Women & Gender Studies Institute

WGS Research Seminar

Fall 2014 Schedule

The seminar is scheduled monthly on a Wednesday, from 3:00–5:00 p.m.

The WGSI Research Seminar is a monthly forum for interdisciplinary research in feminist and gender studies. Directed at both faculty and graduate students within the WGSI and across the campus as a whole, the seminar’s goal is to foster intellectual engagement with key theoretical, social and political questions touching on gender and feminism and their many intersections through the presentation of cutting-edge work by leading researchers both within and beyond the University of Toronto.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

3:00–5:00 p.m.

JHB 100A Jackman Humanities Building, 170 St. George Street

Vasuki Nesiah, “International Conflict Feminism: The Hazards of Dating the Security Council”

Over the last two decades, there has been huge momentum in efforts to recognize women’s experience of war, and strengthen the international law and policy responses that are triggered. These responses include a decade of Security Council resolutions related to women and armed conflict, feminist jurisprudence in the Ad Hoc tribunals, a transnational effort to support and augment the gender provisions of the ICC, a massive push to expand the number of women in truth commission and reparation processes, peace processes and the mainstreaming of gender in donor policies. Many have celebrated these efforts as a welcome corrective to the patriarchal arc of the international legal and policy landscape. In contrast, I suggest that more caution is warranted. This paper looks at how, too often, ICF has become a companion project to agendas of counter terrorism, intervention and the displacement of distributive concerns – a companion project with mutually reinforcing dynamics.

Vasuki Nesiah is Associate Professor of Practice at NYU, Gallatin. Currently her main areas of research include the law and politics of international human rights and humanitarianism, with a particular focus on transitional justice. She is working on two principle projects at present – A genealogy of transitional justice, and a co-edited volume on legacies of the Bandung conference on critical traditions in international law. Her past publications have engaged with different dimensions of public international law, colonialism and international law, international feminisms and the politics of memory and constitutionalism in Sri Lanka. She teaches human rights, law and social theory and international legal studies at NYU.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

3:00–5:00 p.m.

JHB 100A Jackman Humanities Building, 170 St. George Street

Sarah Trimble, “Regarding Ruins: State-phobic Speculations and Neoliberal Legends”

Contemporary apocalypse films conduct a neoliberal pedagogy. By privileging a survivalist’s perspective on ruined landscapes, they teach ways of speculating on undone spaces as risky but potentially profitable sites of economic and affective investment. These visions of social collapse channel both “weak state” and “strong state” fantasies, simultaneously dramatizing The End of so-called big government and the rise, in its place, of a militarized authoritarian power. As a result, they’re uniquely positioned to illuminate how neoliberalism mediates the incoherence of its own theoretical framework, balancing a state-phobic ideology with the need for security apparatuses that will defend private property and entrepreneurial freedom. A critical analysis of the gender, racial, and generational politics of survivalist fantasies can reveal the ideological sleight of hand by which neoliberalism affixes an apocalyptic horizon to the maternally-coded welfare state—projecting a catastrophe that seemingly materializes in visions of urban decay and “menacing” youth—and proposes the paternal security state as an authoritarian corrective. Anchored by a close reading of Francis Lawrence’s I Am Legend (2007), this paper maps the overlapping spatial stories told by security states and (supposedly anti-state) survivalists. Reading Legend as an unstable allegory of the War on Terror that simultaneously resurfaces the American Indian as the original “terrorist,” I demonstrate how neoliberal security states are invested in representing ruined spaces as empty lands ripe for re-colonization.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

3:00–5:00 p.m.

JHB 100A Jackman Humanities Building, 170 St. George Street

Jean Comaroff, “ The Return of Khulekani Khumalo, Zombie Captive: Identity, Law, and Paradoxes of Personhood in the Postcolony”

What might imposture tell us about personhood in ‘postcolonial’ times? About the means of producing selfhood, gender, identity, social viability? While the figure of the false double has long haunted Western ideas of personhood, imposture of various kinds has become ever more striking in late modern times. It is especially common in post-apartheid South Africa, for instance, where identity theft, plagiarism, fakery, even counterfeit crime are everyday occurrences. Taking a celebrated national case – the alleged ‘return’ of a famous Zulu musician who died three years ago – this lecture explores what such acts of imposture might tell us about postcolonial self-fashioning, about personhood under contemporary social conditions, and about the difficulties posed by all this for law, evidence, and the meaning of recognition.