Feminism on the Edge

30 Years of Gender and Women’s Studies at UC Berkeley

November 17th, 2022


In consultation with our current and former graduate students as well as event speakers, our department realizes that the only way to show full solidarity with the UAW workers is to cancel this anniversary celebration. We are incredibly sad to have to do this, especially at this late date; our hope is that the successful strike will improve the conditions for everybody. Student worker living conditions are all students’ learning conditions.

As our way of recognizing that we are all in this together, we want to acknowledge all of the heartfelt labor that went into the organizing of this event, both in its on-campus and off-campus iteration. Our department consists of many different sectors. If any sector must strike, then our whole department is in solidarity with it.

Feminism on the Edge marks the 30th anniversary of the founding of the department of Gender and Women’s Studies at UC Berkeley. The program commemorates and reflects on the department’s history, its pivotal role in the field of feminist studies, and its future trajectories. Read MoreAs we celebrate the department’s 30th anniversary, the speaker series is designed to make two critical interventions. The first is to serve as an invitation to honor the radical forms of feminist pedagogy, theory, and practice that have placed the department on the cutting edge of feminist scholarship and praxis. This is a field of intellectual inquiry that has emerged from the diverse community of feminist scholars and students working in the fields of decolonial and transnational feminisms. There is much to celebrate in our history.

Yet while the symposium celebrates the department’s many achievements in the face of institutional precarity, it also considers the tensions, friction, fissures, and internal struggles that have characterized the history of the department as well. The speaker series asks what forms of institutional violence are embedded in the formalization of women’s and gender studies as academic programs and a disciplinary field? Who and what have been the casualties of this process and how might our understanding of the field shift by centering the voices of feminist scholars who have been marginalized in celebratory narratives of institutionalization and canonization? How has the discipline (particularly in its local/institutional iterations) engaged this complex history? And by doing so, how might we map new, more equitable, transformative and reparative futures for the field of feminist studies? Read Less

Dean Raka Ray and Chair Leslie Salzinger Welcome
10 – 11:30am
Unruly Genealogies
  • Norma Alarcon, UC Berkeley
  • Paola Bacchetta, Gender & Women’s Studies, UC Berkeley
  • Lawrence Cohen, Anthropology, UC Berkeley
  • Matt Richardson, Feminist Studies, UC Santa Barbara

Moderated by Courtney Desiree Morris, Gender & Women’s Studies, UC Berkeley

11:30 – 2pm
Lunch Break
2 – 3:30pm
Graduate Alumni Panel
Climate, COVID, Colonialism and Cops:
Feminism on State Violence
  • Black Queerness and the Cruel Irony of the COVID 19 Pandemic
    Marlon Bailey, Professor of African and African American Studies and Women, Gender & Sexuality Studies, Washington University in St. Louis
  • Care in a Time of Contamination
    Natalia Duong, UC President’s Postdoctoral Fellow, University of California, Los Angeles
  • Another End of the World Is Possible
    Mimi Thi Nguyen, Associate Professor and Chair, Gender & Women’s Studies, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
  • Rematriation: Indigenous Feminism and Protecting the Sacred
    Fuifuilupe Niumeitolu, Assistant Professor of Critical Race and Ethnic Studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz

Moderated by Laura Nelson, Gender & Women’s Studies, UC Berkeley

4 – 5:30pm
Keynote Lecture
Black Light: On the Origin and Materiality of the Image
  • Zakiyyah Jackson, Associate Professor of English and Director of the Center for Feminist Research, University of Southern California
    (Read the abstract)
5:30 – 7:30pm


If you require an accommodation for effective communication (ASL interpreting/CART
captioning, alternative media formats, etc.) to fully participate in this event, please contact Gillian Edgelow at 510-643-7172 or gilliane@berkeley.edu with as much advance notice as possible and at least 7-10 days in advance of the event.

Speaker Bios

Dean Raka Ray began her term as dean of social sciences at UC Berkeley on January 1, 2020. Dean Ray is an award-winning mentor and teacher, and has previously held several leadership positions at UC Berkeley, including Chair of the Institute of South Asia Studies (2003-2012), Chair of the Department of Sociology (2012-2015), and Chair of the Academic Senate Committee on Budget and Interdepartmental Relations.

Ray is much in demand as a speaker on issues ranging from gender and feminist theory, postcolonial sociology, contemporary politics in the US and India, and her current project on the transformations in gender wrought by the decline of traditional fields of work for men. Ray’s publications include Fields of Protest: Women’s Movements in India (University of Minnesota, 1999; and in India, Kali for Women, 2000), Social Movements in India: Poverty, Power, and Politics, co-edited with Mary Katzenstein (Rowman and Littlefeld, 2005), Cultures of Servitude: Modernity, Domesticity and Class in India with Seemin Qayum (Stanford 2009), The Handbook of Gender (OUP, India 2011), Both Elite and Everyman: The Cultural Politics of the Indian Middle Classes, co-edited with Amita Baviskar (Routledge, 2011), The Social Life of Gender (Sage 2017) co-edited with Jennifer Carlson and Abigail Andrews, and many articles and op-eds.

