Lecture Series

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“Feminisms in the Digital Age: Transnational Activism in Germany and Beyond” is a digital lecture series that explores the political impact of feminist activisms in the 21st century. In five lectures and a concluding roundtable, we interrogate the digital interface of transnational protest movements and local activism in feminist politics. The lectures take contemporary German protest culture as a case study for the manner in which transnational feminist activism intersects with the national configuration of feminist political work. We explore how movements and actions from outside Germany’s borders circulate digitally and resonate differently in new local contexts, and further, how these border-crossings transform grass-roots activism as it goes digital.

Please post your questions and thoughts on Twitter @PopFemActivism #digifemactivism or send them to popfeministactivism@gmail.com. 



LECTURE 1, Nov. 4

Starting the Debate: Framing Contemporary Engagements with Feminism—Christina Scharff (King’s College London, UK)

Description: As the first lecture in the series, Christina will attempt to frame contemporary engagements with feminism. Taking a step back and looking at the wider cultural context, her lecture will discuss a range of contemporary cultural currents and the ways they intersect with feminist protest cultures. More specifically, Christina will explore the role of postfeminism, neoliberalism and difference in engagements with feminism and ask a range of questions, such as: How does contemporary feminist activism engage with feminist legacies? To what extent is neoliberal ideology taken up or subverted in contemporary feminist protest cultures? And how are differences amongst women – specifically in relation to race, ethnicity and sexuality – negotiated in feminist debates?  As such, the lecture hopes to open up a variety of themes and debates that will be discussed in more detail, and from different perspectives in the following lectures.


LECTURE 2, Nov. 10

Redoing Feminism: Digital Activism, Body Politics, and Neoliberalism—Hester Baer (University of Maryland, College Park, USA)

It is clear that the increased use of digital media has altered, influenced, and shaped feminism in the twenty-first century by giving rise to different kinds of conversations, changed modes of communication, and new configurations of activism, on- and offline, across the globe and in Germany. Less clear are the specific political investments of digital feminism, which has emerged in tandem with the global hegemony of neoliberalism. Hester’s talk examines the conjunction of digital platforms and activism today, focusing on the crucial interrelationship between body politics experienced in a local context and feminist actions whose efficacy relies on their translocal and transnational articulation. Through a discussion of three case studies (SlutWalk Berlin, Peaches’ “Free Pussy Riot!” video, and the Twitter campaigns #aufschrei and #yesallwomen), Hester considers how digital feminisms are redoing feminist politics for a neoliberal age.


LECTURE 3, Nov. 17

Awkward Activism: A Methodological Starting Point—Maria Stehle (University of Tennessee, Knoxville, USA)

Description(lectures 3 and 4): While digital technology’s transnational reach and temporal immediacy has broadened the potential impact of feminist activism, it has also complicated the materiality of feminist work as well as muddied the line between engagement with and consumption of activist actions. Maria’s and Carrie’s talks are taken from our collaborative book-in-progress, in which they harness this confusion in an exploration of awkwardness as a theoretical tool for intervention. They suggest that awkwardness offers a way of engaging with the transnational circulation of feminist activism today that accounts for and harnesses the messy conveyance of meaning as the digital meets the material. Awkwardness embraces the ambivalence of effectiveness in feminist creative work today that refuses clear meaning-making by nevertheless showing how this position is intentionally, if ambivalently, political. They suggest that theorizing the awkward can get at the complicated meanings and unstable positions of the political in popfeminist work. The first talk will present some of the theoretical and methodological underpinnings of the concept of awkwardness. The second talk published the following week will suggest some of the ways in which this can be understood aesthetically, but also the broader ethical implications for the feminist public.


LECTURE 4, Nov. 24

Awkward Activism: Aesthetics and Ethics—Carrie Smith-Prei (University of Alberta, Canada)

Description: See lecture 3.


LECTURE 5, Dec. 1

#feminisms: Decolonizing Solidarity in Cyberspace—Pinar Tuzcu (University of Kassel, Germany)

Description: Being inspired by Donna Harraway’s Cyborg Manifesto (1991), cyberfeminism has challenged the representation of technological ‘progress’ and digitization as male domains. Although Harraway’s cyborg transgresses racialized and classed boundaries and cuts across subject/object divisions, today’s cyberfeminist discourses are largely reduced to politics of gender. In this respect, the proliferation of differences as a feminist strategy to disperse gender identities does not seem to have gone online. Looking at the SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen hashtag, which went instantly viral after being created in August 2014 by a group of women of color based in the US, Pinar’s lecture will invite us to think through the following questions: What are the new resolutions and pixelations of feminist politics of difference in cyberspace? That is, how do other differences (beyond gender) enter, interfere with, and expand feminist discussions on the internet? And what does the thin line between on- and offline offer to create new or revive old alliances to challenge universalist understandings of “sisterhood solidarity”?



Christina Scharff, Hester Baer, Maria Stehle, and Carrie Smith-Prei summarize their thoughts on the lecture series and discuss further questions.