My trip to Istanbul marked a lot of firsts for me: first time to speak about my individual academic work at a conference, first time to travel abroad alone, first time at a binlngual conference, first time to represent my doctoral program and also speak with colleques about their work and their experiences in their departments.
The Gendered Memories of War and Political Violence conference was entirely organized by graduate students - quite impressive! With three full days of panels and four panels a day, there was no shortage of engaging presentations and conversation. The opening panel featured Arelene Avakian who spoke about the transmission of trauma and silences within the history of genocide. Avakian is the author of Lion Woman's Legacy: an American-Armenian Memoir, perhaps the only memoir addressing the Armenian genocide by a woman. Her presentation about her mother's memory of the genocide was quite powerful, even more so as an American citizen- a country that still does not recognize the Armenian genocide. Avakian also happens to be the founder of the Women and Gender Studies program at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
My presentation was part of the "Whose Justice, Whose Peace?" panel on the first day. I presented my paper, "The Danger of the 'Women, Peace and Security' Framework: Absent LGBTQI Voices in the Gender Based Violence Conversation." While I've been thinking about the need for inclusion of LGBTQI voices in UN SCR 1325 indicators for some time, this was my first time to present my ideas to other scholars and as part of a panel.
I made so many new connections while in Istanbul, both intellectually as well as personally. For example, for the first time I heard panelist Agnieszka Weseli talk about the forced prostituion in concentration camps and how this has become a part of a conversation about the forced labor of sex work during political conflicts. I also learned from my fellow panelist Ellen Gorris about the move to reconsider gender based violence as a form of torture as a way of reframing the conversation. I was fortunate enough to speak with one of the conference organizers, Ayse Gul Altinay, who was encouraging about my initial research.
It's no small pleasure to meet scholars a continent away and still be able to discuss feminist international relations theory through the same texts we've all read! While I know the feminist security studies world is a small one, I was reassured of this when spending time with Lydia Cole and discussing our research together.
I look forward to the opportunity to attend conferences of this nature in the future. Next year's ISA in New Orleans seems like a very promosing opprotunity to network internationaly with fellow feminist academics.
I should note I simply wouldn't have been able to attend this conference without the substantial financial contribution to my travel fees from the University of Massachusetts Boston Office of International and Transnational Affairs so I'm forever greatful for the opportunity their grant afforded me as a first doctoral year student.