Chair Leslie Salzinger is Associate Professor and Chair of Gender and Women’s Studies at UC Berkeley. She got her PhD in Sociology at UC Berkeley and previously taught in the sociology departments at the University of Chicago and and Boston College. She writes and teaches on gender, capitalism, social reproduction, and race/nationality, and their ongoing co-formations. Her empirical research is ethnographic, mostly focused on Latin America, especially Mexico. Her award-winning first book, Genders in Production: Making Workers in Mexico’s Global Factories, analyzed the gendered dimensions of transnational production. Her current work in progress, Model Markets: Peso Dollar Exchange as a Site of Neoliberal Incorporation, analyzes peso/dollar exchange markets as crucial gendered and raced sites for Mexico’s shift from “developing nation” to “emerging market.” Recent publications explore the relationship of masculinity and neoliberalism and the place of social reproduction in capitalism. Professor Salzinger is affiliated with the Department of Sociology and with the Designated Emphasis Program in Critical Theory.

Panel One

Norma Alarcón is a noted Chicana theorist and scholar. She is Professor Emeritus of Ethnic Studies, University of California, Berkeley. She received her doctorate in Latin American Literature and Culture from Indiana University. Her path breaking essays shaped Chicana Studies and paved the way for contemporary theories of Chicana subjectivity. For over 25 years she owned and ran Third Woman Press, publishing key writers and texts in Chicana and Latina Studies. Writers such as Sandra Cisneros and Ana Castillo were first published in Third Woman Press. She resides in San Antonio and is currently working on a collection of her essays.

Paola Bacchetta is Professor of Gender and Women’s Studies at University of California, Berkeley. She was the first Director of the Berkeley Gender Consortium, and is present Advisory Board Member of Berkeley’s Center for Race and Gender, and Center for Right-Wing Studies. Her books include: Co-Motion: On Feminist and Queer of Color Alliances (Duke University Press, forthcoming); Fatema Mernissi for Our Times (with Minoo Moallem, Syracuse University Press, forthcoming), Global Racialities: Empire, Postcoloniality, and Decoloniality (with Sunaina Maira and Howard Winant, Routledge, 2019); Femminismi Queer Postcoloniali (with Laura Fantone, Ombre Corte, 2015); Gender in the Hindu Nation (New Delhi: Women Unlimited, 2004); and Right-Wing Women (with Margaret Power, Routledge, 2002). She has published over 65 professional articles and book chapters on transnational and decolonial feminist theory, queer of color theory, decolonizing sexualities, global southern theory, right-wing movements, political conflict, critical theory, space.

Professor Bacchetta has held a number of visiting professor and visiting researcher positions including at Harvard University, École des hautes études en sciences sociales (EHESS, Paris, France), Université de Paris VII (currently Université Paris Cité, Paris, France), Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina, Florianianopolis (Brazil). She is the recipient of a number of grants including most recently Fulbright, Mellon Foundation, European Union, and France-Berkeley Fund. She has been an activist in feminist and queer of color, decolonial, anti-capitalist, anti-racism movements throughout her life. She is presently co-coordinator of the Decolonizing Sexualities Network, a transnational ensemble of scholars, artists and activists. She is the archivist for the historic revolutionary, anti-colonial, anti-capitalist, anti-racism queer group Dyketactics!, of which she was a co-founder, and is currently writing on Dyketactics! and the politics and poetics of archiving subalterneities.

Lawrence Cohen is a cultural anthropologist whose primary field is the critical study of medicine, health, and the body. He wrote No Aging in India, a book on Alzheimer’s disease, the body and the voice in time, and the cultural politics of senility. He is now working on two projects. India Tonite examines homoerotic identification and representation in the context of political and market logics in urban north India. The Other Kidney * engages the nature of immunosuppression and its accompanying global traffic in organs for transplant. It is part of a larger collaborative project with his colleague Nancy Scheper-Hughes.

These different projects are united in several ways. They all constitute an anthropology of complex objects, working through a variety of meta- epistemological approaches in social theory, philosophical anthropology, science studies, and medical anthropology to linking talk about nature, about political economy, and about the obvious, the ground of culture. They all confront the question of ethnographic form, less as an interpretive or political gesture than as an experimental apparatus for learning something new. And they all operate in intimate relation to a figure of failed sovereignty.

