Volume 33, November 2015
This special issue publishes papers from the Australian Women’s and Gender Studies Biennial International Conference, held in Melbourne in mid 2104.
The inspiration for the Conference Call for Papers came from Maree Pardy of the Organising Committee. The question of how different forms feminist scholarship and activitism are located within neo-liberal economies and societies, where individuals are made primarily responsible for their own social outcomes as states and institutions retreat, seemed an important one to us. Our critical challenges such as climate change and environmental disasters, wars, poverty, violence against women, mobile and dislocated populations; shifting geo-political power; media saturation and hyper-consumption; and the marketisation of life and meaning, are clearly shared and global. Yet, as we patrol borders aggressively, repudiate ties of dependence and interconnection, and laud the individual, how do we think and act responsibly as feminists?
Operating within a landscape often termed post-feminist (with all the positive and negative tensions and currents this contested terrain conjures), the mobilizing questions for us were about our connections, responses and responsibilities in an unequal and oppressive global context. If feminisms seek to address inequalities, inequities and oppressions, how do we make judgements about what we are responsible for and to whom we are responsible? As feminist scholars and activists, how are we responsible for our consumption choices, interventions and the knowledges we produce?
The conference keynote by Professor Sara Ahmed was an open public address attended by more than 250 people. Drawing from her recently published Willful Subjects (Durham: Duke University Press, 2014), Ahmed explored how feminism’s questions and acts of willfullness sometimes served to situate feminism itself as irresponsible or lacking in responsibility. Yet her analysis of ‘The Willful Child’ with her arm out straight in refusal and the questioning ‘feminist killjoy’ supported the value and meaning of willfullness as a critical feminist project. Keynote panels addressed feminist responses to, and activism, in international relations, religion and responsibilities in the context of indigenous politics. In the papers collected for this special issue, responsibility is the connecting theme in examinations of Australian masculinities, maternal absence, online anti-rape forums, eating disorders, and women’s militancies. I hope these are of interest to you.
Many thanks to those who offered papers, to Alison Bartlett, Editor of Outskirts for her support, and to all the reviewers who made the papers stronger.
Guest Editor JaneMaree Maher