This week I got to sit in on part of the Centre for Women’s and Gender Research (SKOK)’s workshop, The Queer Art of (Political) Protest. SKOK is an interdisciplinary research centre striving to strengthen women’s and gender research at UiB throughout all the faculties. The workshop, lead by Prof. Jack J. Halberstam (USA) and Phd fellow Nadzeya Husakouskaya (Belarus/Norway), welcomed scholars researching in the area of queer theory/politics/practices for a two day workshop.
I felt lucky to be present for the presentations and discussions I was able to attend, and wished I had time for more. For example, among many others, I regret not getting to see Marianna Szczygielska (Central European University, Budapest, Hungary) present “We’re Deer, We’re Queer, Get Used to It! A Queer Revolt in the Zoo?”, the title alone is fantastic, and the topic sounds extremely intriguing to me. Of course it sounds intriguing to me… I am a huge fan of, for example, Isabella Rossellini’s series of short videos on biology, including the sexual practices of many types of both land and sea-dwelling creature.
I want to highlight a couple of the fascinating speakers I was able to see. Along with the excellent and intense discussions from Maria Mayerchyk (Institute of Ethnology, National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine) “Intellectuals, Rights and the Protest: Queer-Reflections on #Euromaidan in Ukraine” and Olga Plakhotnik (National Aerospace University, Kharkiv, Ukraine) “Protests, revolution, war: queering the perspective, deconstructing the meanings (the case of Ukraine)”, I got to listen to Nadzeya Husakouskaya (Centre for Women’s and Gender research, University of Bergen, Norway) present “Sex reassignment procedure and transgender subject in contemporary Ukraine: governmental practices and strategies of re-existence”. Nadzeya gave a dynamic presentation which touched on not only Ukraine’s current governmental practices around the transgendered community, a “Sex Change Commission” which pathologizes transgendered people as well as not allowing for or responding to their unique needs as individuals; but also discussed some of the ways that individuals may respond to, negotiate with or circumvent the Sex Change Commission. I can in no way do justice to the nuances of this engaging presentation in a short blog post, please take a look at Nadzeya’s own words in this October 2014 article, The sex change commission in Ukraine.
I was also fortunate enough to attend Jack J. Halberstam‘s public talk at the Litteraturhuset, “A Path So Twisted: Thinking Wildly With and Through Punk Feminisms”. Jack is an author and professor of American Studies and Ethnicity, Gender Studies and Comparative Literature at the University of Southern California.
A self-proclaimed, “counter-intuitive thinker”, he makes you question your assumptions about a variety of topics. From explaining his opposition to trigger warnings (a increasingly common practice in classrooms in the U.S. at least, where instructors forewarn students if something they may be sensitive to/offended by might come up); to calling for humor and passion in and beyond Academia; to discussing, via a film called Times Square, lesbian utopian visionaries of the late 1970s; to calling out institutions as not a place for students to learn, but a place for teachers to teach, he is a charismatic and non-traditional thinker who takes you off the main, straight-and-narrow, trail, and leads you off into the ‘back country’. He discussed the feeling of beign “unmade” by a book he was asked to write the introduction for, and having to reform himself after. I think that also describes the feeling of many in his audience last night. I myself am still processing the experience and re-integrating it into myself. And, all that seriousness aside, as a long time British comedy fan, I appreciated his Monty Python references!
Missed the workshop? You may still be able to make it to the exhibition which opened today, Friday 6 March, “Proud African & Transgender” by Gabrielle Le Roux in the seminar room at SKOK. A collection of portraits which includes short statements on being transgender in each piece.