Digifem conference odyssey and other adventures

EDIT 22 July:

The digifem Doctoral conference I organised with Laurence happened on the 5th of July and it was good – we got lots of good feedback, lots of love and hugs – new faces and exciting projects, all in one day’s programme. Some people said this was pretty intense and felt a bit squashed at times – and I too would have appreciated a bit more space for discussion.

Anne Welsh wrote a review about the day in the UCL Digital Humanities blog – and eagerly tweeted along with Karen and Catherine Redfern (f-word, one of the invited keynote speakers) during the day as well (the archive of the tweets here).

I am particularly sensitive to Adi’s critique of the day (Adi Kuntsman was one of the invited keynote speakers) as an event focused on white, middle-class, educated and gender-normative feminism. The scopes of the day were to give voice to interdisciplinarity, to talk about methods, and bring together researchers who are positioned as feminists in their work (this was also the idea behind the words ‘feminist approaches’ for me – Kate O’Riordan posed a question about how ‘feminist approaches’ can be equally essentialist to ‘feminist methods’). The Call for Papers went out to lists like the Association of Internet Researchers (AoIR), Brighton and Sussex Sexuality Network (BSSN), Womens Studies, the Media, Cultural Studies and Communication Association (MeCCSA) and various other academic lists. It also went arount non-academic lists like the Feminist Activist Forum (about it ) and Feminist Fightback list and, I think,  it went out to the Queer Mutiny Brighton folk as well. I’m saying that we consciously tried to engage with a broad definition of ‘feminist’ – both academic and non-academic. It seems that this is not always succesful or perhaps different positions within feminism were not heard explicitly during the day. I think that asking what is  ‘feminist’ or ‘queer’  in approaches and methodologies is important, especially when these words operate as umbrella terms for a set of assumptions.

But I am also very uncomfortable with the characterisation ‘middle-class’ – to clarify, I understand and accept that Adi’s critique concerns the focus of the event, the kinds of feminism which were examined, and not persons. My uncomfortability is with ‘middle-class’ when this is used to describe all people involved in higher education or working within academia. Many of the speakers were unfunded students, many were non-british, and some were on benefits. It is important to be reflexive of our own privileges as researchers placed within the academy or/and as using Doctorate studies as a transition from working class to middle-class status. Still for some this transition takes longer than for others and for some it never actually happens. Sleeping in a hostel or desperately trying to find somebody to host you at their airbed so that you can attend a free-event (free food) and minimise costs (to travel expenses) while on a strict budget is a material reality for some Doctoral students during a minimum of three years. This kind of reality is difficult to grasp for middle class people – and it is the specificity of raciality and ethnicity that need to be accounted as well – middle class in greece and middle class in britain is a different set of conditions. I think that the tendency to name  educational events and cultures middle class actually performatively operates as an interpelation (see Judith Butler’s work on Athusser’s concept of interpellation) – it constructs the subjects it supposedly questions (middle class as tantamount to educated) and it makes working class, non-britishness and non-whiteness invisible.

Apart from feeling a bit invisible in terms of class and ethnicity, I feel happy to have met Zem Moffat and hear her talk about Mirror Mirror (I’ve written about this here last year) and ask her questions and also speed-date with her academically at the dinner in Planet India later. Sussex holds a copy of her film, and she told me there is a course on Shared Anthropology which will be including it in the student material. And I’m happy to have met Red (again) and hear her talk with enthusiasm about her PhD project on feminist memory .

I’ll soon complete a proper report for the event – which will be for the Sussex Doctoral School blog.

As for other adventures, Red kindly asked me for an interview and she even called me inspirational! Thanks Red, I may be grumpy about research blogs but I actually take this as an invitation to reconnect with my blog 🙂

And Kate O’Riordan revisits internet research ethics in a e-research ethics blog post where she draws

‘attention to mediation, to the relations between technologies, spaces, texts and people. My manifesto point is that importing one size fits all models of informed consent [which themselves have problematic provenance] – or assuming that human subjects do not appear – can both be failures to open up an ethical space. Conversely a close attention to the relations of internet research – and a relational account – could provide an opportunity to develop a more critical analysis of the current technocultural conjuncture’ (my emphasis).

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