The very first official Gender and Sexuality Cluster event took place on 6th November at Reading University. This event was organised by Sophie Payne and Maria Tomlinson who would like to thank the South West and Wales Doctoral Training Partnership for funding this valuable networking opportunity.
Sophie kicked off the day’s activities by setting out the aims and programme of the event. Sophie also added that she, alongside co-founder Maria, hoped that the cluster would provide a safe environment for PhD students in which they could discuss their research ideas. She commented that gender and sexuality was a theme common to many of the SWWDTP doctoral students’ projects and therefore the cluster provided a fantastic opportunity for interdisciplinary, yet focussed, discussion.
Indeed, the variety of PhD work on show paid testament to the interdisciplinarity of the research undertaken by members of the cluster. Each PhD student spoke for around 5 minutes about his or her research and the ways in which it incorporated aspects of gender and/or sexuality. The following researchers and projects were presented on the day:
Maria Tomlinson: Silenced Bodies: The Unspeakable in Francophone Women’s Writing
Sophie Payne: Representations of Contemporary Feminist Protest in Germany and the UK
Ana Tomcic: Uncanny Subjects – Social Violence, Psychoanalytic Justification and Modernist Subversion
Anna Field: ‘Intimate Crime’ in early modern England and Wales, 1660-1760
Tabitha Stanmore: Masculine Magic: The perception and evolution of male magical practitioners in medieval and early modern England
Vicky Jassey: Bataleras on the Frontline: Gender Narratives in Cuban Batá Performance
Lola Breaux: Aesthetics of absence in the films by Otto Preminger
James Lloyd: Music and Ritual in Ancient Sparta: the lead votive figurines of the Sanctuary of Artemis Orthia
Charlie Crouch: The Courtenay Heiresses: Aristocratic Prestige, Female Agency and Royal Control in Thirteenth Century France
After each presentation there was a Q and A during which cluster members had the opportunity to dig deeper into issues pertaining to gender and sexuality that were mentioned in the presentation. For example, Maria’s paper inspired an exchange about the taboo nature of the menopause across the ages, such as in pre-modern, Shakespearian, and recent times. Vicky’s paper led to an interesting discussion on whether the fact that some women have slowly been allowed to play the Bataleras drum, which is traditionally taboo to them, reflected changing attitudes in Cuba towards women. Lola’s work on the films of Preminger sparked a conversation about whether the lack of gender stereotyping in his films was actually a subversive and a deliberate choice. Many lively debates also occurred over tea and coffee such as on attitudes towards women in academia, the changing meaning over time of the word ‘feminism’, children’s attitudes to gender, and how schools should treat transgender children.
The day was brought to a close with a discussion on future activities for the cluster. We agreed that we would like to organise a conference for May 2016. The theme ‘Gendered Space’, as suggested by member Ayan Salaad, was unanimously selected for the upcoming conference. There was also mention of the possibility of setting up a reading group and holding a methodology day during which members would outline the methodologies they employ in their research. The majority of the conversation was focussed on the ways in which the cluster could engage with the public. Ideas included a film club, giving talks in museums, and working with schools.
Maria and Sophie would like to thank all who attended and funded this event. Those present could envisage an exciting future for the cluster and looked forward to continuing many of the conversations that started during the day.