Planning for the Institute for Research on Women's conference, "Women in the Global Economy: Making Connections" has occupied most of my energy during the spring semester. Generously supported by grants from the Ford Foundation and the UUP/NYS Joint Labor Management Committee on Affirmative Action as well as a number of on-campus sources, the conference, held on April 22-24 at the Campus Center, brought together a distinguished group of scholars and labor activists to address questions of organizing working-class women under current global conditions.
Fortunately, a labor history conference at Duke University in late February gave me valuable planning time with Sucheta Mazumdar, former Associate Director of IROW and co-organizer of the conference.
In addition to "making connections" between scholars and activists we intended to link both historical and present-day perspectives and to examine the connected experiences of women in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, the Middle East, and the United States. (See above for further details.)
The conference forms part of a wonderful series of presentations on "Women's Issues Around the Globe" organized by Women's Studies Chair and IROW Associate Bonnie Spanier and cosponsored by Women's Studies and IROW. Several talks in this series have focused on literature: Cameroonian scholar Dr. Pauline Nalova Lyonga, speaking on "Female Imagery: Layers of Mutilation and their Implications in African Feminist Discourse"; Latvian visitor Dr. Irina Novikova on "Male Democracy/Female Re-Memory: Young Women Writers in Latvia" and Professor Olga Rostislavovna Demidova from Russia on "The Reception of British Women Writers in Russia." Other lectures have ranged more widely: Dr. Meera Nanda on "Science, Technology and Gender: Whose Perspective?" and activist Winnie Peng on "The Women's Movement in Taiwan Over the Last Two Decades."
An enthusiastic audience also heard Nalova Lyonga's talk for IROW in December. Professor Lyonga, a Fulbright scholar at the University at Albany this year, is jointly sponsored by the Department of French Studies and IROW. focusing on the representation of "traditional women" in contemporary African literature. Dr. Lyonga observed that "heretofore idealized beyond recognition or else largely ignored," these women now stand at the center of our understanding of indigenous ideologies of gender relations. While colonialism obliterated the voices of traditional women, recent writers have turned to them in an effort to resolve current problems. In these contemporary works, women have become symbols of rebellion and resistance who are able to "restructure society by the sheer force of their moral vision." All of us who have heard Dr. Lyonga's talks look forward to the publication of African Women and Feminist Theories, the book she has been writing this year.
Finally, a number of people deserve thanks for their work for IROW this semester: Kathy Trent and Jan Hagen for assistance with this issue of the newsletter, Harriet Temps and Donna La Hue for fitting IROW work into their already busy schedules, and Sheila Lintott, whose reliable, through and cheerful assistance made the conference possible. The Ramada Inn of Albany and its staff also deserve thanks for their generous contributions to the success of the conference.