Berks Highlights: There’s Got To Be A Morning After (If You Can Make It Through The Night)

June 10, 2011, 6:40 pm

Sarah Palin is not at the Berkshire Conference

The sun is finally shining in Amherst, after a day and a night of severe weather that created delays, cancellations, and flights diverted to places like Syracuse.  Power was out for up to four or five hours in Massachusetts and Connecticut, but not at the air-conditioned opening reception last night, where we all treated each other to drinks purchased with the *two* free tickets that were stapled to the conference folder.  As most of us enjoyed ourselves at the opening plenary, dinner at Amherst Chinese (which can seat a large group if you are looking for a dinner reservation tonight) and the dessert reception, our sisters were fighting their way cross-country through a storm system that stretched from Chicago to Philadelphia.  Rumor has it that the heroic local arrangements committee was dispatching transportation to Bradley Airport in Hartford until 3 A.M.  Bleary-eyed latecomers nevertheless hauled themselves out of bed for panels beginning at 8:30 a.m.

Because of a variety of appointments, I didn’t make any panels this morning, but the conference has a lively book exhibit and numerous common spaces in the Campus Center where knots of old friends are gathering, and editors chat up potential and signed authors.  Supported by the free WiFi, and surrounded by an invisible Bell of Silence, scholars are finishing up their comments and papers.  The coffee isn’t perfect, but it’s good.  All is well.

Cliotropic Tweets the Berks

By afternoon, I was ready for scholarship.  I started my Berks experience with “Queering the College Campus,” which was a great pick, and was Tweeted by Shane Landrum here.  Two fabulous papers by Susan Freeman and Heather Murray made me believe that lesbian history is moving into a whole, new exciting register. Stephanie Gilmore linked the field to histories of sexual violence and the ongoing state of terror that is endured by contemporary GLBTQ students despite the broad-based “acceptance” of homosexuality among young people of all political and religious beliefs.  Given the Title IX suit at Yale, the activism at Dickinson against that school’s ineffective rape policies, and the periodic scandals that erupt about fraternity and athletic team hazing, Gilmore’s presentation on her new research about violence against LGBTQ students — which connects homophobic violence to all three phenomena — was particularly compelling. Athletic teams and frats are particular nodes for homophobic violence and harassment (pledge rituals include such tasks as “taking a picture of a faggot”), but Gilmore was persuasive that by focusing only on this we neglect the ways in which entire campuses and administration policies are complicit in maintaining sexism and heterosexism.  Gilmore’s research argues that GLBTQ students navigate harassment and sexual violence every day, and that college administrations — who proudly boast that such students are an aspect of campus “diversity” — know this and do nothing to change it.   Administrators who she has interviewed, while they condemn violence against such students, vigorously resist the notion that they are capable of intervening in it.  One unintended outcome of the demise of in loco parentis policies (many of which were themselves sexist and homophobic) has been an insistence by student life professionals and administrators that such violence is a feature of “student culture” that only students themselves can change.  On the other hand, the same administrators will defend explicitly violent, sexist, racist and heterosexist rituals associated with student organizations because they and powerful alumni/ae insist that eliminating them will be disruptive to college tradition and memory (can you say Chief Illiniwek?)

Other panels that are looking good for a Radical sighting today are:

“Researching and Interpreting Feminist Activism of the 1960s abd 1970s:  An Intergenerational Roundtable,” with Judy Wu, Ros Baxandall, Marisela Chavez, Amy Kesselman, Jessica Lee, Barbara Ransby and Sheila Rowbotham.  Cape Cod Lounge; and

“Plenary:  The Sex of Geopolitics,” with Anjali Arondekar, Afsaneh Najmabadi, Geeta Patel, Carol Vance and Siobhan Somerville.  Bowker Auditorium.

Thanks to those of you who are introducing yourselves randomly:  keep coming up to say hi — that’s what the Berks is about, but it is particularly nice to see someone who says “Hi, I usually comment on your blog as…..”  If you are reading this before 5:30 on Friday June 10, don’t forget to show up to meet the bloggers at the Grad Lounge of the Lincoln Campus Center.  Although Historiann won’t make it, there are confirmed appearances by Clio Bluestocking, Another Damned Medievalist, Janice Liedl, and Knitting Clio.

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