Viva Academia: Women’s Studies Symposium Style

Last week, I presented at my first conference (like a grown up!). It was Oxford’s Women’s Studies Symposium. The presentation was over  a paper I wrote as a culminating project for my Women and Cross Cultural Perspectives class. Here’s the abstract:

This paper explores the evolution of third gender identities in the Navajo, Zuni, and Lakota in North America. Prior to European settlement, each tribe possessed a different term for and conception of third gendered individuals. Though it is tempting to consider Native American tribes as enlightened and accepting of non-binary sexualities, the treatment of third gendered individuals within these groups (and the roles they were expected to fulfill) was as unique as each individual tribal identity prior to European settlement. Though each tribe possessed distinct, defined third-gender identities before European settlement, individuals which identified as third gendered became much less common as a European gender binary was either forced on Native American tribes or accepted as part of an intentional effort to seem more European. However, since the 1970s these identities have reemerged in the form of a pan-Indian two-spirit identity intimately tied to Native American activism surrounding health care, land rights, and the AIDS epidemic. In part, this is the result of LGBT Native American individuals who have been alienated from the Euro-American dominated LGBT movement in the US. This modern two-spirit identity, though outwardly similar to the traditional third genders, is actually quite different for many of the tribes: third gendered people were typically conceived of as engaged in heterogendered sexual partnership; this is not true with the modern two-spirit person. The paper concludes with a summary of the two-spirit movement as it stands, in the words of two-spirit individuals.

If that sounds like your cup of tea, the paper is available here.

It was fun presenting at a conference where I was one of the few people coming out of my discipline–anthropology–rather than women’s studies. The other papers were well-done (if somewhat sex-negative), and the conference was well-put-together. Plus: they had pimento cheese sandwiches. Do you understand how much I love them?

My other big deal anthropology paper for the year, on how young adults use Facebook to mourn the death of their peers, is nearing completion. I plan to have it up–along with a blog-sized version of the 20+ page behemoth–later in the month, once I’m done with the whole “graduating” thing.

Speaking of graduation and of anthropology, I am in a weird liminal funk right now where objectively good things are happening around me and I just feel sort of anxious. I think it’s probably just the end-of-year jitters, but it’s got me bugged. I’m excited for the school year to be over. I’ve liked Oxford, but it’s time to be moving on.

On a happier note, I’ll be in Texas this weekend for my cousin’s bar mitzvah. Barbeque awaits!

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