from academia, activism, and the arts for three days of workshops, roundtable discussions, lectures, film screenings, readings, performances, academic panels, and other intellectual and creative explorations of local, national, and global gender issues. They will discuss diverse ideas and themes present in both popular culture and academic discourse from liberation movements and activist politics to scandalous women and gender anarchy.

2020 Gender Studies Symposium cochairs, from left to right: India Roper-Moyes BA ?20, Rayce Samue... 2020 Gender Studies Symposium cochairs, from left to right: India Roper-Moyes BA ’20, Rayce Samuelson BA ’20, Sharon Soffer BA ’20.“The Gender Studies Symposium has always been a huge part of my Lewis & Clark experience,” said Los Angeles native Rayce Samuelson BA ’20, a sociology and anthropology major and cochair of the symposium. “I am so happy to be in charge of sharing this part of my experience with my friends and peers, and having an outlet and opportunity to invite other academics to come to our campus and speak with us.”

Jack Halberstam, professor of gender studies and English at Columbia University, will present the first keynote presentation on Wednesday, March 11. As a leading scholar on gender and sexuality, Halberstam has written six books, with another in progress titled Wild Thing: Queer Theory After Nature on queer anarchy, performance, and protest culture, and the intersections between animality, the human, and the environment. His presentation is titled “After All: On Dereliction and Destitution.”

“I have been studying Jack Halberstam’s work in my classes for the past few years, and it is exciting to have the opportunity to hear him talk about his current work in person,” said Sharon Soffer BA ’20 from Los Angeles, a sociology and anthropology major and symposium cochair. “This event is a space to explore the complexities surrounding gender, race, class, ability, and sexuality, and puts us in dialogue with incredible people who devote their time to this work.”

The second keynote presentation will be by Feminista Jones, a feminist writer, public speaker, retired social worker, and community activist. Her work centers Black American culture, feminism, critical race theory, intersectionality, mental health, poverty, and women’s health and well-being. Her presentation, titled “Radical Disrupters: What We Can Learn From Queer Women of Color,” will take place on Thursday, March 12.

The symposium will end with a performance of Marie Antoinette, David Adjmi’s sharply written play about the monstrous actions of people in metaphorical gilded cages. This contemporary take on the ill-fated queen of France employs the cultural mythology of Marie Antoinette as well as historical fact to paint the portrait of a woman who is both elevated and held captive by her gender, circumstance, and historic moment. The Lewis & Clark Theatre Department production, directed by Associate Professor of Theatre Rebecca Lingafelter, will draw out resonances with the present time and explore the violent repercussions in ignoring the suffering of many for the pleasure and comfort of the few.

“Our theme gets at the ‘Aha!’ moments, what-ifs, uncertainty, and failure. Possibility has this implication that nothing is too small, which can be both a motivating and terrifying force,” said English major India Roper-Moyes BA ’20. The Boise, Idaho, native reflects on her time as symposium cochair and her perspective on its impact. “The interdisciplinary nature of gender studies opens up the discussion to people from vastly different fields of study and experiences, who all approach possibilities in different ways. Some call us to think about the past, some project on to the future, and some are rooted in positions that exist now.”

All events are free and open to the public and located on the Lewis & Clark undergraduate campus.


Gender Studies

Sociology and Anthropology

Theatre Department