Engendering Change: The Fourth Annual Gender and Sexualities Graduate Student Conference

Northwestern University Evanston Campus

Friday, April 4th, and Saturday, April 5th, 2014

Engendering Change is a graduate student-led conference that features Chicago-area graduate students and postdoctoral scholars from many disciplines to share their scholarship, performance practice, and/or community work in gender and sexualities.

The fourth annual conference returns to Northwestern University’s Evanston Campus.  The kickoff speaker will be Professor Francesca Royster (DePaul, English), whose most recent book, Sounding Like a No-No: Queer Sounds and Eccentric Acts in the Post-Soul Era (University of Michigan Press, 2013), analyzes and theorizes pop-musical performance as a venue for vocal, embodied, gendered, racialized, and sexual transgression, with regard to such figures as Michael Jackson, Grace Jones, Eartha Kitt, and Me’shell NdegeOcello.

Rather than announce a conference “theme” per se—which might unwittingly narrow the range of proposed papers and panels, and undercut our hopes for an eclectic, cross-disciplinary event—the organizers are approaching every level of this year’s conference through five grounding convictions:

* We are committed to a conference that showcases all levels of graduate-student scholarship, all the way from those still undertaking coursework to newly minted Ph.D.s.  If you have a brand-new idea that could use some feedback, some longterm research that has reached an exciting conclusion, or anything in between, submit it!

* We pledge to solicit and support—as programmers, hosts, and audience members—the participation of colleagues from as many Chicagoland and nearby campuses as the conference can accommodate, fostering chances for exchange and solidarity that can outlast the conference itself.

* We strongly urge intersectional approaches to race, class, gender, sexuality, and other axes of difference within individual papers.  Accordingly, we hope to cultivate lively discourses and heterogeneous approaches to these concepts on all panels, rather than making them the devoted concerns of specific, potentially marginalized events.

* We aim to promote interdisciplinary dialogues and constructive testing of methods and assumptions across multiple academic fields.  Hopefully this can happen within individual papers, among panel presenters, and across the weekend as a whole.
* We hope, in the spirit of “Engendering Change,” not just to address gender-related topics and problems from academic, artistic, and activist perspectives but to keep thinking creatively about how our ideas can open new possibilities for how we embody, perform, and understand gender, individually and collectively, in theory and in practice.
History of the Conference:

Engendering Change was first organized in 2011. Each year, a different Chicago-area university hosts the event. The first year of the conference was held at Northwestern University and was co-sponsored with the University of Chicago and the University of Illinois at Chicago. Nearly 80 people attended the two-day conference, which had seven academic panels and one faculty panel on academic careers in gender studies. Twenty students presented, representing six universities. The second conference was held at the University of Chicago in April 2012 and co-sponsored with Northwestern University and the University of Illinois at Chicago. The conference program included nine academic panels in addition to two faculty panels. Thirty-five students presented, representing nine universities. The third conference was held on the University of Illinois at Chicago campus on Thursday, March 14th, 2013 with keynote speaker Rose Brewer. Forty-two graduate students presented, representing nine universities.