In the Coalition Archives: The Feminisms and Rhetorics Collection
I am pleased to share this post on behalf of Alexis Ramsey-Tobienne, Coalition Archivist and Historian. -Wendy
If you, like me, are missing the community of our C’s Wednesday night SIGs or are pining for the quick hallway conversations between sessions at Fem/Rhet, I invite you into the CFSHRC archive where we have a collection devoted to the Fem/Rhet conferences. From the program for the inaugural conference at Oregon State University in August of 1997 to the student-created archive for the latest conference at James Madison, the Coalition archives has some great materials to browse.
To access the archives, please visit the finding aid on the archives page of the Coalition website. The finding aid is regularly updated with processed materials from the collection. If you are interested in any materials, please contact Alexis Ramsey-Tobienne, the current archivist and historian for the Coalition to access the holdings (firstname.lastname@example.org).
In addition to programs from nearly every year, the collection also features planning documents and FAQ for institutions considering hosting Feminisms and Rhetorics Conferences, conference hosting proposals, emails among liaison committee members, book exhibit information, and photographs and videos from various conferences.
The collection takes us through the evolution of the conference and the Coalition, as we see in the variation of themes:
- From Boundaries to Borderland (Oregon State University, 1997) with plenaries including Jacqueline Jones Royster on “Borderlands and Common Spaces: Care and Maintenance in our Neutral Zone” and Nancy Tuana “Fleshing Rhetoric: Speaking Bodies/ Reconfiguring Sex/Gender.”
- Cross-Disciplinary Sites of Feminist Discourse (Univeristy of Minnesota, Minneapolis, 1999) with exhibits from a variety of feminist art collectives, bookstores, and non profits in Minneapolis. The conference featured Voices of Women Writers, a series of readings by novelists and non-fiction writers Judith Katz, Barrie Jean Borrich, Sandra Benitez, Aurora Levins Morales, and the Tight Spaces Collective.
- Millikin University, 2001.There was no stated theme for this conference. Featured Keynote speakers at this conference included Krista Ratcliffe “Silence and Listening: Rhetorical Arts for “Resisting Disciplines,” Elizabeth Birmingham “Marion Mahony and Milliken Place: Gender, Erasure, and Architectural Attribution,” Lisa Ede and Andrea Lunsford “Feminism(s) and the Politics of Style” (read by Nancy DeJoy), Elizabeth Flynn “What’s in a Name?: Reconfiguring Feminist Traditions,” Joyce Irene Middleton “The Rhetorical World of Black Women Filmmakers: Camille Billops, Julie Dash, and Cheryl Dunye,” Nan Johnson “A Feminist Writes the History of Rhetoric: What does THAT Mean,” and Susan Applegate Krouse “Transforming Images: American Indian Women’s Narratives in Academia” and Jacqueline Jones Royster and Ann Marie Mann Simpkins “Marking Trails: Race, Gender, and Culture in the History of Rhetoric.”
- Intersections: Critical Locations of Feminist Rhetorical Practice (Ohio State University, 2003), where the introductory note highlighted participants from “46 states and 10 nations.” Featured panels included Feminist Historiography with Patricia Bizzell, Cheryl Glenn, Laura Gurak, Winifred Bryan Horner, Jan Swearingen, Kathleen Welch; “Feminist Pedagogy” with Nancy DeJoy, Lisa Ede, Hildy Miller, and Krista Ratcliffe; “Clearing the Clouds, Learning to Speak, and I Got Thunder” with Jacqueline Jones Royster, Shirley Wilson Logan, and Joyce Irene Middleton; and plenary addresses from Andrea Lunsford “All Available Means of Persuasion for Feminists,” Marcia Farr “Speech Play and Verbal Art: New Perspectives on Feminist Rhetorics” and Susan Jarrett “A Sustaining Meloncholy: Feminist Theories and Public Rhetorics.”
- Affirming Diversity (Michigan Tech, 2005) with Keynotes including Min-Zahn Lu “Class Matters: Gender, Critical Literacy, and the Global Restructuring of Capitalist;” Donna Harraway “We Have Never Been Human: Companion Species in Naturecultures;” Jacqueline Jones Royster “Gender, Race, and Nation;” Andrea Lunsford “Women Against War;” and Helena Maria Viramontes reading from selected works.
- Civic Discourse (University of Arkansas–Little Rock, 2007) where the proposal called for presentations beyond the read-aloud academic essays to more interactive and alternative formats and included a note for graduate students on how to approach the conference. Featured panels included those from outside of academia: “The Women of Central High” and another “When Worlds Collide: Feminist Art vs. Images of Empire;” Wendy Kline “Bodies of Evidence: Activists, Patients, and the FDA Regulation of Depo Provera; Dr. M. Joycelyn Elders, former US Surgeon General, and a panel on Civil Rights/Civic Discourse. Keynotes included: Malea Powell “Making NDN Culture: American Indian Women Civic Materialities;” a welcome address from Krista Ratcliffe “Unwilling to Listen: How do you Engage in Civic Dialogue When Each Side Isn’t Civil?” a moderated panel with each of the past conference chairs; Carol Mattingly “A Habit of Civic Engagement: Nineteenth-Century Nuns Dispelling Prejudice; Jessica Rayman “Copyright, Feminism, and Digital Discourse; Hui Wu “Whose Feminism is It? The Rhetoric of Post-Mao Chinese Women Writers; Shirley Wilson Logan “Daisy Bates and Ida Wells: Talking Across Gender.” Another highlight was a reception and tour at the Clinton Presidential Archives.
