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CGWS launch event and Gendered Fields Symposium

Date: 12 - 13 June 2008 Time: 4:00 onwards and 9:30-4:00

Venue: IAS bulding

Report on Gendered Fields International Symposium 12&13 June 08

What is the future of gender research in your field? How is 'gender' conceived and mobilised in various fields? What is the role of 'gender' in the design and pursuit of political objectives, and how does this impact on research practices? Is all 'gender' research, feminist research? How do 'specialist' knowledges shape the development of gender and women's studies? This one-day symposium - the first of a series - gathered scholars from various fields to discuss new directions in gender and women's studies and the future of feminist imaginations. The aim of the symposium was to explore how 'gender' is conceptualised in different research areas and how it travels across different disciplines, and to consider the challenges posed to gender and women's studies by various 'specialist' and 'disciplinary' discourses and conventions. The programme and abstracts are available via the link below.

The event doubled as a re-launch for the restructured Centre for Gender and Women's Studies. The launch event, on Thursday afternoon and evening, began with a keynote address by Mary Evans on 'Universal Femininity/Absent Women: Studying Gender in the Twenty-First Century'. Mary's paper addressed coercive realism, coercive femininity, and the links between them. In short, she explored the ways in which men and women are located within a much narrower template that defines what it means to be human framed within a new emotional and moral language around life outside of work, namely around consuming practices. Fashion, for example, is a site of coercive femininity that is deeply inflected by class [and I would add, by race]. In short, Mary argued that femininity is endlessly (re)constructed for the market and that performing femininity has an important role to play in structuring capitalism.

The keynote was followed by a reception dinner and book launch of all GWS publications between January 2007 and June 2008. Reviving an established annual tradition in the former Institute for Women's Studies, the book launch included over twenty publications - an amazing testimony to the extent of GWS research activity at Lancaster University.

Friday 13 June was the day for the actual symposium, where five guest speakers from the UK, Canada and the US, contributed to the day's discussion: Mary Evans, Nancy Lindisfarne, Spike Peterson, Myra Hird, and Lucy Suchman. Themes covered include:

  • the role of history in how 'gendered fields' develop, and in particular, the meaning of the 'new' in the way we write history and what this means in the current climate dominated by a politics of post-historical futures.
  • tensions between field and discipline; how we might approach gender from within disciplines and how this ties in with work/research practices.
  • the institutional settings and the complicated intersection between the identification with 'disciplines' and an engagement with ongoing debates, and an identification with 'feminist politics', which in turns provides a basis, a sensibility otherwise absent from traditional disciplines. GWS centres are places for misfits, indeed a space of discomfort that comes from questions one asks rather than from the disciplinary field one inhabits.
  • politics - especially in the current context of wars in Afghanistan and in Iran. Can different modes of politics sit alongside each other? Does one have to forfeit her feminist politics to support and anti-imperialist, anti-colonial politics in Afghanistan, for example? Is it an either/or question?
  • how can we think the human differently?
  • queer reproduction and the future of queer politics and queer theory as we know them.
  • the urgency to consider the moral economies and moral politics not only of contemporary consumer capitalism and global politics, but also of our research practices themselves: from the depoliticisation of academia to the ethical implications of some kinds of 'gender' research that re-establish rather than question the systems of inequality that feminisms struggle against.

The symposium sought to offer grounds for revisiting the potential and limits of 'gender' and the future of feminist imaginations. Overall, this was a successful event, with passionate engagement from all participants, and leaving many of us asking for more - so watch this space!

Anne-Marie Fortier

GWS Director

Gendered Fields event web site


Who can attend: Anyone


Further information

Associated staff: Anne-Marie Fortier

Organising departments and research centres: Centre for Gender and Women's Studies, Management Learning and Leadership, Sociology


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Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
Lancaster University
Lancaster LA1 4YD
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