Conference Schedule!

(un)SAFE: A Graduate Student Conference in Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies.

University of Pennsylvania, December 6th – 7th, 2012

Thursday, December 6th, 2012, Terrace Room, Cohen Hall


1. 9:00am-10:30am Consent and Compulsion.

Moderator: Joan Lubin (English, University of Pennsylvania)

Faculty Respondent: Sharrona Pearl (Annenberg, University of Pennsylvania)

Diego Costa (University of Southern California), “(Breaching) The Pervert’s Contract: The Barebacking Subject as the One Who Knows.”

Zain Lakhani (University of Pennsylvania) “Erotic Traitors to Male Supremacy: Profeminist Men and the Problem of Pornography.”

Aliza Shvarts (New York University), “Knowing You Want It: Risk, Consent, and the Question of Vulnerability.”

2. 10:45am-12:15pm Spheres of Domesticity.

Moderator: Matthew Goldmark (Romance Languages, University of Pennsylvania)

Faculty Respondent: Sean Grattan (English, Queens College, CUNY)

Anndrea Ellison (Northwestern University) “‘Fighting the Good Fight’: The Paradox of Mother Warriors.”

Jessica Hurley (University of Pennsylvania), “Shadow on the Hearth: Form, Genre and Safety in the Domestic Sphere.”

Jessica Rosenberg (University of Pennsylvania), “‘A thornie hedge I haue prepared’: Botanical violence and textual insecurity in poetic gardens of the 1570s.”

12:15pm-1:15pm: LUNCH

3. 1:15pm-2:45pm Managing Threat.

Moderator: L Ruth Rand (History and Sociology of Science, University of Pennsylvania)

Faculty Respondent: Marilyn Sawyer Sommers (Nursing, Director of Center for Global Women’s Health, University of Pennsylvania)

Tara Burk (Graduate Center, CUNY), “Ridiculous Aesthetics for a Doom Generation: Gregg Araki’s Teenage Apocalypse Trilogy.”

Gwen Emmons (University of Pennsylvania), “Beyond condoms and contraceptives: The rhetoric and ramifications of ‘safe’ sex.”

Emily Hella Tsaconas (New York University), “At Any Cost: Re-Routing the Threat of an Athletic Body.”

4. 3:00pm-4:30pm The (un)SAFE Social.

Moderator: Katherine Aid (Comparative Literature and Literary Theory, University of Pennsylvania)

Faculty Respondent: Annika Thiem (Philosophy, Villanova)

Heather Wollin (University of Southern California), “Homing Geographies: Sexuality and Community among Homeless Youth in Los Angeles.”

Brian Ray (New York University), “Feeling Smart: Affect, Cognition, and Queer Liberalism.”

Keynote Address: 5:00pm-7:00pm, Ibrahim Theater, International House

Moderator: Melanie Adley (German, University of Pennsylvania)

Introduction: Heather Love (English, University of Pennsylvania)

The Brownlee Lecture in Feminist Thought:

Lauren Berlant, (English, University of Chicago), “Structures of Unfeeling: Mysterious Skin.”


***The Bearded Ladies Cabaret will be performing “Marlene and the Machine” at the Wilma Theater at 10pm. For more information and for tickets please visit  or contact Jessica Hurley.***

 Friday, December 7th, 2012, Terrace Room, Cohen Hall

10:15-10:30: COFFEE

5. 10:30am-12:00pm Citizenship and State Violence.

Moderator: Aliya Rao (Sociology, University of Pennsylvania)

Faculty Respondent: Deborah Thomas (Anthropology, University of Pennsylvania)

Christina Jogoleff (University of California, Riverside), “Sterile Citizenship: Early California Eugenics and Gendered Imprisonment.”

Jamie Ratliff (University of Louisville), “Teresa Margolles’ Ciudad Juárez: Women on the (un)SAFE Side of the Border.”

Kristi Tillett (University of Pennsylvania), “How the Fugitive Slave Became the White Slave: Civil Death and the Concept of Recaption in Nineteenth-Century America.”

