Working as Feminist Historians in a Broken World – A Conversation

Session Abstract : This roundtable brings together feminist historians in a reflexive mode. Our conversation will circle around the myriad different ways in which feminists work as historians in the academy and beyond, foregrounding feminist history as a process or as a way of working.

The participants are linked by an overriding interest in subjectivity but will draw upon their individual research interests including psychoanalysis, subcultures, social movements, women’s organisations, gender and war, memory, childhood, and feeling. Each of us will share a recent example of our research, teaching, or everyday experience of the discipline in order to unpick some of the fault lines around the personal as political, and feminist practice within the contemporary higher education context.

These short contributions by each panellist will form the basis for a collective conversation about the opportunities and challenges involved in practicing as feminist historians today. This conversation will focus around four key areas:

1. Inheritance: which feminists have inspired our work? Does legacy matter?

2. Process: how does feminism inform the way that we work as historians – as teacher-researchers, communicators, managers or as administrators?

3. Historicity: How has our feminist praxis changed over time – what has been the impact of newer forms of feminist activism? Have changes in our social and political context led us to develop new feminist approaches?

4. Agenda: what are our feminist goals as historians going to be in these uncertain times?

Feminist history, like feminism, has always involved a wide chorus of experiences and approaches. In this panel we are not interested in defining, or judging, other feminist’s practice, nor are we looking for universal truths. Instead we want to turn our analytical lenses onto our own feminist practice, hopes and anxieties. This roundtable will explicitly encourage contributions from the floor; the aim is to generate collective conversation rather than a question and answer format.

Roundtable contributors:

Sally Alexander, Goldsmiths
Hester Barron, Sussex
Caitriona Beaumont, London South Bank University
Claire Langhamer, Sussex
Lucy Robinson, Sussex
Penny Summerfield, Manchester