What’s in a Name

What’s In a Name?
Should the Society for the Study of Early Modern Women
Add Gender to Its Name?

Discussions, panels, and roundtables took place at several meetings listed below. Click on the names marked as links to see the materials (powerpoints, PDFs, and word documents) with the contributions from each person.

2017 Sixteenth Century Studies Conference, Milwaukee, WI,
26-29 October 2017

Merry Wiesner-Hanks, History, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee
Mihoko Suzuki, English, University of Miami
Allyson Poska, History, University of Mary Washington

2018 Renaissance Society of America Conference, New Orleans,
22-24 March 2018

Patricia Simons, Art History, University of Michigan
Helena Sanson, Italian, Cambridge University
Suzanne Cusick, Music, New York University

2018 website blogpost with discussion,
May 2018

Anna Wainwright

2018 Attending to Early Modern Women, Milwaukee, WI14-16 June 2018

Open discussion conducted by Susan Amussen, History, University of California, Merced

2018 Sixteenth Century Studies Conference, Albuquerque, NM,
1-4 November 2018

Abby Zanger, French, Cambridge, MA
Deanna M. Shemek, Italian, University of California, Irvine
Tracy E. Cooper, Art History, Temple University
Emilie L. Bergmann, Spanish and Portuguese, University of California, Berkeley

One thought on “What’s in a Name

  • Susan Amussen

    Thank you for posting this. I want to offer here some comments from the discussion at Attending to Early Modern Women, and things that I shared at the session in Albuquerque.

    First, I think there is no question that many members of SSEMW engage with questions of gender and sexuality. The name change question is not about the work we do, but about how we position ourselves to welcome a new generation of scholars. How do we make ourselves visible? So the question for me is what the best way to do this is.

    In Milwaukee, we ended up exploring far more than the name change. One thing we discussed was that an increasing number of us are teaching at MSIs, and if we want our students to feel at home at SSEMW, we have to think about how we present ourselves. That turns to the way the organization defines its mission, and its visual identity. We describe ourselves in very generic ways, and that needs to change — whatever we decide about the name. And if we want to represent ourselves as having a global focus that incorporates broad issues of gender and sexuality, maybe a beautiful painting of three young Italian women is not the right message.

    The more I have thought about this, the more I think the name change is an effort to have an easy answer to much more difficult questions of inclusion. I don’t think the name change will fix our problems, and insofar as it prevents us from taking seriously the more difficult challenges, may set us back.

    As a model of how we might proceed without a name change, the major organization in Women’s Studies, the National Women’s Studies Association, has never changed its name. Yet no one who pays attentions think that it defines gender in binary ways, that it is not interested in gender, sexuality, and queer studies, that it is not open to all scholars. The real challenge we face is how we talk about our field in ways that ensures that, like NWSA, we truly welcome just all the ways people study women and gender, but also all the people who do.

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