- Enabling Complexities: Community/Writing/Rhetoric (Michigan State University, 2009). Featured speakers included Gwendolyn D. Pough “On Prince Charming and the Strong Black Woman: Race, Representation, Rhetoric and Romance;” Ceclia Rodriquez Milenas “My English is Not Very Good Looking–Accents and Identities;” Rochelle L. Harris “From Zombies to Writing Groups and Motorcycle Rallies to Memoir: My Search for the Fifth Trope of Rhetoric;” Resa Crane Bistro “Diagnosing Intergenerational Post Traumatic Disorder: Or, a Fat Old Indian Woman Fistfights the American Psychiatric Association in East Lansing;” Terese Guinsatao Monberg “Pinay Peminists: Listening for New Locations and Re/visions of Rhetorical Theory;” and Dora Ramirez-Dhoore “Racial and Scientific Rhetoric in Eco-Political Matters: Third World Women Workers in Helena Maria Viramontes Under the Feet of Jesus and Alicia Gaspar de Alba’s Desert Blood.” This conference also opened with a community event “A Legacy of Conflict and Possibility: an Examination of Racism Between Women of Color and White Women” hosted by M. Carmen Lane from the Lane-Leota Group.
- Feminist Challenges or Feminist Rhetorics?: Locations, Scholarship, and Discourse (Minnesota State Mankato, 2011). Keynote speakers included Gayle Salamon, AlisonPiepmeier, as well as a number of keynote roundtables from Kate Ronald, Eileen Schell and Rebecca Dingo who discussed who feminist methodologies and practices. Mumbi Mwangi and Kyoko Kishimoto discussed Women of Color Feminisms, and Sondra Perl and Betsey Sargent revisited the intersections between felt sense, the body and feminism in pedagogy. A lunch time keynote roundtable included Jenn Melby, owner of Mankato’s Coffee Hag, and a cohort of local feminist and LGBTQI business owners.
- Networks and Connections: Feminisms, Rhetoric, and Local/Global Communities (Stanford University, 2013). The conference program is not currently in the archives, but it is available here.
- Women’s Ways of Making (Arizona State University, 2015). Currently the archive does not have the conference program in its processed holdings, but it is available here. This folder holds a variety of materials related to securing publisher tables.
- Rhetorics, Rights, (R)evolutions (Dayton University, 2017). Currently the archive does not have the conference program in its processed holdings, but the program is available here.
- Redefining Feminist Activism (James Madison University, 2019). Currently the archive does not have the conference program in its processed holdings, but the program is available here.
The programs and accompanying materials from the collection also highlight the importance of community engagement to the conference–with exhibits featuring local non-profits (such as at University of Minnesota–Minneapolis) or with community leaders offering plenaries (such as at University of Dayton) or with a roundtable with local feminist business owners (such as at the University of Minnesota Mankato). The welcome message from the 2009 Michigan State conference directors Malea Powell and Sue Webb and conference assistant co-directors Kendall Lion and Jennifer Sano makes this connection explicit: “we have created a conference that both examines the knowledge work we already do as scholars and community activists and that creates more space for the complicated, difficult work that must follow if we want to adequately reflect the deep structure of connections/intersections/overlaps that are critical to our shared future.” They then continue by encouraging participants to “reach across the category” they identify with to forge new connections and new possibilities.
The idea of blurring binaries was again present at the ASU conference in 2015 where organizers expressly worked to “collapse several impoverished binaries: mind/body, producer/consumer, passive recipients/active consumers, public/private, male/female, and craft/art.” The conference featured artists, weavers, knitters, and other artisans and crafters who presented alongside the more traditional conference format to showcase different ways of making. That said, throughout all the conference programs, you see the conference encouraging broad understanding of what it means to participate in the conference–from locals housing grad students, to online reading rooms, to performing in plays. The blurring of practice and theory was also evident during the Dayton Conference where attendees helped to raise funds for Puerto Rico following the devastation of Hurricane Maria.
A long-standing feature of the conference that we can observe evolving through the conferences are the shared meals. From the early conferences where nearly all the meals were shared, to the more recent iterations of the conference with fewer shared meals and more emphasis on shared experiences. These experiences include the archival collection highlighted at the 2019 JMU Conference featuring exhibits on the ERA and women’s activism on campus, to the opening cocktail and hors d’oeuvres celebration at the 2017 Dayton Conference featuring a rare book collection, that included first editions of noted feminist texts, to the performance of the award-winning Scottsdale Chorus at the 2015 ASU Conference, to the catered dinner in the Rodin Sculpture Garden at the 2013 Stanford Conference, to the visit to the Clinton Presidential Library during the 2007 ULAR Conference. For me, first as a master’s student and now as a professor, these moments beyond the presentation rooms where I got to metaphorically (and sometimes literally) play with fellow conference attendees is where the magic of feminisms and rhetorics happen.
The Feminisms and Rhetorics Collection is a reminder that the hard work of feminist rhetorical theory, practice, teaching, and learning can be extended and enriched when we gather to ask critical questions of ourselves and each other in a spirit of inclusivity and encouragement
-Alexis Ramsey-Tobienne, CFSHRC Archivist and Historian