41st Annual Gender Studies Symposium Focuses on Fantasy
By Franchesca Schrambling BA ’22
Where do fantasy and reality intersect? Where do they blur? How can fantasy be an act of personal imagination but also a powerful form of political resistance?
These are just some of the questions that will be explored during Lewis & Clark’s 41st Annual Gender Studies Symposium, titled Fantasy. The three-day event, held March 9 to 11, will examine the boundaries of fantasy and reality, imagination and representation, the self and others, and pursuit of “impossible” futures. Most scheduled events will take place in person, with keynote presentations streamed for remote viewing.
The symposium is organized by a trio of undergraduate student cochairs: Iyanah Fuller BA ‘22, Carley LaPlaca BA ‘22, and Hazel McGraw BA ‘22. Kimberly Brodkin, associate professor with term of humanities, serves as the symposium’s director.
“When we began our planning process last spring, we found ourselves anticipating the future and imagining what life might be like in a time when the pandemic didn’t dominate our daily lives and personal interactions,” said Brodkin. “Fantasy offers an escape from our current realities but also allows us to enact transformative social change. When we feel stuck in the present, fantasy gives us a way to not only imagine something better but also to make that future happen.”
The symposium presents an expansive application of fantasy and its ties to gender and sexuality. “There is no one definition of fantasy,” said cochair Carley LaPlaca BA ‘22, a psychology major and gender studies minor. “As I look through our schedule of events, I feel that the conception of fantasy changes with each one.”
This year’s symposium features three keynote presentations:
Wednesday, March 11: Kai Cheng Thom, an expert practitioner in group facilitation and conflict resolution, as well as an award-winning author, will present “Holding On to Hope in Human Beings: Transformative Justice for Troubled Times.”
Thursday, March 12: Magalí Rabasa, associate professor of Hispanic studies at Lewis & Clark, will moderate “Fantasy and Sex Work,” featuring Cat from Haymarket Pole Collective, Kat and Saiya from PDX Sex Workers Resource Project, and Matilda from Stroll PDX.
- Friday, March 13: Dr. Sami Schalk, associate professor of gender and women’s studies at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, whose interdisciplinary research focuses on disability, race, and gender in contemporary American culture, will present “Reimagining Bodyminds and Liberation in Pandemic Times.”
“One of the events that I’m most excited about is our Friday keynote speaker,” said Iyanah Fuller BA ‘22, a political science major and gender studies minor. “Dr. Schalk’s speculative fiction scholarship on disability, race, and gender greatly inspired the theme and direction of this year’s symposium. It’s absolutely perfect that we get to end with her presentation.”
Other events incorporate readings, workshops, discussion panels, and roundtables. Student research will address bodily interpretations; intimacy and isolation; media and culture; and patriarchy, security, and the state.
Sprinkled among these panels and roundtable discussions are opportunities for connection, including two workshops facilitated by Irene Hilman BA ’25 and Haley Wildhirt BA ’22, titled “Writing Erotica” and “Rejecting the ‘Just Kiss’ Narrative: Creating a Foundation for Intimacy on the Collegiate Stage.”
Attendees are also welcome to participate in an Art Therapy Open Studio by Art for Social Change or sit in on “Musical Undoings: Breaking the Role,” in which students from the theatre and music departments perform songs by characters that challenge traditional typecasting.
Thanks to Mei Bailey BA ‘22, Lili Kunimoto BA ‘22, Eve March BA ‘22, and Ann Niemann BA ‘22, this year’s student-curated art show features a virtual gallery along with a physical installation. The work of student artists invites viewers to think about art that grapples with reality and imagination. Another exhibit, curated by practicum course students Katie Boutin BA ‘24, McKenna Jones BA ‘24, Alex Knutson BA ‘23, Sascha Tappan BA ‘25, and Burgin Utaski BA ‘22—called Development and Deconstruction: Gender Identity in the Genre of Fantasy—explores contemporary writers’ ideas of personhood. Both will be on display in Watzek Library throughout the spring semester—in the atrium and on the top floor, respectively.
“We were interested in doing something that felt playful and imaginative,” said cochair Hazel McGraw BA ‘22, a mathematics sciences major and gender studies minor. “To me, fantasy is about including hope and imagination in our academic pursuits about our activism. Being a cochair has been a really good way to reconnect with the Lewis & Clark community since returning to campus in person.”