Matt Richardson is an Associate Professor in the Department of Feminist Studies and an affiliate faculty member in Black Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He has published articles in various academic journals such as TSQ, GLQ, Sexuality Research and Social Policy, The Journal of Women’s History and Black Camera. He also has published fiction and poetry in publications like Pharos and Sinister Wisdom and Feminist Studies. His monograph is entitled, The Queer Limit of Black Memory: Black Lesbian Literature and Irresolution (2013). He is a member of the Black Sexual Economies Collective and co-editor of Black Sexual Economies: Race and Sex in a Culture of Capital (2019). He is co-editor of the journal Feminist Studies’ 2011 Special Issue on Race and Transgender Studies and the 2017 special issue of Transgender Studies Quarterly’s The Issue of Blackness. His first novel, Black Canvas: A Campus Haunting is published by Transgress Press (2022).

Courtney Desiree Morris is a visual/conceptual artist and an assistant professor of Gender and Women’s Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. She teaches courses on critical race theory, feminist theory, black social movements in the Americas, women’s social movements in Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as race and environmental politics in the African Diaspora. She is a social anthropologist and is currently completing a book entitled To Defend this Sunrise: Black Women’s Activism and the Geography of Race in Nicaragua, which examines how black women activists have resisted historical and contemporary patterns of racialized state violence, economic exclusion, territorial dispossession, and political repression from the 19th century to the present. She is currently developing a new project on the racial politics of energy production and dispossession in the US Gulf South and South Africa. Her work has been published in American Anthropologist, the Bulletin of Latin American Research, the Journal of Women, Gender, and Families of Color, make/shift: feminisms in motion, and Asterix. To see her art work visit CourtneyDesireeMorris.com.

Panel Two

Marlon M. Bailey is a Black queer theorist and critical/performance ethnographer who studies Black LGBTQ cultural formations, sexual health, and HIV/AIDS prevention. He has served as the Benedict Distinguished Visiting Professor in Africana Studies at tCareton College; the Distinguished Weinberg Fellow in the Department of African American Studies at Northwestern University, and a Visiting Professor at the Center for AIDS Prevention Studies (CAPS) at the University of California, San Francisco.

Marlon was a member of the committee that co-authored award winning report, Understanding the Well-Being of LGBTQ+ Populations, published by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM). This report just won the 2021 Achievement Award from The Gay and Lesbian Medical Association (GLMA).

Natalia Duong is a scholar, teacher, director/choreographer, dramaturg, and multidisciplinary performer. Her interdisciplinary research weaves performance studies, transnational Asian American studies, disability studies, and the environmental humanities in a study of the Chemical compound Agent Orange. Her first book, Chemical Diasporas: Performing Toxicity through Ecological Kinship examines the transnational spread of Agent Orange through a study of cultural media, disability law, and community-engaged research in Vietnam. She received a Ph.D. in Performance Studies with a Designated Emphasis in Women, Gender, and Sexuality from the University of California, Berkeley where she also co-facilitated the Disability and Sexuality Studies Working Group sponsored by the Center for the Study of Sexual Cultures. Natalia has taught courses in theater and performance studies, gender and women’s studies, environmental studies, and disability studies at UC Berkeley and Pomona College. Her writing can be found in the Canadian Review of American Studies, Dance Research, and the Journal of Dramatic Theory and Criticism, and is forthcoming in Catalyst: Feminism, Theory, Technoscience, (Spring 2023) and the edited anthology Crip Genealogies (Duke UP 2023). Natalia is currently a UC President’s Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of California, Los Angeles in the Department of English.

Mimi Thi Nguyen is Associate Professor and Chair of Gender and Women’s Studies at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Her first book, called The Gift of Freedom: War, Debt, and Other Refugee Passages, focuses on the promise of “giving” freedom concurrent and contingent with waging war (Duke University Press, 2012; Outstanding Book Award in Cultural Studies from the Association of Asian American Studies, 2014). She is also co-editor with Fiona I.B. Ngo and Mariam Lam of a special issue of positions: asia critique on Southeast Asian American Studies (20:3, Winter 2012), and co-editor with Thuy Linh Nguyen Tu of Alien Encounters: Pop Culture in Asian America (Duke University Press, 2007). Her papers have been solicited for the Feminist Theory Archive at Brown University.

Her following project is called The Promise of Beauty, and she is part of an editorial collective for The Critical BTS Reader; both books are under contract with Duke University Press. She has also published in Signs, Camera Obscura, Women & Performance, positions, Radical History Review, The Funambulist, and ArtForum. Nguyen was named a Conrad Humanities Scholar in 2013, a designation supporting the work of outstanding associate professors in the humanities within the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Illinois. She was named a John and Grace A. Nicholson Scholar in 2017, a designation supporting excellence in philosophical inquiry, also at the University of Illinois.

