Expansive Reflections: Returning to the Feminisms of the 1970s

deadline for submissions: 
May 31, 2017
full name / name of organization: 
Kimberly Lamm (Duke University) and Shilyh Warren (UT Dallas)
contact email: 

A return to the feminisms of the 1970s is one of the most salient dimensions of feminist studies to emerge over the last decade. Scholarly books, special issues of academic journals, conferences, exhibitions, and research forums have revisited this decade in which feminism became a discernible liberation movement rewriting political and cultural landscapes around the globe. Vibrant with differentiation, moving across multiple practices and disciplines, this return can be characterized in at least two ways. First of all, it creates and traces subtle lines of inquiry between the purported triumphs and failures of 1970s feminisms. That is, this return rejects heroic recoveries, but neither does it indulge in the habitual condemnations of 1970s and the “second wave,” thereby revealing feminism to be an ideologically riven and contested terrain. Secondly, this return can be understood as a collective (though diffuse) attempt to engage with what Nancy Fraser identifies as “redistribution, recognition, and representation” in equal measure.

This proposed volume seeks essays that reflect on this return—evident not only in academia, but in emergent activist feminisms of the 21st century—and speculate on what it means for feminist scholarship, politics, and cultural production. Often reflections signal an ending, but we hope this volume is at best a mid-career retrospective, which can contribute to feminism’s continued proliferation and expansion. In light of this aim, we are interested in three modes of analysis: those that create a retrospective account of this recent return, and analyze, in the words of Clare Hemmings, the “feminist stories” that constitute it, which means tracing its attachments, aspirations, and elisions and identifying the larger historical and scholarly trends of which they are a part; those that continue the work of (re)discovering and revealing the neglected historical dimensions and cultural productions of the feminist 1970s that need to be disinterred and brought to light; and those that focus on contemporary texts and events that cite the discernible styles, image repertoires, or structure of feelings of the 1970s as a notable period of feminism’s intervention.

For example, we seek essays that explore the return to the 1970s in relationship to neoliberalism and the exploitation that is its premise, engine, and consequence. In light of Wendy Brown’s assertion that it is women and those who are feminized who are expected to become the “invisible infrastructure” that fills the gaps and cleans up the messes that are left by the neoliberal mandate to bring the “model of the market to all domains and activities” such an exploration seems particularly pressing. How can we better understand the historical coincidence of neoliberalism’s dismantling of the state and the emergence of feminism as a discernible political and cultural force – a collision that shapes both the 1970s and the present? Can the expansive return to feminism that has taken place over the last decade be read as a form of what Svetlana Boym identifies as “reflective nostalgia” and its attention to “unrealized possibilities, unpredictable turns and crossroads”? In other words, might the return represent an effort to go back to the beginning of neoliberalism’s dominance and imagine other possibilities for managing capitalism’s crises?

Related to our interest in neoliberal crisis, we also invite essays that explore the concepts of temporality at work in this return. Beyond “waves,” “generations,” and “progress,” feminist scholars have developed compelling theorizations of time that consider how research into the past might usher in feminist futures. Media scholar Alexandra Juhasz has provocatively suggested, for example, that when it comes to 1970s feminist film culture: “the future was then.” Work that pursues the “future anterior” has also proved helpful in this regard, as it opens an idea of the future within the past and as Tani Barlow explains, “effectively destabilizes the referent of women in documentary evidence.” As feminist art historian Marsha Meskimmon argues, the concepts of temporality deployed in efforts to historicize feminist artistic and cultural productions are intimately connected to their spatial and geographic orientations. Meskimmon points out that feminist art history’s adherence to linear narratives of progress has reinforced the field’s geographic limitations. Following Meskimmon, we seek scholarship that continues the work of displacing the Euro-American axis of the feminist 1970s and works to highlight its “global dynamics” and therefore produce cartographies “able to explore differences and nuances.”         

Studies of visual culture have created both a new material archive and a new set of approaches to the vast array of feminist productions that characterize late twentieth- and early twenty-first centuries. We hope this anthology will contribute to this scholarship but also deliberately expand the boundaries of visual culture to include the audiovisual, especially considering the technological trends that define our presents and futures. We are very interested in work that focuses on the vital role audiovisual culture—media, print culture; gallery, street, and commercial art; radio, television, and film; performance art—has played in this return to feminism. The return to the feminism’s audiovisual productions attest to the desire for, as Fraser puts it, “alternative grammars of the feminist imaginary” in the contemporary historical conjuncture since much of feminism’s impact has been incorporated into neoliberal logics. How do the (audio)visual productions of the 1970s—as well as those of the present that cite and allude to the period—reflect on and engage with the forms of affective and immaterial labor that have come to define work in the neoliberal landscape?

Collectively, the essays in this anthology cultivate an expansive definition of both feminism and of the 1970s, and follow Hemmings in her assertion that the feminist 1970s is more than a discrete historical period, but an active part of imagining what we call feminism in the present. To that end, we are interested in work that draws from the theories, subjects, and methodologies that have emerged since the decade came to a close—theories of affect, queer sexuality, and transnationalism are just three examples—and brings them bear on the return to the feminist 1970s in unpredictable ways. This interdisciplinary anthology invites work by scholars in fields such as Film Studies, Philosophy, Art History, Cultural Studies, Visual and Cultural Anthropology, Literary and Historical studies, Media Studies, Women’s Studies, and beyond.

Please send an abstract (500-750 words), a bibliography of 5 sources, and a short bio to:

Kimberly Lamm, kkl9@duke.edu

Shiylh Warren, shilyh.warren@utdallas.edu

The deadline for abstracts is May 31, 2017. Completed essays will be due on August 01, 2017.