Five College Women's Studies Research Center

Keynote Titles and Abstracts - Mediating Public Spheres: Genealogies of Feminist Knowledge in the Digital Age

Anne Balsamo (School of Media Studies, New School for Public Engagement)
Alex Juhasz (Media Studies, Pitzer College)
An Idea Whose TIme is Now! FemTchNet --A Distributed Online Collaborative Course (DOCC)-- An Alternative MOOC

Sonali Gulati (Independent Filmmaker, Photography & Film, Virginia Commonwealth University)
Screening and Discussion of I Am 

Saiya Miller (Activist and Coeditor: Not Your Mother’s Meatloaf)
Workshop: Graphic Content: Transforming Sex Education with Comics 

Lisa Nakamura (University of Michigan, Ann Arbor)
"I Will Do Everything That I am Asked:" Spambaiting, Dogshaming, and the Racial Violence of Social Media

Susan Squier (Penn State University, University Park)
From Our Bodies, Ourselves, to Our Comics, Ourselves: Graphic Medicine in the Health Humanities 

Jackie Stacey (The University of Manchester)
Mediated Time Warps: Feminist Geneaologies, Queer Bodies and Precarious Publics 

Anne Balsamo (School of Media Studies, New School for Public Engagement)
Alex Juhasz (Media Studies, Pitzer College)


Anne Balsamo is a scholar and designer of cultural technologies, currently serving as Dean of the School of Media Studies at the New School for Public Engagement. Alex Juhasz is a Professor of Media studies who creates and studies media practices that contribute to political change and community and individual growth. In early 2012, Balsamo and Juhasz initiated a project to activate networks of scholars and artists to discuss the relationship between feminism, technology and cultural innovation. The project is called FemTechNet, and currently involves more that 300 participants. It has morphed into an ambitious global effort to design, implement, and teach the first DOCC (Distributed Online Collaborative Course), a feminist rethinking of a MOOC. The DOCC 2013 will involve the participation of instructors and students at 15 universities and colleges in the US and elsewhere from September – November 2013. The primary aim of this project is to demonstrate a work of collaborative feminist technological innovation for the purposes of addressing the educational needs of students interested in advanced topics in feminist science-technology studies. We also seek to contribute to the digital archive of material on the history of women and technology and on the contribution of feminist STS scholarship to the histories of science and technology and to archived discussions of STS topics. And finally we seek to engender a set of digital practices among women and girls, to teach and encourage their participation in writing the technocultural histories of the future by becoming active participants in the creation of global digital archives. In this presentation, Balsamo and Juhasz will discuss the development of FemTechNet in the context of their individual prior work and as an example of feminist technocultural innovation.

Sonali Gulati (Independent Filmmaker, Photography & Film, Virginia Commonwealth University)

Screening and Discussion of I Am

Winner of 14 awards, this documentary film chronicles the journey of an Indian lesbian filmmaker who returns to Delhi, eleven years later, to re-open what was once home, and finally confronts the loss of her mother whom she never came out to. As she meets and speaks to parents of other gay and lesbian Indians, she pieces together the fabric of what family truly means, in a landscape where being gay was until recently a criminal and punishable offense.

Sonali Gulati is an independent filmmaker, a feminist, grass-roots activist, and an educator. She is an Associate Professor at Virginia Commonwealth University's Department of Photography & Film. She has an MFA in Film & Media Arts from Temple University and a BA in Critical Social Thought from Mount Holyoke College (Class of 1996). Ms. Gulati grew up in New Delhi, India and has made several short films that have screened at over three hundred film festivals worldwide. Her films have screened at venues such as the Hirshhorn Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and the National Museum of Women in the Arts, and on public and cable television worldwide.

Saiya Miller (Activist and Coeditor: Not Your Mother’s Meatloaf)

Workshop: Graphic Content: Transforming Sex Education with Comics

We will speak from our experience as editors of Not Your Mother´s Meatloaf, A Sex Education Comic Book, made by and for teens and other young people. The comics in this book were made to process complicated experiences and educate others about issues surrounding sex and sexuality. Participants of this workshop will have the opportunity to consider and experiment with the comic form as an educational tool. We will discuss the importance of creating spaces where marginalized experiences of sexuality and often silenced realities of sexual health can be visible, both in the material and digital worlds. Together we will discuss the unique opportunities that comics provide as tools in an educational setting, as well as the inherently complicated questions of positionality, aesthetics, and censorship that arise during this work. We
will also take time to create a collaborative comic project within the workshop, breaking into small groups and working together to create a large-scale comic book. I will also be bringing in examples of other comics and zines that deal with sex, sexual health,
gender, and sexuality. Click here for more info.

