Activism and the Academy: Celebrating 40 Years of Feminist Scholarship and Action

Sep 23-24, 2011
Registration in Barnard Hall Lobby

BCRW 40th Anniversary event image


A conference in honor of the 40th anniversary of the Barnard Center for Research on Women

Forty years ago, the Barnard Center for Research on Women began its mission of using research and knowledge to advance feminist scholarship and long-term partnerships with activist groups. Inspired by the new women’s movement, BCRW became part of an historic moment that witnessed the proliferation of feminist activism, the establishment of women’s studies programs and women’s centers, and the founding of women’s bookstores and other cultural projects. This fall, we bring together our past, present and future collaborators as well as kindred institutions, scholars and activists engaged in social justice feminism to consider what kinds of collaborative projects are possible when scholarship and activism are joined.

The anniversary conference will also include a special reception with a performance by Suzanne Vega ’81 and remarks from Janet Axelrod ’73, as well as keynote lectures by Sonia Alvarez and Mamphela Ramphele.

Including speakers:
Lila Abu-Lughod (Columbia University)
Penelope Andrews (CUNY School of Law)
Leslie Calman ’74 (The Mautner Project)
Lisa Duggan (New York University)
Rabab El Mahdi (American University in Cairo)
Laura Flanders ’85 (GRITtv)
Amber Hollibaugh (Queers for Economic Justice)
Temma Kaplan (Rutgers University)
Christine Karumba (Women for Women International – Democratic Republic of the Congo)
Rosalind Morris (Columbia University)
Sydnie L. Mosley ’07 (dancer, choreographer and teacher)
Nancy Naples (University of Connecticut)
Ana Oliveira (New York Women’s Foundation)
Ann Pellegrini (New York University)
Ai-jen Poo (National Domestic Workers Alliance)
Margaret Randall (poet and activist)
Rinku Sen (Applied Research Center)
Dean Spade ’97 (Seattle University School of Law)
Mandy Van Deven (activist and writer)
Jamia Wilson (Women’s Media Center)

and with panels on:
Expanding Feminism: Collaborations for Social Justice
Building and Rebuilding Societies in Africa
The Multiple Futures of Gender and Sexuality Studies
Writing, New Media, and Feminist Activism
Living and Working in the Borderlands
Women’s Literature and Feminist Learning
Archives and Activism: The Contemporary Turn
Transnational Feminisms Across the Americas
Social Justice and Civic Engagement in the Classroom
Using Knowledge, Advancing Activism
Academic / Activist Partnerships in Mexico
Campus Activism
Activist Research: Working in Communities
The Feminist Ethnographer’s Dilemma

Please see the detailed program information below for a full list of speakers and discussions.


Friday, September 23

10:00 – 10:30 AM
Opening remarks

Janet Jakobsen, Director of the Barnard Center for Research on Women

10:30 am – 12:00 pm
Keynote address with Sonia Alvarez
“Enacting a Translocal Feminist Politics of Translation in the Latin/a Americas”

Introduction by Elizabeth Castelli
Sonia E. Alvarez is Leonard J. Horwitz Professor of Latin American Politics and Studies and Director of the Center for Latin American, Caribbean, and Latino Studies at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. She has written extensively on social movements, feminisms, NGOs, transnational activism, and democratization. She is the author of Engendering Democracy in Brazil: Women’s Movements in Transition
and co-editor of The Making of Social Movements in Latin America: Identity, Strategy, and Democracy, and Cultures of Politics/Politics of Cultures: Re-visioning Latin American Social Movements. Her current research centers on the articulation of race and anti-racist politics among feminist movements in Brazil and she is working with a team of Latin American feminist scholars on the “sidestreaming” of feminist discourses and practices into parallel social movements throughout the region.

12:15 – 1:30 pm
Concurrent Panels – Session I
Lunch is provided.

A. The Multiple Futures of Gender and Sexuality Studies

Women’s and gender studies programs have been an integral part of the feminist movement for the past four decades. Over the years, the field has grown and expanded – and so has the proliferation of other disciplines devoted to the study of intersectionality, including queer studies, ethnic studies, and postcolonial studies. What are the challenges currently facing the fields of gender and sexuality studies? Panelists will reflect on the history and futures of the field.
Panelists: Kandice Chuh (CUNY), Lisa Duggan (New York University), Ann Pellegrini (New York University), Sarita See (University of California, Davis), and Alexandra Vazquez (Princeton)

