UW News

April 1, 2016

Interdisciplinary conference April 8 to study sights, sounds of ‘difference’

UW News

What do scholars and academics mean when they talk about “difference”? The University of Washington Simpson Center for the Humanities and Center for Communication, Difference & Equity will hold an interdisciplinary daylong conference April 8 to study such questions, focusing in particular on how difference looks and sounds.

“Mediating Difference: Sights and Sounds” will be held April 8 at Intellectual House — wǝɫǝbʔaltxʷ — on the UW campus. The main organizers are Ralina Joseph, associate professor of communication and director of the Center for Communication, Difference and Equity; and Sonnet Retman, associate professor of American Ethnic Studies.

The focus of this second annual conference — patterned a bit like the Women Who Rock gatherings — is on “the visual and aural markers of this thing we’re calling difference,” Joseph said. “We investigate similar issues of power and privilege, but come to our questions through methodologically distinct ways.”

Morning keynote addresses are open to the public. Musicologist Deborah Wong of the University of California, Riverside, will discuss the sound of difference at 10 a.m., and art historian Cherise Smith of the University of Texas at Austin, will discuss the sight of difference at 11 a.m.

Participating in addition to Joseph and Retman are UW faculty members Ileana Rodriguez-Silva and Stephanie Smallwood of the Department of History; Sasha Welland and Michelle Habell-Pallan of the Department of Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies; Habiba Ibrahim of the Department of English and LeiLani Nishime of the Department of Communication. Many have affiliate appointments in other units as well.

“We are all female associate professors in some stage of our second major projects or books, or trying to find our way there, and we don’t usually have the allocated time and space to just be scholars,” Joseph said.

The eight have been meeting together this year to share and critique their writing. The conference isn’t the end of their work together; they will attend a writing retreat later to move their projects forward, and may convene again next year.

“We’ve all been expressing how amazing it is to rediscover our scholarly selves in the midst of service and mentoring loads. And the interdisciplinary mix has been particularly invigorating,” said Joseph. “While some of us with more obvious disciplinary connections have shared work in the past, we haven’t done so in this regular, focused format. This has been a whole different, exciting experience.”

Retman added, “This research group has emphasized the messy process of writing, rather than the polished products of research that are the usual focus of public intellectual exchange. It’s been tremendously productive and energizing in that way.”


For more information about “Mediating Difference,” contact Joseph at 206-543-2660 or rljoseph@uw.edu; or Retman at 206-543-0470 or sretman@uw.edu.