Fuifuilupe Niumeitolu is a Tongan/Oceanian/Pacific Islander, scholar, storyteller and community organizer. Her research and community work center issues of; Indigenous and Oceanian feminisms, land rematriation, ending violence against women, prison abolition and restorative justice, and practicing tauhi va through building radical solidarities with California American Indian tribes to protect Indigenous Sacred Sites in Oceania/Pacific and here in California. Niumeitolu is a University of California President’s Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Native American Studies at University of California, Davis and she is Assistant Professor in the Critical Race and Ethnic Studies Department at the University of California, Santa Cruz in Fall 2023.

Niumeitolu is on the organizing committee of, “Koka’anga: Tongan Women Scholars Collective” an Indigenous and Oceanian feminist organization comprised of Tongan women educators and scholars from the U.S. and Australia. This project is hosted by the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs. Furthermore, she is also on the organizing committee of the “California Coalition of Oceania: Pacific Islands Studies” a contingent of educators, scholars and community leaders working to center Oceania/Pacific Islander (Melanesian, Polynesian and Micronesian) communities and our struggles for decolonization and self-determination in productions of Pacific Islands Studies in K-12 classrooms, community colleges and universities here in California.

Laura C. Nelson is Associate Professor of Gender and Women’s Studies at UC Berkeley. She received her PhD in Anthropology at Stanford, and holds a Master’s in City and Regional Planning from UC Berkeley with a focus on housing and community economic development. Her current research project is a study of breast cancer as a medical, cultural, personal, environmental, political and transnational phenomenon in South Korea. She is also in the early stages of a project looking at policies pertaining to the children of immigrant brides in South Korea. Her first book, Measured Excess: Status, Gender, and Consumer Nationalism in South Korea (Columbia University Press, 2000) utilized ethnographic and media materials to examine ways how institutions shaped consumer culture in pursuit of national goals during the period 1960-1997. The text examines the response of South Koreans, particularly women, in various social positions as political conditions and consumer oriented messages evolved. She has also done work in South Korea that investigates the lives and social-presentation strategies of older women without children. Before joining the GWS faculty in 2013, Laura taught for eleven years in the Anthropology Department at California State University, East Bay, where she served as chair from 2008-2013. In addition to her academic positions, Laura’s career includes work in applied anthropology in the US: public policy evaluation, microenterprise development, and building employment linkages to poorly-connected communities.

Keynote Lecture

Zakiyyah Iman Jackson is Associate Professor of English and Director of the Center for Feminist Research at the University of Southern California. Her research explores the literary and aesthetic aspects of Western philosophical and scientific discourse and investigates the engagement of African diasporic literature, film, and visual art with the historical concerns, knowledge claims, and rhetoric of Western science and philosophy. Professor Jackson is the author of Becoming Human: Matter and Meaning in an Antiblack World. Becoming Human is a call for rethinking the philosophical import of African diasporic literature and visual art. It demonstrates that gender, sexuality, and maternity are integral sites for producing a human-animal distinction that persistently reproduces the racial logics and orders of Western thought. Jackson argues that the literary texts and visual artistic practices featured in Becoming Human generate alternative possibilities for reimagining being by neither relying on animal abjection to define what we call human nor reestablishing “recognition” within liberal humanism as an antidote to racialization. Ultimately, Becoming Human reveals both the terrorizing peculiarity of reigning foundational conceptions of “the human” rooted in Renaissance and Enlightenment humanism and expressed in current multiculturalist alternatives as well as highlights generative, unruly senses of being/knowing/feeling existence put forward by black feminist theory, literature, and art. Becoming Human is the winner of the Harry Levin First Book Prize from the American Comparative Literature Association, the Gloria Anzaldúa Book Award from the National Women’s Studies Association, the Lambda Literary Book Award for LGBTQ Studies and is featured in Artforum magazine’s “Best of 2021” issue.

Keynote Lecture Abstract
Aesthesis is a political matter, such that black folk have often sought to challenge a mode of representation that mythologizes blackness as mere absence or lack. There is artmaking that seeks to transfigure both the void blackness is thought to represent and a known world whose “facts” depend on a fiction of black vacancy. These are works that, in the words of curator, Adrienne Edwards, “are philosophically charged, culturally compounded abstractions” and figurations “that point to discourse beyond medium and art movements,” alternately affirming nothing or attuning to the indeterminacy and incalculability of blackness, whether blackness be attributed to person, place, or thing. Perception and its organization are meaningful and necessarily remain a ground of contestation. This talk concerns the refractive potentialities of blackness as well as its density or fullness that exceed the capture of mimetic representation. It highlights works that critically explore the received terms and limits of representation in the interest of the dissolution of given categories and conceptual forms. Focusing particular attention on Faith Ringgold’s Black Light and American People series, this essay both demonstrates that the idea of “the black female” is pivotal in mediating the relation between abstraction and figuration in modern art and our social worlds as well as repositions blackness as immeasurable, multi-dimensional, and a light source in its own right.