The third annual Gender Matters conference was held at DePaul University in Chicago on April 12-13, 2013.
The year's theme,"Continuities & Instabilities," focused our attention on the ways gender and sexuality stay the same and change over time and in relation to cultural shifts at the macro level, as well as how they are (re)constructed moment to moment through unstable micro-practices. While conference planners invited work on all matters of gender, we were particularly interested in work that explores how the mutable character of gender and/or sexuality is used to both maintain and resist existing social relations historically and contemporarily.
Keynote Address: Jack Halberstam is a professor of American studies and ethnicity, gender studies and comparative literature at the University of Southern California and an internationally recognized feminist and queer theorist. Halberstam is the author of "Female Masculinity," "In a Queer Time and Place," and "The Queer Art of Failure." Halberstam's address was based on his recent book "Gaga Feminism: Sex, Gender and the End of Normal." The text offers "a hard look at the meaning of family, sex, intimacy, parenting and childhood at a time of great social upheaval. 'Gaga' is the term given to the sense of a system gone wild."
Featured Performance: M. Heather Carver offered the featured performance of "Booby Trap: A Hair-Raising Experience," a one-woman play about surviving breast cancer one laugh at a time. Carver is an associate professor of playwriting and performance studies and the University of Missouri. She received the 2004 Chancellor's Award for UM women for her work as artistic director and co-founder of the "Troubling Violence Performance Project," a troupe that performs personal narratives about domestic/relationship violence. She co-authored "Troubling Violence: A Performance Project," published by the University Press of Mississippi in 2009.
Featured Film: Laurens Grant presented excerpts from her documentary "Rokia: Voice of a New Generation." Rokia grew up the daughter of a diplomat and was raised in Africa, the Middle East and Europe. When she was a high school-age student, her family returned to Mali to live for a short period before relocating again to Europe. While in Bamako, Mali's capital, she lived through a turbulent period. People were in the streets en masse calling for democratic reforms and an end to decades of dictatorship. The movement was energized by students and their energy galvanized Rokia, who decided to march in the streets with them.
"Rokia: Voice of a New Generation" is about how that political awakening helped Rokia find her voice and become a singer for women's rights in conservative Mali. Her lyrics speak out against polygamy. When men refused to work with her, she became her own arranger, songwriter and boss, all without knowing how to read or write music. "Rokia: Voice of a New Generation" includes exclusive access to Rokia, her songwriting and rehearsal process, explores her musical roots from her family's village in Mali, and includes rare footage of her collaboration with the Grammy-winning avant-garde string quartet Kronos Quartet. "Rokia: Voice of a New Generation" is ultimately about perseverance and how women who believe in themselves can control their own destiny.