Call for Papers
Interdisciplinary Symposium of the Working Group of Women’s and Gender History (AKHFG) July 6-7, 2017 at the Ruhr-Universität Bochum
Current debates about gender and gender relations have evolved against the background of two developments: First, the gender category has established itself as part of the academic canon after vigorous discussions. It has arrived as an intersectional or relational category in methodological, theoretical, as well as empirical reflections. This establishment as well as its actual reappraisal as part and principal of “excellence programmes” at German universities does not mean that “gender” is not used additively as a static parameter anymore or in a merely descriptive manner. Secondly, an “anti-genderism” debate has surfaced over the last years in political discussions eager to refute a perceived misuse of gender equality that partially bears traits of a culture war. In an often aggressive tone it articulates reactionary positions according to which the gender of a person is primarily predefined by a dichotomous biological ‘nature’. This serves to legitimise if not demand mostly patriarchal-hierarchic ‘natural’ and ‘healthy’ ways of living that are not to be questioned. To ignore these ‘facts’, in the anti-gender activists’ position, would lead the individual as well as society astray.
Increasingly, attacks have been launched from this position against gender research and concrete individuals; these attacks exceed academic debates by far and claim interpretive authority over central social frameworks. Especially because gender research has been conceived from the very beginning as a critical approach, these conflicting developments call for repositioning its concepts and discourses from/ in a historical perspective.
One of the most influential concepts was developed by Joan W. Scott in 1986 (“Gender: A Useful Category of Historical Analysis”). She defined gender as a socially organised relation. This deconstructive approach brought the relational character of normative definitions of femininity and masculinity into focus. This shifted the vantage point from women as a collective defined by a common biology to the social conditions of individuals in their respective specific historic relations. In her 2001 article (“Millennium Fantasies”) Scott reinforced her definition, even if she denied the analytical benefit of the term “gender” as an anti-affirmative and to criticise biological determinations going forward, due to its uncritical and interchangeable use in politics and scholarship.
Historians as well as researchers from other disciplines have continuously explored historical processes of consolidations of ideologically grounded gender discourses and their social practices. The naturalisation, essentialisation and biologisation of body knowledge and cultural practices, empirical observation and habits of perception/patterns of reception as well as regimes of the gaze and physical conditions were decisive subject areas. The objective consisted and still consists in the deconstruction of ontological concepts of gender, to historicise and thus denaturalise gender. From a historical perspective body concepts manifest themselves always in social, legal, medical-technological and economic practices, but also in institutions and infrastructures. Gendered bodies thus become the interface of political-normative interventions and attributions, which uncover a bio-political set of relations between processes of power and practices of knowledge and subjectivation. Ascertaining when and how gender was and still is ontologised in such a manner remains central to the research.
The symposium aims to tie in closely with these developments to reflect on the status and discuss the presence and future of historical gender research. We want to ask about the history of the mechanisms of the biologisation and/or naturalisation of gender roles in the humanities, social and life sciences, as well as about the change of processes of objectivisation and subjectification, and the formation of bio-political dispositives. Last but not least, we would like to discuss the assumption of the extent to which gender research itself may be responsible for its own decentralisation in particular academic fields. To seek common ground, in the sense of establishing a focal point, we would appreciate historical papers that challenge the reflection about theoretical-methodological aspects and conceptualisations.
Proposed topics may include, but are certainly not limited to:
* Comparison of current and historical approaches toward ontologisation and anthropologisation
* Biologisation and essentialisation of gender in the health and life sciences
* Family, marriage and well-being of the child (as biologically defined entities)
* (Biologically defined) capability of work and performance
* Definition of gender-related intelligence
* Reflection/categorisation of interactional processes of gendered attribution
* Anti-essentialist strategies in past, present and future
We invite proposals for papers (20 minutes in length) that address these and/or other questions. Proposals should include an abstract (200 words maximum) and a short (100 words maximum) CV, and should be sent by 30 September 2016 to:
Dr. Muriel González Athenas
Fakultät für Geschichtswissenschaft
Dr. Falko Schnicke
German Historical Institute
17 Bloomsbury Square
London WC1A 2NJ
Prof. Dr. Maren Lorenz
Fakultät für Geschichtswissenschaft
Conference languages will be English and German. A peer-reviewed publication is planned. Accommodation and intra-European travel expenses can be covered for invited speakers.
In case of further enquiries, please do not hesitate to contact the organisers.