The 10th Biennial Feminisms and Rhetorics Conference concluded on October 31, 2015, and what a celebration! Hosted by Maureen Goggin and Shirley Rose (and their fabulous team) at Arizona State University, this was one of the very best of all the conferences so far: brilliant!
I have been at most of these conferences, including the first one, held at Oregon State University in 1997 and hosted by Lisa Ede and Cheryl Glenn. Lisa and Cheryl had been given some funding from their dean that year, and they proposed to use it to hold a conference on feminism and rhetoric, thinking it would be a one-time affair. But when we gathered in Corvallis, so enthusiastic were all the participants that toward the end of the conference colleagues from the University of Minnesota rose to say that the show simply HAD to go on—and offered to host it in 1999. Thus was born the Biennial Conference, with this year being the tenth consecutive one, now supported and sponsored by the Coalition of Women Scholars in the History of Rhetoric and Composition, a remarkable group with a juried journal, Peitho. Every one of the meetings has been special in its own way: who can forget Joy Harjo and her band in Minnesota, the Deaf poets at Ohio State, or Lynda Barry bringing down the house at Stanford!
But I cannot remember enjoying a conference—any conference—any more than I did this one, nor can I remember learning more. “Women’s Ways of Making” began with “writing workshops” in which established scholars met with graduate students or new professors to discuss the making of dissertations and articles and offer advice and counsel. The ninety minutes I spent with a Syracuse grad student LaToya Sawyer were enlightening and inspiring: her project is amazing, and I feel privileged to be along for the ride. This was only one of several sessions devoted to mentoring, a key theme of the conference during which the very first Lisa Ede Mentoring Award went to Cheryl Glenn.
From a session focusing on the work of Ann Berthoff and Wendy Bishop to one that featured two talks on feminist methodologies, to panels on reproductive rights, ethics, and feminist design making, this conference carried all of us along in its joyful wake. The opening ceremony’s keynote address by fiber artist Ann Morton held us spellbound, as she recounted her work with “brave knitters” and other women makers who transformed an empty block in Phoenix into a blossoming of blankets for homeless citizens. During lunch, we were invited to browse the “Plenary Making Session,” where artists were weaving, spinning, knitting, making jewelry, and more. And the screening of Cathy Stevulak and Catherine Masud’s documentary “Threads: The Art and Life of Surayia Rahman” was packed with conference-goers thrilled to meet “Aunty” Surayia and learn of the transformative effect of her embroidering projects (though we fell silent and stunned when we learned that Surayia’s designs had been appropriated by others and she was denied copyright, showing once again how corporate interests continue to trump indigenous works of art).
More engaging and engaged panels, plenary addresses, and mentoring sessions flowed throughout Friday, culminating in a presentation by the renowned Scottsdale Chorus that featured Women’s Ways of Making Music. Not to be missed! And then there were even more panels and events on Saturday, a true feast for everyone there.
I know I speak for everyone at this remarkable meeting in extending congratulations and deepest thanks to the Arizona State team (and especially to the indefatigable Maureen and Shirley, who are without a doubt women makers on the move). So check out the links above – and stay tuned for information on the 2017 Conference so you can mark your calendar and plan to attend.