SEWSA annual conference to be held in Oxford, MS

The Sarah Isom Center for Women and Gender Studies at the University of Mississippi will be hosting the 2019 Southeastern Women’s Studies Association Annual Conference March 7-9th. SEWSA is a feminist organization that actively supports and promotes all aspects of women’s studies at every level of involvement.

The event will draw as many as 150 people to Oxford. Over the two and one-half day conference, there are 54 sessions, two keynotes, an evening performance, and several networking opportunities.

The theme of the conference is “Envisioning a Feminist and Queer South,” and both keynotes address that theme—the first by documenting the experiences of queer black Southerners, and the second by looking at Pratt’s past as an activist and member of Feminary, a feminist collective in Durham, North Carolina.  More broadly, the panels feature analyses of gender and sexuality in a wide range of disciplines, most with an emphasis on the South.

Dr. Jamie Harker, Annual Conference Chair, is a professor of English and the Director of the Sarah Isom Center for Women and Gender Studies. She shared her excitement for having this event at the University.

“This is the first time that Southeastern Women’s Studies Association has been in the state of Mississippi, so it is an honor for the state’s flagship institution to host SEWSA,” Harker said. “We are excited to give our students the chance to hear outstanding original research and to introduce visiting scholars to our university community.  We hope community members, faculty, staff, and students will take advantage of this opportunity.”

The two keynote speakers are performance professor E. Patrick Johnson, who will be speaking at the Gertrude Ford Center about his new book of oral history, “Black. Queer. Southern. Women.” at 1 pm Thursday, and poet Minnie Bruce Pratt, who will be speaking at 12pm on Friday also at the Ford Center.

University of Mississippi Documentary Expression graduate student Mary Knight will be presenting different pieces of her work as well. She will be presenting at two panels during the SEWSA conference this weekend – one as part of a group performance and the other on her master’s thesis work on Water Valley native and writer Hubert Creekmore.

“I’m looking forward to sharing my research and getting feedback on it, and to also learn from others about their challenges in doing archival research and get pointers on where to look for information I haven’t yet been able to find,” said Knight.

Dr. Alyssia Steele and Dr. Jessica Wilkerson will be kicking off the weekend with a workshop focusing on basics of oral history interviewing, tips for interviewers, how to take quality photographs, how to record high-quality audio, and how to use oral history interviews in scholarship responsibly.

“The workshop will be a primer for those interested in taking the leap into oral history interviewing as part of their research and scholarship,” said Wilkerson.

University of Mississippi Graduate student Ellie Campbell will be participating in an oral history performance piece about LGBTQ history in North Mississippi and will also show her short film, “Tupelo Pride,” about Tupelo, Mississippi’s first-ever pride event.

“I’m hoping to get involved with the Invisible History Project from Birmingham – their directors, Josh Burford, and Maigen Sullivan, are speaking and meeting with grad students,” Campbell said. “And of course, I’m really thrilled to get to see both Minnie Bruce Pratt and E. Patrick Johnson speak.”

Mr. Kevin Cozart, the Annual Conference Co-host, attended the annual conference for the first time when Kennesaw State hosted in 2017 and planted the seed for the conference to come to University of Mississippi. He shared that bringing the conference to Oxford was not a short process.

“Our original plan was to attempt to host in 2020, but the tentative hosts for 2019 asked to delay until 2020 and the SEWSA president at the time asked if we could host in 2019. After discussions and gaining support from the University, the decision was finalized in the fall of 2017 and we’ve been planning for the last 18 months,” Cozart said.

The four main topics for this year’s conference will be activism, literature, pedagogy, and the queer south.

SEWSA is a regional organization under the National Women’s Studies Association serving Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia.

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