NWSA 2014 Proposal: Transgression, Gender Disturbance, and Feminist Sci-Fi Futures

Update, April 20, 2014: I just got the message this past weekend, and I’m super excited to announce that our panel was accepted. I’ll update this post again with program information when I learn about specifics of time/place. See you all in San Juan this winter!

Here is a panel proposal I organized for the upcoming National Women’s Studies Association annual conference. The larger conference theme is “Feminist Transgression,” and we’re applying specifically to the “Technologizing Futures” sub-theme.If accepted, I will serve as the panel’s moderator, and this will be my first time at NWSA! And bell hooks will be the keynote! (swoon)

Panel Title: Transgression, Gender Disturbance, and Feminist Sci-Fi Futures

Maria from Metropolis
Statue of Maria from Metropolis in Babelsberg, Germany


micha cárdenas, USC,  @michacardenas

Kim Knight, UT Dallas, @purplekimchi

Amanda Phillips, UCSB, @NazcaTheMad

Roxanne Samer, USC, @roxsamer


Anne Cong-Huyen, UCLA, @anitaconchita

Panel Rationale:

Science fiction and other speculative genres engage technological imaginaries to problematize social ills and elaborate possibilities for change. Historically associated with men ─ dominated by white cis male authors and related to so-called “masculine” subjects of science and technology ─ science fiction has been troubled with colonial, sexist, and transphobic content. However,  feminist, queer, third world women, and women of color authors and artists also mobilize the conventions of the genre for critique, activism, and imagining new worlds. This panel brings together early career academics working in diverse areas of critical media and technology studies as scholars, activists, and makers. The panelists offer intersectional, queer, and transfeminist readings of literary and new media texts that emphasize their relevance to contemporary political and social issues including gender and sexual identity, neocolonial police states, reproductive rights, and others. The panel explicitly addresses the conference theme of “Feminist Trangression” by analyzing disruptive feminisms in literature, new media, and real-world activism. These texts subvert generic conventions to perform transformative critical interventions. Offering a multi-layered approach to “Technologizing Futures,” this panel examines media and genre as technologies themselves that are often used to enable but also sometimes fight against white cisgender heteronormative futurity. It explores material technologies ─ including both existing technologies/platforms (Youtube, Twitter, music videos, and video games) and imagined future technologies (robotics, androids, and clones) ─ that offer critiques of how feminist technologies can subvert and disrupt hegemonic futures.

Keywords: Intersectionality, Technology, New Media
Type of Presenter: Junior Faculty and Graduate Students

Individual Paper Abstracts:

A Transfeminist Media Archaeology of Radical Feminism’s Futures

Presenter: Roxanne Samer, University of Southern California


Transfeminism, the need to think trans* issues and feminism together, is a pressing concern. Debates have broken out on Twitter and feminist blogs about who feminism ought to serve as well as how cisgender feminists might be better trans* allies. While Cathy Brennan and Sheila Jeffreys consider themselves to be carrying on radical feminism, this paper argues otherwise. In order to do so, it offers a transfeminist media archaeology of science fiction in the 1970s that shows radical feminism to be in pursuit of the possibility of living a gendered life differently.

“I Imagined Many Moons in the Sky Lighting the Way to Freedom,”Janelle Monae and Femme DisturbancePresenter: micha cárdenas, University of Southern California


Janelle Monae is an American visual artist whose three-part concept album, Metropolis takes place in a science fiction universe which refers to histories of anti-slavery and black power movements in the US and potential futures of android miscegenation, passing, and escape. By reading Monae alongside Kara Keeling’s book The Witch’s Flight, I argue that Monae’s non-binary android gender invites a trans of color reading that sees femme of color embodiment as exceeding western ways of knowing. This paper considers what strategies femmes of color are using to disturb neocolonialism and its supporting institutions: capitalism, heteropatriarchy, racism, ableism.

Get in My Vagina! Reproductive Legislation and Speculative Disruption

Presenter: Kim Knight, University of Texas at Dallas

In the U.S. in the 21st century, women’s bodies are situated within a Foucauldian multiplicity of force relations that includes both an amplification of juridic discourse and discursive erasure. Reproductive autonomy is being legislatively eroded at the same time that legislators are censured for using anatomical terms like “vagina.” This paper examines the deployment of language and technology in the tension between discourse and erasure surrounding reproductive health. Media objects for examination include Megan McCafferty’s Bumped YA science fiction series, the operations of the iOS autocorrect feature, and online videos such as FunnyOrDie’s “Republicans, Get in My Vagina!”

Projecting Histories: Gender, Race, and Memory Manipulation in Remember Me

Presenter: Amanda Phillips, University of California, Santa Barbara

Social justice scholarship has long theorized how memory influences power structures, just as science fiction has long explored the fantasy of control through memory manipulation. In the procedural virtual worlds of video games, such fantasies may be realized: memory can become an actionable digital space that the gamer can alter at will. This paper will trace how the relationship between Nilin (the mixed race female protagonist of the 2013 title Remember Me), the gamer, and the memories that they inhabit and manipulate together offers a compelling restaging of how technology can influence the power dynamics of narrative, history, and identity.



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