Scholars, activists to look for a meeting of the minds

Activists and scholars can be uncomfortable bedfellows, but GW will seat the two in the same parlor at its “Activism and the Academy: Opening Dialogues” conference March 27-28.

“There is a perception that academic language complicates and distracts from the actual project,” conference coordinator Rachel Riedner said. “But on the other hand, there is a perception that activists don’t theorize adequately. I don’t think that right now there exists a strong relationship between the two.”

Riedner, a graduate student in the human sciences program, began planning the conference more than a year ago with the help of colleagues. The English, American studies and anthropology departments, along with the human sciences and women’s studies programs, collaborated for the fourth consecutive year to organize the event.

The multidisciplinary conference will explore the shapes taken by issues on both sides of university walls. Students from all backgrounds are encouraged to attend the weekend of panel discussions, speeches and paper presentations. Feminism and labor are two of the main themes.

“I find that, particularly in those fields, there are people with a foot in each world,” Riedner said.

The voice of keynote speaker Bruce Robbins, Rutgers professor of English and literature, already is familiar in discussions of academic labor. Ailbhe Smith, a women’s studies professor from the University of Dublin, will speak Friday. Representatives from local feminist groups also will attend.

“There is a huge difference between feminists and scholars,” Riedner explained. “It is a difference between being on the street and sitting in an office doing schoolwork.”

Organizers want both sides of the discussion to gain from the encounter, Riedner said.

“You have to theorize what you are doing,” she explained. “It is an act and a theory.”

The GW Human Sciences Program also is hosting its “Limits of the Body Conference” March 6-7 in the Marvin Center room 405. The conference begins at 9 a.m. each morning.

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