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Slide Show, Discussion with Cartoonist Bechdel November 8

Queer Studies Conference to Bring Together Activists and Academics to Bridge the Gap Between Advocacy and Scholarship

The relationship between politics and the academy is among the hot topics in queer studies, the emerging academic discipline that focuses on analyses of sexuality and gender.

On Friday, November 6, a number of leading figures in gay and lesbian culture -- including independent historian Allan Bérubé, activist Urvashi Vaid, author Lauren Berlant and cartoonist Allison Bechdel -- will gather at Smith College for a three-day symposium titled "Queer Activism/Queer Studies," organized to examine the links between gay and lesbian scholarship and advocacy.

The symposium, which is free and open to the public, opens at 3 p.m. Friday with a panel discussion designed to define the issues in queer studies. Panelists Bérubé, author of "Coming Out Under Fire: Lesbian and Gay Americans and the Military During World War II"; Vaid, director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force's Policy Institute; and Michael Lucey, author of "Gide's Bent" and founder of the University of California, Berkeley's gay studies program, will address such topics as "Queer Studies in the Factory Town" and "The Future of Queer Activism."

Events resume at 10:30 a.m. Saturday with a discussion titled "Art and/as Activism," featuring filmmaker Cheryl Dunye, director of "The Watermelon Woman"; poet Carl Phillips, author of "In the Blood," "Cortege," and "From the Devotions"; and media critic Sasha Torres, editor of "Living Color: Race and Television in the United States." Among the topics for consideration are the history of black lesbians and queer sex on television.

"The Science Debates and Citizenship," a panel beginning at 2 p.m., will examine the significance of considering sexuality as genetically determined or a lifestyle choice. Discussants will include Anne Fausto-Sterling, author of "Myths of Gender: Biological Theories About Women and Men"; Chai Feldblum, law professor and drafter of "The Employment Non-Discrimination Act" and "The Americans with Disabilities Act"; and geneticist Dean Hamer of the National Cancer Institute, co-author of "The Science of Desire" and "Living With Our Genes."

At 4 p.m., panelists will consider "The History of Politics and the Politics of History." Speakers are Elizabeth Lapovsky Kennedy, co-author of "Boots of Leather, Slippers of Gold: The History of a Lesbian Community"; Lisa Duggan, co-author of "Sex Wars: Sexual Dissent and Political Culture"; and Cathy Cohen, editor of "Women Transforming Politics."

At 8 p.m., following remarks by Smith President Ruth Simmons, the symposium's concluding address will be presented by Lauren Berlant, professor of English at the University of Chicago and author of "The Queen of America Goes to Washington City: Essays on Sex and Citizenship." The book has been described by reviewers as "a stunning and major statement about the nation and its citizens in an age of mass mediation [that] will challenge readers to rethink what it means to be an American and seek salvation in its promise."

All symposium sessions will take place in Wright Hall. For more information about attending the symposium, call (413) 585-3390.

In conjunction with the symposium, cartoonist Allison Bechdel, creator since 1983 of the bi-weekly lesbian comic strip "Dykes to Watch Out For," will present a slide show and discussion at 7 p.m., Sunday, November 8, in Stoddard Auditorium. Bechdel's cartoons -- part documentary, part soap-opera -- are syndicated in more than 50 gay and lesbian and alternative newspapers, and have also appeared in many other magazines, comic books, 'zines and anthologies. Six collections of her work are published by Firebrand Books.

The presentation is free and open to the public and will be followed by a question and answer period. For more information, call (413) 585-7830.


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