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Ready To Represent: UK will be in full force at the 37th Annual National Women's Studies Association Conference

By Victoria Dekle

90 miles to the north of Lexington on the banks of the Ohio River is the “The Queen City.” The nickname itself could probably be the topic of a panel discussion when the 37th annual meeting of the National Women’s Studies Association (NWSA) rolls into town in early November. There will be presentations, roundtables and workshops about anything and everything relating to critical studies of gender, from the ways gender is taught, experienced, and promoted in society including higher education.

Most notably, GWS chair Karen Tice will be headlined in an innovative feature of this year’s conference, the Authors Meet Critics roundtable. It is an event in which authors of recently published books hear and respond to comments from experts in the field. Tice’s award-winning book to be discussed is Queens of Academe: Beauty Pageants, Student Bodies, and Campus Life, published by Oxford University Press. No doubt this meeting of the minds will be as lively as it is a propos in The Queen City. It is only one of many opportunities to hear from Kentucky feminists at the NWSA.

At least 13 members from the UK community will make the trek to present their work and discuss their scholarship and opinions with their peers. Not only are several members of the Gender and Women’s Studies Department involved, but students and faculty from Appalachian Studies, Anthropology, Educational Policy Studies and Evaluation, English, History and Sociology will also participate in the conference.

Like other disciplines, the major academic conference for Gender and Women’s Studies is only held once a year and the location is rarely near one’s own home university. Thus, the fact that the conference is only a mere hour and a half away has inspired the UK faculty who conduct feminist research to combine their efforts and make their scholarly presence known.

The overall theme of the National Women’s Studies Conference this year is “Negotiating Points of Encounter.” Feminist scholars from academia and beyond will meet to share recent scholarship with each other and promote networks amongst students, faculty and the communities that these scholars study.

Gender and Women’s Studies scholarship has been better than most at making interdisciplinary connections and truly negotiating those points of encounter. The GWS department at UK is a shining example of such collaborative efforts.

One of the major events for UK’s scholars will be two discussions featuring Appalachian feminist scholarship, consisting mostly of active faculty and students from the University of Kentucky. Designed by Professor Carol Mason from the Department of Gender & Women’s Studies, this pair of panels provides a chance for our scholars to demonstrate their work within the debated and geographically close region of “Appalachia.”

“I thought this was a great opportunity given the proximity of the conference to showcase what the feminist scholars here in Kentucky do,” Mason said.

The twin panels, “Appalachia Wrong” and “Appalachia Strong” contain presentations that rely on a variety of research methods and theories. Despite different disciplinary backgrounds, each panelist communicates across those divides, resulting in a rich discussion of representations of Appalachia.

There will be plenty of familiar topics in the symposium, from debates about natural resource extraction in Appalachia to the problematic stereotypes frequently ascribed to residents of the region. And the presenters also use some familiar sources, such as the RTV series “Toddler and Tiaras” and “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” mentioned in Tice and Brown Deel’s paper.

“Toddlers and Tiaras show has focused on Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee to do its programing,” Tice declared. “Reality TV has consistently been sought out rural Appalachians as object-lessons.” They use “Appalachia” as instructive case histories of how not to live your life, that is, the dangers of being outside of middle class norms and lifestlyes.”

But foiled against such problematic interpretations of Appalachian life, Mason and the participants in both panels will demonstrate the positive images being produced by individuals within the region.

Filmmaker Mimi Pickering will discuss making her feature documentary, “Anne Braden: Southern Patriot”, which tells the story of a midcentury civil rights leader based in Louisville. Mason invited the Appalshop filmmaker to join UK scholars because, she said, Pickering’s film is “a great opportunity to show Kentucky students and people from outside Kentucky just what impact a single woman activist can do.”

Professor and Anthropology Department Chair, Mary Anglin, will also discuss the role of documentary films in either promoting or dismantling problematic stereotypes. To do this, she will contrast the popular one-hour Diana Sawyer documentary, “A Hidden America: Children of the Mountains” (the problematic depiction) with a collaboratively written play, “Higher Ground” that is performed by Appalachian residents.

Other participants in the Appalachian symposium include Ann Kingsolver, Director of the Appalachian Center and Professor of Anthropology, Tammy Clemons, a graduate student in Anthropology, and Assistant Professor Shannon Bell from the Department of Sociology.

Other UK faculty-student collaborations will be highlighted at NWSA. Melissa Stein, Assistant Professor of Gender and Women’s Studies, organized a symposium, “Reproducing Race: Sex, Bodies, and Boundaries of Whiteness.” Stein is currently working with two doctoral students in the History Department, Dana Johnson and Evelyn Ashely Sorrell, and these two will present in Stein’s symposium. In fact, Mason will be the moderator for this UK-dominant panel.

Although, it is wonderful that UK students and faculty are coming together to display their work at NWSA, it is also important for each of these scholars to open their work to the larger field of feminist scholarship and to form new, external connections.

“Networks are an important part of NWSA,” commented Anglin, who cited the association for funding portions of her doctoral dissertation research. This is illustrated by the Graduate Student Mentorship Sessions and the NWSA Member Author Networking Reception to help the participants meet the other scholars and share ideas.