B. Writing, New Media, and Feminist Activism

Writing, blogging, social networking, and other forms of media are vital channels of communication for feminist activists. Panelists will discuss their own media projects and how they have used new forms of communications to support and build their movements.
Panelists: Mandy Van Deven (activist and writer), Ileana Jiménez (blogger at, Susanna Horng (Girls Write Now), Veronica Pinto (Hollaback!) and moderated by Courtney Martin ’02 (editor at

C. Living and Working in the Borderlands

Gloria Anzaldua’s groundbreaking volume Borderlands/La frontera juxtaposes poetry and prose, and research and personal narrative, forming a bridge between activism and scholarship. This panel will look at Anzaldua’s work, along with the work of two border poets, Margaret Randall and Ruth Irupé Sanabria, to explore what poetry and other creative engagements can bring to activist practices.
Panelists: Margaret Randall (poet, photographer, and activist), Ruth Irupé Sanabria (poet and activist), Michelle Gonzalez (Bard College at Simon’s Rock) and moderated by Jennifer Browdy de Hernandez (Bard College at Simon’s Rock)

1:45 – 3:00 pm
Concurrent Panels – Session II

A. Women’s Literature and Feminist Learning

Continuing education in the humanities is an extremely important, yet often overlooked subset of higher education. Over the years, BCRW has sought to support continued opportunities for feminist learning through a diverse series of course offerings. Current and past BCRW instructors, along with scholars of feminist literature, will discuss the value of inter-generational feminist education.
Panelists: Lori Rotskoff (writer and historian), Heather Hewett (SUNY New Paltz), Stephanie Staal ’93 (journalist and writer), and moderated by Leslie Calman ’74 (The Mautner Project)

B. Archives and Activism: The Contemporary Turn

Over the past two decades, the archive has emerged as a central site of feminist knowledge production and activism. Feminist archives and special collections have been able to document activist movements and make previously obscured forms of knowledge visible. This panel brings together a group of feminist librarians, archivists, scholars, and activists to explore this “archival turn” in contemporary feminism.
Panelists: Kate Eichhorn (The New School), Jenna Freedman (Barnard College), Alana Kumbier (Wellesley College), and moderated by Emily Drabinski (Long Island University)

C. Transnational Feminisms Across the Americas

Feminist scholars, activists, and practitioners across the Americas are challenging gendered hierarchies in their communities, nations, and region. Whether or not they explicitly identify as feminists, their work is transforming contemporary politics and cultural relations. Through the stories of Latin American feminist networks, women-led grassroots organizations, and lesbian collectives, this panel examines the transnational strategies employed by activists across the Americas.
Panelists: Ximena García Bustamante (New School for Social Research), Ariella Rotramel (Rutgers), Anahi Russo Garrido (Rutgers), Sasha Taner (Rutgers), and moderated by Temma Kaplan (Rutgers)

3:00 – 3:30 pm
Coffee Break

3:30 – 5:00 pm
Plenary Panel
“Expanding Feminism: Collaborations for Social Justice”

BCRW’s commitment to bringing feminist scholars and activists together in conversation and collaboration has been at the center of our work for the past 40 years. Representatives from three organizations with whom we have recently partnered – the National Domestic Workers Alliance, Queers for Economic Justice, and the New York Women’s Foundation – will discuss the unique models of feminist action and knowledge that have been produced through BCRW’s scholar-activist partnerships.
Panelists: Amber Hollibaugh (Queers for Economic Justice), Sydnie L. Mosley ’07 (dancer, choreographer and teacher), Ana Oliveira (New York Women’s Foundation), Ai-jen Poo (National Domestic Workers Alliance), and moderated by Janet Jakobsen (BCRW)

5:00 – 6:30 pm

With a performance by Suzanne Vega ’81 and time for collective chronicling of BCRW history led by Janet Axelrod ’73. Come share your BCRW stories and celebrate the students who have made our work possible over the years.

Saturday, September 24

10:30 am – 12:00 pm
Keynote address with Mamphela Ramphele

Introduction by Debora Spar
Mamphela Ramphele is a South African academic, activist, and writer who has worked extensively in both the public and private sectors. She is currently the Executive Chair of Letsema Circle, a Cape Town based transformation advisory company, where she is director of Major Companies. She is the Chair of the South African Technology and Innovation Agency, which was established in 2009 to help stimulate the use of technology to address socioeconomic challenges and promote sustainable economic growth. She served as a Managing Director of the World Bank from May 2000 to July 2004. She is an author of many important titles about critical socio-economic issues in South Africa and has received numerous prestigious national and international awards acknowledging her scholarship, her service to the community, and her leading role in raising development issues and spearheading projects throughout South Africa.

