GSF Graduate Scholars Colloquium 2023-24 Series was a Smashing Success!

East Duke Blue Parlor with students and faculty sitting in a circle

The Gender, Sexuality, & Feminist Studies Graduate Scholars Colloquium, a student writers’ workshop and discussion series, provides a unique venue for graduate students to share and discuss works-in-progress with peers and faculty in the field. This year’s series, co-organized by Cole Adams (Literature) and Katherine Carithers (English), featured papers from a wide array of disciplines, and discussions provided presenters with feedback to hone their drafts as well as a space for intellectual exchange among Duke scholars working in and around GSF.

In September, Duke/UNC German Studies PhD candidate Stephen Zaksewicz presented a dissertation chapter titled “The Embodied Planet: Sex and Gender in the Characters of Raoul Schrott” and Luca Pixner (Duke/UNC German Studies) gave a response. Stephen’s paper focused on the role of sexual imagery in the depiction of nature and the environment in contemporary Austrian novels. Both the paper and the group workshop focused on drawing connections between these novels and conversations in recent queer and feminist theory about ecology and the planet.

For our next event, English PhD candidate Savannah Marciezyk presented a draft of her chapter, “Reading Women’s Literature as a Feminist Speech Act,” which draws on Ordinary Language Philosophy to theorize the project’s central conceptual framework of reading twentieth and twenty-first-century women’s literature as a “feminist speech act.” English PhD student Joelle Troiano responded, and the workshop focused on developing the unique work that a “feminist” speech act performs in the context of feminist activism and scholarship from the eighties until now. 

Joseph Hiller, Cultural Anthropology PhD candidate, closed out the fall series in November with a paper titled “Entre Las Chicas: Care, Abandonment, and Insistence in Colombian Prison Worlds.” Joe had just returned from fieldwork in Colombia, and the paper was based on ethnographic research with the Red Comunitaria Trans [Communitarian Trans Network], including the “Cuerpos en Prisión, Mentes en Acción” [Bodies in Prison, Minds in Action] working group, as well as his time as a  “pasante de investigación” [research intern] with the Grupo de Prisiones [Prison Group] legal clinic at the University of the Andes School of Law. GSF Chair Professor Jennifer C. Nash gave the response and launched a spirited discussion about writerly practice, method, and the various valences of “care” in political movements and scholarly practice.

Tania Rispoli, PhD candidate in Romance Studies (Italian track), launched the spring series in January with a chapter titled “Technologies of Care.” Drawing on feminist posthumanist theories, Tania’s interdisciplinary project integrated film, contemporary art, and novels to explore the modes of temporality and knowledge production that emerge from nonhuman and technological relations. In particular, Tania analyzed artworks featured in the Art Venice Biennale 2022, Denise Villeneuve's film Arrival, and Octavia Butler's Dawn to question how gender and racial differences function in technological and nonhuman relations in order to theorize a “politics of regeneration.” Associate Professor of GSF and Cultural Anthropology Ara Wilson responded, initiating a broader conversation around the role of aesthetics in political thinking. 

Following up in February, Computational Media, Arts, and Cultures PhD candidate Kelsey Brod gave a paper titled “The Concept of Number and the Computational Nonperformance of Floating-point Arithmetic,” which explored both the philosophical and practical aspects of floating-point arithmetic in computing. The paper considered how insights from Black studies and black feminist theory might change how we think about the ethics and politics of computation and media technologies in the present. Professor of Literature Luciana Parisi gave the response, which opened up a discussion about the aims of media theory, as well as how artistic practice can inform critical practice and vice versa.

For our final colloquium of the year, PhD candidate in Biology Anita Simha presented an article co-authored with the plant biologist and women’s and gender studies professor Banu Subramaniam titled “Transient Ecologies: From Cybernetic Stories to Trans* Ecological Futures.” Drawing on their dual disciplinary knowledge in biology, ecology, and trans and queer studies, their article aims to move away from cybernetics as the site for interdisciplinary thinking and toward plant ecological studies, which tells a different history of ecology as a field. With this shift, they focus on how queer and trans* studies’ highly developed languages for indeterminacy, contingency, and change will facilitate an interdisciplinary conversation between disparate fields to foster what they call “a vegetal trans* ecology.” GSF Director of Graduate Studies and Associate Professor of GSF and History, Gabriel Rosenberg, gave a response that initiated a deep discussion about interdisciplinary methods and recent debates in trans studies.

Overall, this year’s GSF Graduate Scholars Colloquium was a smashing success. It hosted exciting, rigorous discussions and fostered new friendships over dinner. We’re looking forward to continuing the conversation next year.