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Fisher Center

THE FISHER CENTER FOR THE STUDY OF WOMEN AND MEN

Our Bodies, Ourselves

Over forty years ago, the Boston Women’s Health Book Collective published Our Bodies, Ourselves, a landmark of feminist organization and knowledge production with respect to women’s health and sexuality. While this project has expanded considerably since its initial publication in 1971, we are intrigued by its early DIY (do-it-yourself) spirit and its commitment to enriching the common good through access to information. Our Bodies, Ourselves evokes the collective excitement of women conducting their own research on their bodies, the culture of autonomous political organization, and the audacity of sexualities that exceed normalizing constraints.

What would the intentions motivating the initial project generate today? In 2013-2014, the Fisher Center will expand on the enmeshments of self-care, embodied knowledge, and political commitment motivating Our Bodies, Ourselves. We want to channel its spirit to ask where and who we are now with respect to political organizing and embodied knowledge. Thus, we are less interested in looking at our bodies, ourselves than we are in treating Our Bodies, Ourselves as a critical lens, a point of reference, and an analytical framework for further discussion.

Spring 2014 Fisher Center Speakers

April 21

Brianne Gallagher
Fisher Center Predoctoral Fellow

7:00pm, Fisher Center, Demarest 212

"De–militarizing Game Culture and New Rehabilitation Technologies: From Virtual Iraq to U.S. Veteran Resistance through Art and Poetry"

The U.S. military is extending popular video game culture, currently used to train soldiers for combat, into virtual therapeutic technologies to treat soldiers diagnosed with Post–Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injuries. This talk demonstrates how these new virtual therapeutic programs depoliticize the violent affects of the wars on soldiers’ bodies within gendered formations of power.  Specifically, it examines how the virtual therapeutic gaming technology Virtual Iraq reaffirms dominant ideas of masculinity by reinforcing the belief that talking about trauma is a sign of feminine weakness and that playing video games is “fun” and “virtually cool” through the militarization of entertainment culture. The presentation also turns to specific examples of veterans’ sites of resistance to the de–politicization and feminization of trauma, particularly the Combat Paper Project and the Warrior Writers Project initiated by members of Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW). How do veterans seek alternative ways of healing from war trauma by de–linking themselves from masculine and militarized game cultures and by instead creating counter–public communities through art, poetry, activism and creative modes of becoming?

April 30

Kathy Davis
Senior Research Fellow, VU University, Netherlands

7:30 p.m., Geneva Room, Warren Hunting Smith Library

Feminism as Traveling Theory: the Case of Our Bodies, Ourselves

My lecture concerns the international trajectory of the well-known feminist classic book on women and health, Our Bodies, Ourselves.  Beginning in the 1970’s, this book not only had an enormous impact on feminism in the US, but it has been taken up, translated and adapted by women across the globe. Drawing upon Edward Said’s concept of “traveling theory,” I will explore the world-wide travels of Our Bodies, Ourselves, showing how the book was transformed in the process of its many border crossings. I will argue that Our Bodies, Ourselves  has not only been US feminism’s most successful and popular  “export,” but that it can provide some useful insights for scholarship within gender studies  – in particular, for how we think about history, the politics of knowledge, and transnational feminism.

Kathy Davis is currently senior research fellow at the VU University in the Netherlands. She has held visiting chairs and research fellowships at Wellesley College, Columbia University, the Radcliffe Institute of Advanced Studies at Harvard University (United States) as well as the Maria Jahoda Chair for International Women’s Studies at Bochum University in Germany and visiting professorships in Frankfurt and Vienna. Her research interests include: sociology of the body,  intersectionality, travelling theory and transnational practices;  biography as methodology.  She is the author of many books, including Reshaping the Female Body (Routledge, 1995), Dubious Equalities and Embodied Differences (Rowman & Littlefield, 2003), Embodied Practices: Feminist Perspectives on the Body (Sage 1997), and  co-editor of The Handbook of Gender and Women’s Studies (Sage 2006) and Transatlantic Conversations: Feminism as Traveling Theory (Ashgate, 2011). Her book The Making of Our Bodies, Ourselves: How Feminism Travels Across Borders (Duke, 2007) was the recipient of several prizes. Her most recent book, Dancing Tango: Passionate Encounters in a Globalizing World is soon to be published with NYU Press.


Fall 2013 Fisher Center Speakers

Kathryn Stockton

Kathryn Stockton
September 19

Miss Indigo Blue

Miss Indigo Blue
September 25

Dr. Steven Kurtz

Dr. Steven Kurtz
October 21

Andrea Dezso

Andrea Dezso
November 6

Jasbir Puar

Jasbir Puar
November 13


Kathryn Stockton

September 19

Kathryn Bond Stockton
Distinguished Professor of English, University of Utah

7:30 p.m., Sanford Room, Warren Hunting Smith Library

“Sameness, Underwear, Pleasure, and Need: What Does Queer Theory Ask Us to Do?”