12:15 – 1:30 pm
Concurrent Panels – Session III
Lunch is provided.

A. Social Justice and Civic Engagement in the Classroom

Colleges and universities across the country are increasingly interested in adding opportunities for civic engagement to their curricula, seeking to expose their students to new ways of practicing and researching social justice. Educators from several institutions will look at the ways in which these projects can build feminist awareness and community on college campuses.
Panelists: Dara J. Silberstein (SUNY Binghamton), Jerilyn Fisher (Hostos Community College), Leslie Simon (City College of San Francisco), Stephanie Gilmore (Dickinson College), and moderated by Susannah Bartlow (Dickinson College)

B. Using Knowledge, Advancing Activism

How can activists use knowledge to advance their campaigns? How can scholars and activists work collaboratively to produce and promote knowledge that is grounded in feminist and social justice frameworks? Activists who have been able to produce and use knowledge to initiate change across numerous issues will contribute to this conversation about the uses of knowledge in activist work.
Panelists: Patricia Berne (Sins Invalid), Rinku Sen (Applied Research Center), Dean Spade ’97 (University of Seattle School of Law), Jamia Wilson (Women’s Media Center), and moderated by Laura Flanders ’85 (GRITtv)

C. Academic / Activist Partnerships in Mexico

What types of projects are possible when scholars and activists work together? Scholars in the Gender Studies Program at the National Autonomous University of Mexico have formed partnerships with activist groups to address issues like state oppression and violence, struggles for land rights and indigenous rights, and gender equity both within the University and in the community at large. Scholar and activist participants in these projects will discuss how they’ve combined traditional academic tools with new ways of intervention to create change.
Panelists: Marisa Belausteguigoitia Rius, Rían Lozano de la Pola, Helena López, Lorena Wolffer (National Autonomous University of Mexico), and moderated by Margaret Cerullo

1:45 – 3:00 pm
Concurrent Panels – Session IV

A. Campus Activism

Colleges and universities are experiencing the effects of the economic downturn and our political climate in numerous ways. This panel of students and faculty will discuss how activists on their campuses are working to combat budget cuts and the undermining of the public sector, provide alternatives to neoliberal restructuring in higher education, and fight against racism and gender inequities.
Panelists: Abigail Boggs (University of California, Davis), Debanuj DasGupta (Ohio State University), Jesse Kadjo (Loyola University), Sandra Soto (University of Arizona), Stephanie Luce (Murphy Institute, CUNY), and moderated by Catherine Sameh (BCRW)

B. Activist Research: Working in Communities

What does it mean to be an activist researcher? What are some of the challenges of conducting research about social movements and within activist communities? Drawing on ethnographic and teaching experiences, panelists will discuss their research on different communities and social movements, and how their roles as activist researchers affected this work.
Panelists: Roberta Villalón (St. John’s University), Jennifer Rogers (Long Island University), Nikki McGary (University of Connecticut), Barbara Gurr (University of Connecticut), Kathleen Coll (Stanford University), and moderated Nancy Naples (University of Connecticut)

C. The Feminist Ethnographer’s Dilemma

Does a feminist perspective limit researchers’ abilities to see and interpret empirical realities? What happens when these perspectives clash with the reality of field observations? A group of ethnographers discuss how their feminist perspectives can both limit and enhance their ability to analyze power structures and evaluate social change.
Panelists: Orit Avishai (Fordham University), Lynne Gerber (University of California, Berkeley), Jennifer Randles (University of California, Berkeley), and moderated by Margot Weiss (Wesleyan University)

3:00 – 3:30 pm
Coffee Break

3:30 – 5:00 pm
Plenary Panel
“Building and Rebuilding Societies in Africa”

From writing new constitutions to serving in local and national governance to sustaining NGOs and grassroots organizations to making policy changes, women and feminist groups in Africa are doing the difficult work of pushing local, state and international bodies to implement and guarantee gender equality and justice at every level. A group of scholars and activists will draw on their experience in multiple regions of Africa, discussing how women are participating in the rebuilding of their societies—whether in post-conflict contexts or in times of deep political transformation during revolutions, post- revolutionary periods and transitions to democracy.
Panelists: Christine Karumba (Women for Women International – Democratic Republic of the Congo), Rabab El Mahdi (American University in Cairo), Penelope Andrews (CUNY School of Law), Lila Abu-Lughod (Columbia University), Jane Bennett (African Gender Institute), and moderated by Rosalind Morris (Columbia University)

Media Partners

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