Another Perspective on the NWSA Conference in Puerto Rico

Originally published on December 19, 2014

This November, I had the privilege of traveling to San Juan, Puerto Rico to attend the 2014 National Women’s and Gender Studies Association Conference. Accompanied by my WGST mentors, fellow graduate teaching assistants, and two undergraduate teaching assistants, I was honored to represent West Virginia University’s Center for Women’s and Gender Studies. Guided under the theme of feminist transgressions, this conference marked NWSA’s largest event to date. Over 2,000 feminist thinkers gathered from different disciplines to share their work on feminist theory and practice. Yi-Chun Tricia Lin,NWSA’s president as of 2012, notes the unique position of feminist transgressions in the conference’s welcome booklet, writing, “The conference endeavors to take up the histories, geographies, affective dimensions, and political stakes of various feminist insubordinations in the spaces they occupy: intellectual and institutional, local and global, public and intimate, by choice and under duress” (7). As an aspiring feminist scholar and instructor, I arrived at the conference with the hopes of exploring my existing interests in feminist discourse, but in the spirit of transgressions, breaking boundaries, and finding value in liminal spaces, I quickly abandoned my original plan and attended panels that investigated topics outside of my usual topics of interests. As such, the 2014 NWSA conference proved to be one of the most inspiring and eye opening weeks of my life. Even with my degree in English, I cannot find the words to express how grateful I am to have had this experience, and I know that attending this conference would not have been possible without the support—financial and otherwise—of the Center for Women’s and Gender Studies.

Within the greater context of feminist transgressions, multiple panels contemplated feminist futures. Looking to digital spaces for their ability to create, host, and share intersectional discourse, panels like Digital Feminist Futures and Exploring Feminist Politics Online highlighted the ways in which online activism has breathed new life into social justice efforts. As a second year graduate student, I am continuously trying to navigate the line between studying foundational, canonical works and embracing new, unconventional modes of academic scholarship and embodied action. After attending the NWSA conference, I look forward to inviting and incorporating more digital discovery into my Introduction to Women’s Studies class, and I am even more excited about continuing to push boundaries, ask questions, and transgress.

Heather L. Murton