This talk reminds us of how “queer theory” (which will be both defined and explained) changes our thinking on “same-sex” relations (yes, via underwear and so much more—Fight Club, femmes, big toes, ideals) and thus unsettles our easy notions of “gay,” “transgendered,” and “straight” lives. Then, taking off from these interventions in sexual thought, this talk explores how queer theory, which elevates pleasure, takes on matters of power and loss, even as they touch on money and need. How might we think about the power to lose? Can a queer hedonistic ethic lubricate our practice of redistribution? Can it help us fight structural inequalities while affirming luxury?

Bio: Kathryn Bond Stockton is Distinguished Professor of English at the University of Utah, where she teaches queer theory, theories of race, the nineteenth-century novel, and twentieth-century literature and film. Her most recent books, Beautiful Bottom, Beautiful Shame: Where “Black” Meets “Queer” and The Queer Child, or Growing Sideways in the Twentieth Century, published by Duke University Press, were both finalists for the Lambda Literary Award in LGBT Studies (2007 and 2010), and she has also authored God between Their Lips: Desire between Women in Irigaray, Bronte, and Eliot (Stanford University Press). Stockton has received the Crompton-Noll Prize, awarded by the Modern Language Association, for the best essay in gay and lesbian studies and, in 2011, she taught at Cornell University’s School of Criticism and Theory, where she led a seminar on “Sexuality and Childhood in a Global Frame: Queer Theory and Beyond.” This past year she was awarded the Rosenblatt Prize for Excellence, the highest honor granted by the University of Utah.

Miss Indigo Blue

September 25

Miss Indigo Blue
Headmistress, The Academy of Burlesque, Seattle Wash.

7:30 p.m., Winn-Seeley Theatre, Winn-Seeley Building

"Amazon Damsels in Bondage"

I am in love with bodies. I am utterly infatuated with those that use their bodies and their sexuality as a means of artistic, spiritual and political expression. Burlesque performers embody ideas about women, sexuality, pleasure, and mischief using melodrama, storytelling, curiosity and the theatrical conventions of comic strip-tease. Burlesque audiences participate in this expressive interaction, with vocalizations, gestures, laughter, and shock. In this talk I will demonstrate a Burletta (Burlesque act) then dissect it with the audience, offering a collaborative deconstruction opportunity between artist/viewer, participant/observer, student/teacher.

Bio: That sultry bombshell on stage is more than your garden-variety Burlesque dancer: She's Indigo Blue – entertainer, instructor, and entrepreneur. With a strong dance and theater background and extensive experience as an exotic dancer, Miss Indigo Blue always brings sensuality, musicality, eroticism, and humor to her carefully crafted routines. Her creative and hilarious surprises, erotic dance skills, detailed and authentic retro 1930’s-1960’s costuming, and naughty reduxes of popular characters like Holly Golightly, Carmen Miranda and Wonder Woman earned her critical acclaim and award. She is now best known for her lavish wardrobe and perfectly executed classic acts, including tributes to Burlesque Legends Wild Cherry and Ricci Cortez.

Seattle's burlesque stalwart, Miss Indigo is one of the most sought after performers in the world. She has headlined Internationally in Helsinki, Stockholm, Basel, Vancouver, Toronto, Dublin, London, Amsterdam, and throughout Australia. With The Atomic Bombshells she has also appeared in Shanghai and throughout Portugal. She currently headlines as a soloist and is a proud cast member of Lily Verlaine Productions and The Atomic Bombshells. She has an extensive national following, having taught, headlined and otherwise performed in too many major cities to list.

Dr. Steven Kurtz

October 21: Co-presented with Media and Society

Dr. Steven Kurtz
Co-founder of Critical Arts Ensemble (CAE)

7:15 p.m., Vandervort Room, Scandling Center

“Biotechnology, the arts, and civic knowledge”

Recent events around biological data-mining, Monsanto seed patenting and biowarfare concern all realms of civil societies today. Such events impress deeply into our contemporary lives, indelibly into our bodies, and into those of future generations. Indeed, this is testament to the complexities surrounding the realms of biotechnology today: why has it become so difficult to acquire knowledge about substances that we put into our very own bodies, or to which our bodies are exposed? What are some of the factors that have enabled all registers of biotic life (ecological, microbial, and human and animal) to become the basis for capital production? What does ‘biosecurity’ mean in a world after 9/11, and who bears the costs of achieving ‘security’ in a culture of fear? How has the militarization and privatization of scientific institutions fostered or deepened structural injustices leading to societies marked by greater inequalities?

These are but some of the questions raised by Critical Arts Ensemble’s (CAE) recent artworks on biotechnology and civic knowledge, such as Free-Range Grain, a work that lets audiences test whether foods labeled “organic” have been genetically modified; Gen Terra, a piece that highlights tensions at play between the for-profit ventures and ethical considerations (e.g., ‘risk assessments’) in transgenics; and Marching Plague, a work that illuminates the economic, national, and technological ideologies that undergird germ warfare.