12:15pm-1:15pm: LUNCHTIME Q&A with Lauren Berlant

6. 1:15pm-2:45pm Safety and Strategy.

Moderator: Carolyn Trench (History of Art, University of Pennsylvania)

Faculty Respondent: Ania Loomba (English, University of Pennsylvania)

Shirly Bahar (New York University) “‘jumpying off gw bridge sorry’: Unsafe Leaps in the Mediation and Mediatizaion of Tyler Clementi.”

Jennie Row (Cornell University) “Of Sects and Sex: Queer Harmonics in Corneille’s Polyeucte”

Jocelyn Smith (McMaster University), “Safe Slutty Sex: (Neo)Liberal Third-Wave Feminist Discourse and Sexual ‘Choice’.”

7. 3:00pm-4:30pm Questionable Survivals.

Moderator: Lucia Martinez (English, University of Pennsylvania)

Faculty Respondent: Katie Eyer (Law, Rutgers-Camden)

Beth Hallowell (University of Pennsylvania), “Safety in Pregnancy: Health Law and the Negotiation of Maternal Health and Obstetrical Emergency.”

Bronwyn Wallace (University of Pennsylvania), “Pleasures Past: Aemilia Lanyer and the Affective Poetics of Failure.”

Brooke Willig (Harvard University), “Safe Words: Fifty Shades of Grey at the Intersection of BDSM and Contract Law.”

(un)SAFE is made possible by the generous support of the Departments of History, History of Art, Political Science, Anthropology, English, and Germanic Languages and Literatures; the Center for Africana Studies and the Center for Global Women’s Health; the Program in Comparative Literature and Literary Theory; and the Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies Program and Alice Paul Center.



Experiences of the contemporary social world are often defined in terms of safety: a group of friends, a college choice or a sexual encounter could be “safe”, where a classroom, a piece of equipment or a social space would be “unsafe”. But the distinction between safety and unsafety is profoundly unstable, and articulates some of the most disturbing paradoxes of contemporary life. Safety can be banal, when a writer or athlete reaches only for goals within immediate reach, but it can also be utopian, in the scene of therapy, learning or rehearsal. Media rails against an apparently over-prescriptive “health and safety culture”, while government works hard to remove worker protections (no safe job, no safe workplace) and to limit access to healthcare. At the level of foreign policy, a drive towards safety can legitimate the erosion of national sovereignty (“a world made safe”) and suspension of civil liberties. And so the promise of global security conceals a dangerous reality: selective distribution of safety by capitalism. (un)SAFE seeks explorations of the theme of safety and the unsafe from the multiple perspectives afforded to scholars of gender, sexuality and women’s studies. Lacking institutional support, and denied parity in hiring and tenuring, such scholars lack the safety afforded to many academic researchers. Gender, sexuality and women’s studies, however, has constantly resisted surrendering its tendencies towards the dangerous, its pressurizing of the dominant form of safety. We resist the criminalization of the unsafe, whether it be sexual, emotional or institutional, and prefer to dwell in the social relations that might come after safety. We recognize that safety is the necessary mid-point, rather than the desired end: gender and sexuality studies has offered to many scholars a safe interdisciplinary space to discuss and conduct their research, the products of which have contributed considerably to the creation of safe environments for people across the spectrum of genders and sexualities, bridging the gap between academics and activism. So what then is (un)safe? The questions raised by this term are complex, difficult and many. What does it mean to be safe? Or to not be safe? Where are we safe or unsafe? How does one find a place, space or mindset marked by safety or a lack thereof? What are the political, institutional, individual, physical and emotional implications of safety? Is the safe place, the safe practice, the safe route always better? Can the unsafe be productive or beneficial?

To begin contemplating these questions, the Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies Program at the University of Pennsylvania has organized a conference that will consider the complex personal, institutional and political meanings of safety from all disciplinary and intellectual backgrounds.

The conference will feature a keynote address by Lauren Berlant.


your conference organizers

Melanie Adley, Joseph Lavery, and Caroline Weist

for more information please contact us at