Feminist Conference Time: Aiming (Not) to Have Been There

  • Emily F. Henderson
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Gender and Education book series (GED)


‘I was thinking, “I’ve travelled all this way, and I was looking forward to this, and my mind is somewhere else.”’ This is an excerpt from an interview with a feminist academic, taken from my ethnographic study of three national Women’s Studies conferences (India, UK, US). It is one example of the multiple temporalities that are experienced by feminist scholars when they make a break with the everyday and move their bodies to a conference (Henderson, 2015); anticipation layered with bodily presence in the here and now, layered with ongoing and future-oriented ‘somewhere else’-ness. This chapter explores academic feminist conferences as confluence points where multiple, competing, affective temporalities collide; I present a theorisation of ‘conference time’ that encompasses two competing temporal modes. Firstly, a feminist conference involves an embodied experience of being there, of being present in space and time, of taking time to think and take stock. However, ‘being there’ may also be experienced as an irritation that is impeding a more future-oriented modes of being: ‘having been there’, and/or ‘not having been there’. Both of the aspects of this mode involve ‘catching up’ with the future. ‘Having been there’ relates to the conference experience that is lived for the gains it will have brought, a line on the CV, for example. ‘Not having been there’ refers to the expectation that the conference attendee will be able to return home seemingly without having interrupted normal work patterns, having kept up with emails, for example. These modes, which may be experienced simultaneously, represent some of the tensions involved in occupying the subject-position of ‘feminist academic’ (Pereira, 2015): how to maintain a commitment to the field, to collegiality, to thinking, when academic success seems to demand an individualistic, performative, future-oriented approach?


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Emily F. Henderson
    • 1
  1. 1.University of WarwickCoventryUK

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