Using CAE’s works as a grounding focus, Kurtz’s talk will explore some of these topics, while also discussing why critical interventions into issues surrounding the biotechnological landscape today so often incite resistance and discipline by legal, government and corporate bodies.

This event was made possible by the generous co-sponsorship of the Department of Environmental Sciences, the Department of Art and Architecture, the Department of Public Policy, the Department of Political Science and the Office of the Provost.

Andrea Dezso

November 6

Andrea Dezsö

7:30 p.m., Geneva Room, Warren Hunting Smith Library

Lessons From My Mother: How to Prevent a Female Cold, Catch a Husband and Avoid a Frog Growing in Your Stomach

I created the embroidered body of artworks titled Lessons From My Mother after moving to the United States and recognizing that many of the popularly held beliefs about health, hygiene, relationships and gender roles from my native Hungarian culture in Transylvania were widely at odds with commonly held beliefs in America. Having rejected embroidery as a girl in Romania’s communist school system because of the gender expectations surrounding it, I decided while living in New York to teach myself embroidery and execute this series of works because the medium felt appropriate for commenting on the traditions, roles and observations I sought to present. This talk will present the Lessons From My Mother embroideries and provide a brief historical and cultural context for the works.

Bio: Andrea Dezsö is a visual artist who works across a broad range of media including drawing, painting, artist's books, cut paper, embroidery, animation, sculpture, site-specific installation and permanent public art. Dezsö's large-scale permanent public art has been installed in two New York City subway stations and at the United States Embassy in Bucharest, Romania. Community Garden, Dezsö's mosaic in the New York City subway was awarded Best American Public Art in 2007. Dezsö is an award-winning illustrator whose work has been featured in many books, magazines, and CD covers, and by The New York Times, Sony Music, and Candlewick Press. Dezsö exhibits in museums and galleries around the world, and teaches widely. She is assistant professor of art at Hampshire College in Amherst, Mass. Dezsö is represented by the Nancy Margolis Gallery in New York where her exhibition "Without Myself" will be on view between September 12 - October 19, 2013.
Media

Jasbir Puar

November 13

Jasbir Puar

7:30 p.m., Geneva Room, Warren Hunting Smith Library

A Body with New Organs: Becoming Trans, Becoming Disabled

In this paper I historically situate the most current intersectional flavors of the day, “trans” and “disabled,” through their emergence as the latest newcomers to the intersectional fray. I look at how their parallel yet rarely intersecting epistemological constructs—both come into being, or becoming, in the early 90s in the academy as well as in broader political terms and movements—require exceptionalizing both the trans body and the disabled body in order to convert the debility of a non-normative body into a form of social and cultural capacity, whether located in state recognition, identity politic formations, market economies, the medical industrial complex, or subject positioning. I argue that the potential politics of trans disability are seemingly only perceived in terms of the intersectional “trans-disabled subject” or the “disabled trans subject.” Using assemblage theory to advance the relationships between trans and disability beyond an intersectional rubric of subject identification, I elaborate a politics of conviviality through engagements with the medicalization of the body that might de-exceptionalize the transgressive tendencies of trans and disabled in favor of a shared politics.

Bio: Jasbir K. Puar is associate professor of women's & gender studies at Rutgers University. She has also been a visiting lecturer in the department of performance studies at NYU and a visiting fellow at the Institute for Cultural Inquiry in Berlin. She received her Ph.D. in ethnic studies from the University of California at Berkeley in 1999 and an M.A. from the University of York (UK) in women’s studies in 1993. Her research interests include gender, sexuality, globalization; postcolonial and diaspora studies; South Asian cultural studies; and theories of assemblage and affect. Puar is the author of Terrorist Assemblages: Homonationalism in Queer Times (Duke University Press 2007), winner of the 2007 Cultural Studies Book Award from the Association for Asian American Studies, which has been translated into French as Homonationalisme. Politiques queers après le 11 Septembre, (Editions Amsterdam, 2012).

Puar's forthcoming monograph, Affective Politics: States of Debility and Capacity, takes up questions of disability in the context of theories of bodily assemblages that trouble intersectional identity frames.

MISSION

The Fisher Center brings together faculty, students, and experts in gender-related fields in the arts, humanities, and social and natural sciences to foster mutual understanding and social justice in contemporary society.

Building upon their long-held commitment to interdisciplinary liberal arts education for men and women, both separately and together, Hobart and William Smith Colleges established (in 1998) the Fisher Center for the Study of Women and Men to support curricular, programmatic, and scholarly projects which address the question:

How do we more nearly realize, through our educational program, scholarship, and presence in the larger community, our democratic ideals of equity, mutual respect, and common interest in relations between men and women?