Conference Business

Ha this week’s blog post is a rather “lite” one, as I had arguably the pleasure of spending this weekend in Portland, ME and return to some of my old “stomping-grounds” after a seven-year hiatus. Yes, for those of you who don’t know, I actually did a high-school exchange year in a little town called Gray, just about 30min outside of Portland when I was 16-years-old; hence, lots of good memories and I was certainly keen on taking the opportunity to go back after I heard that the New England Women’s Studies Association was hosting their annual conference with the Maine Women Writers Consortium at the University of New England.

Phew and what did I learn upon landing? The President himself Mr. Obama had taken the town over for a fundraiser and I at least caught a glimpse of the good ol’ Air Force One. Snoop was also playing two shows (unfortunately, both were sold out) that night, so hey I was kinda hoping for a little cameo appearance 😉

Overall, it’s really been a great weekend and I got to meet and network with some very fine people. I actually presented part of a paper that came out of an African American Studies class last semester titled: “The Implications of Motherhood and Mothering in ‘And They Didn’t Die’ and ‘The Joys of Motherhood’”.

A summary reads something like this: Observing the history of published African writing, one notes that black female writers are clearly latecomers relative to black men as well as white African writers. Over the last three decades, however, titles by black women have increasingly begun to appear. Two books have thereby been clearly groundbreaking in writing stories about the lives of Africa’s black rural women. Nigerian writer, Buchi Emecheta’s The Joys of Motherhood (1979) vividly demonstrates the extent to which the deeply rooted power hierarchy between men and women plays out in society and, how the privileges bestowed to men are founded upon the restraining and privation of women’s power.

Similarly, Lauretta Ngcobo is celebrated as the first South African woman writer to have demonstrated the ways in which black rural women’s stories provide powerful depictions of historical events and a means of influencing a people’s understanding of national issues. And They Didn’t Die (1990) is Ngcobo’s contribution to an understanding of South Africa’s post-apartheid society through the past that shaped it. Through the exploration of the experience of young rural women and through illuminating the complex position of family and sexual politics, both Ngcobo and Emecheta, have created works that have earned their rightful place in the canon of African literature.

Engaging with these novels from the perspective of a humanist discourse helps us to deconstruct these particular novels as critiques on cultural identity and on the development and enlightenment paradigms, which have emerged in relation to the decolonization of Africa. By observing the implications of motherhood and mothering, we can see how both novels evoke the existential dimension of cultural displacements, land expropriations, and economic disenfranchisement imposed by colonialism, industrialization and migrant labor.

Most notable from this small conference which clearly focused on local/regional topics was an incredible keynote address by Jennifer Finney Boylan titled “STUCK IN THE MIDDLE WITH YOU: Parenthood in Three Genders.” Holy fuck, it was awesome! She delivered several powerful pieces from her upcoming book, depicting her struggle finding her true identity as a transgender woman, contemplating suicide, her process of “becoming a woman” and particularly “parenthood” as she raised her sons for 6 years as a father before transitioning. Whooo! Screw NCA boredom, this was an address that will stick with me for the rest of my life! And I can’t wait to read more from her!

Here’s a link to a recent talk she gave: “Maybe not in my lifetime, but in yours I feel sure”

So all in all, it’s been a really nice and eventful weekend, y’all!  And after being away from the Atlantic for quite awhile and seeing Portland’s gorgeous coastline as the plane was descending, I definitely have to say that 10,000 lakes can and will never be able to fully replace that … I can’t wait to return to salty waters!

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