Lisa Nakamura (University of Michigan, Ann Arbor)

“I Will Do Everything That I am Asked:”Spambaiting, Dogshaming, and the
Racial Violence of Social Media”

While much media scholarship celebrates the new ways that participatory culture allows users to generate new viral content by “riffing” or repurposing digital visual forms such as advice animals, animated gifs, and dance conventions, (i.e. Jenkins et al, Spreadable Media) this paper seeks to balance this utopian perspective through a critical visual analysis of “shaming” memes. The “trophy room” of, a site with over 48,000 registered members, is full of images of African men and women holding signs penned with demeaning slogans or engaged in ridiculous acts, such as men wearing women’s bras and posing with a fish held near their heads. And though the site strenuously asserts that it is not racist, the vast majority of the images are of African men and women holding signs that say things like “King of Retards” and “I like to give head.” While some of these are humorous, such as “I can’t believe it’s not butter,” many are designed to render their holder abject, such as “I will do everything that I am asked.” Some have been tricked into giving themselves tattoos that say “I give bj’s” or “Baited by Shiver” because a scam-baiter demanded it as a proof of good faith.

These “trophy” photographs have circulated all over the Internet, causing near-universal hilarity. This paper will explore the genealogy, distribution, aesthetics, and visual history of this “shaming” meme across Tumblr, image trophy rooms, and other  image and discussion boards.

The root of the shaming meme in social media’s visual cultures of racial abjection reminds us of the digital pillory’s hidden history. This history is fundamentally and foundationally about the power of digital visual culture and its memes to dehumanize its objects.

Susan Squier (Penn State University, University Park)

From Our Bodies, Ourselves, to Our Comics, Ourselves: Graphic Medicine in the Health Humanities

In 2006, forty years after the Boston Women’s Health Collective published Our Bodies, Our Selves, a “Think Tank on Emergent Paradigms in Women’s Health” took place at the University of Toronto Medical Center. Organized by neuroscientist Gillian Einstein and philosopher Margret Shildrick, the meeting was prompted by the organizers’ concern that “the practice of women’s health [had] become a jumble of biomedical expectations, reproductive health politics, and surveillance of conditions more common in women”(2009, 294). Einstein and Shildrick hoped the meeting would encourage the development of a more complex understanding of health and illness and a fuller account of the way that biomedical technologies were shaping our embodied experiences. They urged the physicians and scholars present to draw on feminist theory and philosophy to move the field of women’s health beyond “medicine as usual”: as institutionalized, as taught, and as practiced.

Einstein and Shildrick’s Think Tank was the inspiration for this paper, which explores one emergent paradigm in women’s health. The introduction of comics (graphic narratives) has offered a new medium for sex education, which this talk will situate and trace. More significantly, the use of comics has also has come to exemplify the health humanities, with its more complex understanding of women’s health. Moving from discussions of A Cartoon Guide to Sex to Phoebe Gloeckner’s A Child’s Life and Other Stories, Martina Fugazzotto’s “gURL comix" and Liza Bley and Saiya Miller's Not Your Mother's Meatloaf, I survey the way graphic medicine is transforming medically sited sex education and enhancing the wider field of women's health humanities.

Jackie Stacey (The University of Manchester)

Mediated Time Warps: Feminist Genealogies, Queer Bodies and Precarious Publics

This celebration of the 21st anniversary of the Five College Women’s Studies Research Center provides an obvious occasion for reflection upon feminism – its histories, its theories and its politics. But how might we approach this opportunity through recent work on feminist genealogy and queer temporality in such a way that enables us to think critically about what Lauren Berlant has called our ‘historical present’. Rather than telling stories about feminism which rehearse either progress narratives or tales of disappointment and failure, this lecture will draw upon recent work on knowledge genealogies (Hemmings, 2011) and imaginaries (Wiegman, 2012), and queer theories of temporality (Edelman, 2004, Halberstam, 2005, Freeman, 2010) to tell a different story about the 'precarious' publics that we currently inhabit (Butler, 2004, Berlant, 2011). Arguing against those who would have us reject the study of culture (as the new bad object of feminist theory), my talk seeks to show how the cultural domain continues to be a vital focus for understanding the dynamics of the publics.

Drawing on my recent work on cinema and related media, my presentation will discuss how and why some of these ideas about what I call warping time are important for feminist theories of culture today. In my discussion, I shall offer a route through these conceptual questions by focusing on examples of both the digitization of the image and the geneticisation of the body, including: Tilda Swinton as the colour-coded cloned triplets in Lynne Hershman Leeson’s film,Teknolust; Marcus Harvey’s portrait of Margaret Thatcher, Maggie, assembled for 15,000 sprayed [mostly phallic] objects in his show White Riot; Barbara Hammer’s film about her diagnosis of and treatment for ovarian cancer, A Horse is Not a Metaphor; and Peggy Shaw’s live performance as butch noir rogue in the anatomy lesson, MUST – the Inside Story.