Queer (In)Security Conference to take place this Friday

On Friday, the Queer (In)Security Conference organized by the Militarization and Gender Research Cluster and Queer, Feminist, Trans Studies Research Cluster (QFT) will take place at the Student Community Center from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Since 2007 the QFT has put on a conference that discusses different issues, but this year, the QFT worked in conjunction with the Militarization and Gender Research Cluster to create an interdisciplinary conference. The theme of the Queer (In)Security Conference is safety, security and surveillance in relation to militarization and queer studies. The pepper spray incident of last November was the inspiration for the conference.

“I think a lot of inspiration came out of the situation with the Occupy Movement in UC Davis, the pepper spray incident and this idea that the police force on UC campuses are more militarized than peacekeeping. That they have this pepper spray and guns and they’re university police and it seems like there’s a disconnect,” said sixth-year graduate student in the Cultural Studies doctoral degree program and co-chair of the QFT Tallie Ben-Daniel.

The conference is composed of a roundtable, panels, discussions and a performance at the end. The topic of the roundtable will be the Occupy movement. Individuals from the Occupy UC Davis, Davis and Oakland movements along with students not involved in them will discuss queerness and security.

According to co-chair of the Militarization and Gender Research Cluster and postdoctoral student in Cultural Studies Hilary Berwick, in previous years panel speakers were graduate students, but this year undergraduate students will also be speaking.

“We’re devoted to having a space outside of the classroom that’s still in an academic setting where we can talk about these issues that are affecting us everyday,” Berwick said.

The focus of the panels are the issues of security and safety in queer studies. According to third-year Spanish literature graduate student and co-chair  of QFT Emily Kuffner, the first panel will include a presentation on the LifeTime series “Army Wives” and the homosexual legislation in Uganda, and will focus more on personal security. The second panel is oriented toward issues around national, social and cultural security.

Alongside panels, discussions and a performance at the end of the conference, there will also be two keynote speakers: Liz Montegary, a postdoctoral Cultural Studies UC Davis graduate who is now a professor in women’s, gender and sexuality studies at Yale University, and Elizabeth Povinelli, professor of anthropology and gender studies at Columbia University. According to Ben-Daniel, Povinelli will be speaking about different forms of suicide, including social suicide.

Montegary says that her talk will focus on Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign that encourages children to be healthier through exercise and improved eating habits since it deals with the problem of childhood obesity as a national security issue.

“Recently, the First Lady has reached out to lesbian and gay families and is trying to include them in ‘Let’s Move’ initiatives. In my talk, I ask how the incorporation of lesbian and gay families actually works as a way of regulating familial relations, bodies and desires,” Montegary said. “Why might queer activists who have lots of experience critiquing bodily regulations want to challenge fatphobic, anti-obesity rhetoric rather than trying to raise patriotic children with bodies fit to support the war machine?”

The Militarization and Gender Research Cluster and QFT have been working on the conference for approximately three to four months. In order to attend the conference, all students need to do is show up to whichever part of the conference they wish to see. This event is free for all.

Organizers of the interdisciplinary conference hope students gain a new way of thinking about issues of safety, security and militarization.

“We’re hoping that it will generate more conversations and taking into account more of a diversity of viewpoints when people are talking about issues of safety and security; that people just don’t look at it from the mainstream point of view because there’s  other angles to take into account,”  Kuffner said.

For more information on the Queer (In)Security Conference and a complete schedule of events, visit qftcluster.ucdavis.edu.

LILIANA NAVA OCHOA can be reached at campus@theaggie.org.

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