Saturday, June 14, 2008

Transformative Conferences

Transformative Conferences

Wow. I'm at the Big Women's History Conference. I had dinner last night with the plenary speakers (OMG I am still in major fan squee from being allowed to sit at their feet and drink in their wisdom!) and with women whose work I've been catching up on, because it has more and more to do with my own. And throughout this conference, I've been struck by how much generosity there is -- I've found that before, at the Late Antique conference especially, and at K'zoo. But it's a bit different here.

The transformative part, though, is the realization that women's history (and I'm not particularly a women's historian) forces us to be inclusive in ways that more traditional male-oriented history doesn't. I think many of us can and do regularly consider issues of class, gender, and race (where applicable), in our work, but it's because we are interested. Women's history seems to demand that those things be considered.

OTOH, I have heard two papers where the larger political and religious contexts were under-considered, IMO. Balance is good.

Otherwise, having a wonderful time, and am just enjoying myself, since I'm done with my paper!


Notorious Ph.D. said...

I like what you say about the transformative power of WH. This May, I was at a K'zoo panel in honor of Susan Mosher Stuard, where three high-profile women's historians gave some very good papers. In the discussion period, a silver-haired fifty-ish gentleman stood up, and asked whether women's history wasn't (and here I'm quoting verbatim) "too important to be left to women's historians." His point, as he went on, was to suggest that women's historians ought to consider making women's experience part of the master narrative. Yeesh. Thank you, mister, for showing us ladies how it's done.

Another Damned Medievalist said...

OMG, I heard about that! ECC was there, and told me about it as we kibbitzed in our luxury hotel room (i.e., not the dorm I'm in now ..)

Notorious Ph.D. said...

It was appalling, and you could literally hear the room suck in its breath. The panelists all kind of stared at each other.


SMStuard handled it perfectly: she turned around in her chair (didn't stand), and politely told him that women's historians had been working for a long time to critique the master narrative, and there was still, it seemed, plenty of work to do in that area. She took less than 20 seconds to say this, then turned back around and faced the panelists at the front of the room, to thunderous applause.

New Kid on the Hallway said...

I heart SMS. She is one of the most intelligent and classiest people I've ever met. I was at the second panel in her honor, and before it started she went round the room saying hello to everyone. I've only met her once very briefly and e-mailed her a couple of times about something, and I got a gracious and warm greeting like everyone else (I don't even know if she remembered me, she was being nice to everyone). Total role model.