There is no doubt that Tice, Mason and other GWS faculty will be attending some of the student sessions and looking to meet potential students interested in pursuing a truly interdisciplinary Ph.D. at UK. 

The doctoral program in GWS is only year old and the department already has several stellar graduate students in this charter cohort. Two of the first-year students, William Korinko and MaryAnn Kozlowski, will be presenting some of their ongoing research at NWSA.

Tice commented, “It’s really exciting that we’re able to be among only approximately twenty public and private universities that are offering a Ph.D. program and I think that’s because we have had so much involvement across campus from faculty and students that we were able to argue to open a Ph.D. program.”

Follow the links below to learn more about our scholars and their roles at the National Women’s Studies Association Conference.

Mary K. Anglin (Professor and Chair of Anthropology)

  • Paper – “Framing Appalachia: The Class, Race, and Gender of a New Drug in an Old Story”

Shannon Elizabeth Bell (Assistant Professor of Sociology)

  • Paper – “Born Fighting and Protecting: Appalachian Women Activists and the Struggle against King Coal”

Dana Johnson (Graduate Student, History)

  • Paper – “A Vast Experiment in Race Building: The Logan County Contraceptive Trial and the Application of Eugenic Ideology in             Appalachia”

Ann E. Kingsolver (Director of Appalachian Studies and Professor of Anthropology) and Tammy Clemons (Graduate Student, Anthropology)

  • Paper – “Standing their Ground: Young Women Leading the Way in Envisioning Alternative Appalachias”

William Korinko (Graduate Student, Gender and Women’s Studies)

  • Roundtable Moderator – “Encountering the Past: Mad Men, Feminism and the Future”
  • Roundtable Presenter – “Applied Critical Masculinities: The Politics of Curricular & Co-Curricular Programs for Men”

MaryAnn Kozlowski (Graduate Student, Gender and Women’s Studies) with Erika M. Behrmann (Bowling Green State University)

  • Paper – Emerging Feminism in Non-Academic Spaces: The Midwest Feminist Revolutionary Network (MFRN)

Carol Mason (Professor of Gender and Women’s Studies)

  • Paper – “Frack and Back: Resourcing White Masculinity from Promised Land to Buffalo Creek”
  • Symposium Moderator – “Reproducing Race: Sex, Bodies, and the Boundaries of Whiteness”
  • Symposium Organizer – “Appalachia Wrong: Borderline Representations of the Mountain South”
  • Symposium Organizer – “Appalachia Strong: Representations of Women Activists”

Lisa M. Schroot (Graduate Student, English)

  • Paper – “Rape of the Disabled: The Politics of the Abject Body”

Evelyn Ashley Sorrell (Graduate Student, History)

  •  Paper – “Dirt, Disease, and Disorder: Poor White Women and the Racialized Discourse of the Venereal Disease Control                         Movement in the United States”

Melissa N. Stein (Assistant Professor, Gender and Women’s Studies)

  • Paper – “Not Guilty on the Charge of Race Suicide: Ralph Werther/”Jennie June,” Whiteness, and the Scientific Legitimization of             Queer Sexuality in Early 20th Century America”

Karen W. Tice (Professor and Chair of Gender and Women’s Studies)

  • Authors Meet Critics – “Queens of Academe: Beauty Pageantry, Studies of Bodies, and Campus Life”
  • Roundtable Moderator – “Methods, Means and Mores: A Roundtable on “Doing” Global and Transnational Women and Gender             Research”
  • Roundtable Presenter – “Looking Back, Looking Forward: WGS Doctoral Education and./as Transformation”

Karen W. Tice (Professor and Chair of Gender and Women’s Studies) and Rachael Brown Deel (Educational Policy Studies and Evaluation)

  • Paper – “Redneckonizing Neoliberal Representations of Southern Rural Women and Girls”


And here is a guide to help you scope out the UK participants at the conference if you make the trip to Cincinnati:  



Session Title

UK Affiliated Participants



PANEL: Reproducing Race: Sex, Bodies, and Boundaries of Whiteness

Johnson, Mason, Sorrell, Stein



PANEL: The Politics of the Abject Body: Sexual Violence & Human Rights




AUTHORS MEET CRITICS: Queen of Academe: Beauty Pageantry, Student Bodies, and Campus Life




ROUNDTABLE: Looking Back, Looking Forward: WGS Doctoral Education and/as Transformation I




PANEL: Appalachia Wrong: Borderline Representations of the Mountain South

Anglin, Mason, Tice and Brown Deel



ROUNDTABLE: Encountering the Past: Mad Men, Feminism and the Future




ROUNDTABLE: Methods, Means and Mores: A Roundtable on "Doing" Global and Transnational Women and Gender Research




PANEL: Appalachia Strong: Representations of Women Activists

Bell, Kingsolver and Clemons, Mason



ROUNDTABLE: Applied Critical Masculinities: The Politics of Curricular & Co-Curricular Programs for Men




PANEL: Negotiating Difference in the U.S. Midwest