The University of Chicago News Office
Feb. 11, 2004 Press Contact: Josh Schonwald
(773) 702-6421

Back to the Future: Generations of Feminism

    Addtional Contact: Gina Olson
773-702-9936 (ph)
773-834-2000 (fax)


On Saturday, February 28, writers, scholars and activists who defined feminism’s past and are creating its future will come together at Back to the Future: Generations of Feminism, to rethink the history and goals of the women’s movement. The conference, sponsored by the University of Chicago’s Center for Gender Studies, will run the gamut from best-sellers to deconstructionists. It will include writers Kate Millett, Michele Faith Wallace and Dorothy Allison, whose books brought feminism to the public, and scholars like Gayatri Spivak, who first translated Derrida and helped invent Post-Colonial Studies.

Conference co-organizer Deborah Nelson, Associate Professor of English at Chicago, said, “We have invited speakers at different stages in their careers as feminist writers, scholars and activists and asked them to reflect on the past and especially the future of feminism. Our goal is to produce a moment of reflection both by listening to our distinguished speakers and by generating discussion between panelists and audience members about the possible futures of feminism.”

Speakers will talk about what feminism’s successes mean, and respond to such questions as: Did you once imagine a utopian future that you have since revised, refined or rejected? What inspired you to ask the questions that led to becoming feminist? What happens when a work becomes a “classic” in feminist thought and politics?

Co-organizer Sandra Macpherson, Assistant Professor of English, added, “We want to confront how feminism as an academic discipline and an economic and political issue has changed. Has the coalition aspect of contemporary feminism made it fundamentally different? Does our view of globalization need to be re-infused with feminism? Each speaker will contribute a unique perspective on where we have come and where we ought to be going.”

The conference will be held at the Max Palevsky Theater in the University of Chicago’s Ida Noyes Hall 1212 East 59th Street, Chicago. Persons with disabilities who may require assistance may contact the Center at 773-702-9936. The conference is free and open to the public but attendees are asked to pre-register at the website, where full details of the schedule, panelists’ biographies, information for visitors, and directions are available: Further conference information please contact Gina Olson at 773-702-9936 (ph) 773-834-2000 (fax) or

The panelists are:

  • Dorothy Allison, author of the award-winning and best-selling novel Bastard Out of Carolina, is a long-time feminist and pro-sex activist. Allison has published a wide range of literature including poetry, short stories, and essays, and has devoted herself to feminist causes, particularly on behalf of abused women and new writers.
  • Sabrina Craig, Program Director of Women in the Directors Chair (the oldest and longest running women's film and video festival in the U.S.) from 1997-2003. Craig has worked on many independent films and curators film exhibitions at such places as the Walker Museum of Contemporary Art.
  • Judith Halberstam, professor of literature at the University of California at San Diego and the author of Female Masculinity, is a prominent theorist of gender, sexuality, and transgender. In addition to a book on gothic fiction, she has co-edited Posthuman Bodies and co-authored The Drag King Book.
  • Sharon P. Holland, associate professor of African American studies and English at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Her Raising the Dead: Readings of Death and (Black) Subjectivity placed her in “a new generation of scholars working at the intersections of race, gender, and sexuality.”
  • Feminist literary critic Nancy K. Miller is the author of The Heroines Text and editor of The Poetics of Gender and Distinguished Professor at the City University of New York Graduate Center. Since the late 1980s, she has turned her attention to autobiographical writing, producing But Enough about Me: Why We Read Other People’s Lives.
  • Kate Millett is the author of the landmark Sexual Politics (1970) and has been described as “the foremother of feminist literary criticism and cultural politics.” An activist and writer, Millett has also published The Prostitution Papers and the autobiographical Flying, Sita, and The Loony Bin Trip.
  • MacArthur Foundation grant winner Aihwa Ong is a professor of anthropology at Berkeley and works on gender, labor, capital, and liberalism in Southeast Asia, China, and the US. Her books Spirits of Resistance and Capitalist Discipline and Flexible Citizenship are on syllabi across the nation.
  • Lynn Spigel’s work has been described as “a new kind of media history, combining feminist scholarship, the history of architecture, and the interpretation of television programming.” A professor of communication at Northwestern University, she is the author of Make Room for TV and Welcome to the Dreamhouse and co-editor of The Revolution Wasn’t Televised and the journal Camera Obscura.
  • Gayatri Spivak, a professor at Columbia University, celebrates the 20th anniversary of her essay “Can the Subaltern Speak?” which helped initiate Post-Colonial studies, a discipline she invented along with Edward Said and Homi Bhabha. She has since worked to develop, criticize and challenge the study of culture worldwide in books like Critique of Postcolonial Reason and Death of a Discipline.
  • Michele Faith Wallace’s defining work of the 1970’s, Black Macho and the Myth of the Superwoman, generated interest and controversy since its publication. She is a professor at the City University of New York Graduate Center. Her most recent book, Dark Designs and Visual Culture, is forthcoming.

Last modified at 10:55 AM CST on Wednesday, February 11, 2004.

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