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'Bodies of Evidence' to Explore Violence Against LGBTQ*, Black Individuals

By Whitney Hale

(Oct. 20, 2015) — The University of Kentucky's Gaines Center for the Humanities and the Department of Gender and Women's Studies in the College of Arts and Sciences are teaming up with the Office of LGBTQ* Resources, the Martin Luther King Center, the African American and Africana Studies Program and Black Student Union to present three events exploring violence against members of the LGBTQ* and Black communities as part of a series of workshops on violence and the human condition. All three programs are free and open to the public.

"Bodies of Evidence: Transnational Dimensions of Violence" will feature several experts on gender and race equality and will open with the panel discussion "Policing Queer Bodies" at 2 p.m. Friday, Oct. 23, in William T. Young Library. As part of this session, three scholarly presentations will be given on different aspects of how sexualized and racialized bodies are surveyed, tracked, trained and detained as they move across local and global boundaries and borders. The session will be followed by a Q&A and a reception.

At a time when one county clerk has brought national attention to Kentucky with regard to gay marriage, the three speakers of "Policing Queer Bodies" will investigate the racial and transnational dimensions of unlawful and state-sanctioned opposition to civil rights for members of the LGBTQ* community.

Carol Mason, chair and professor of the Department of Gender and Women’s Studies at UK, is the first scholar presenting as part of this session. She is the author of three books on right-wing rhetoric, including the newly published "Oklahomo: Lessons in Un-queering America." Her talk is titled “Exporting the Antigay Agenda.”   

The second speaker will be Charlie Zhang, a new assistant professor of gender and women’s studies at UK. He is the author of the forthcoming "China in Transition: The Gendered, Classed and Sexualized Transnational Logic of Neoliberalization." Zhang's talk is titled “Queering Affective Capitalism: The Emergent 'Pink Economy' in the Transpacific Context.”

This discussion's final speaker is Toby Beauchamp, an assistant professor of gender and women’s studies at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. His talk is adapted from his forthcoming book, "Going Stealth: Transgender Politics and U.S. Surveillance Practices." 

Ellen Riggle, a professor of gender and women's studies and political science at UK, will lead the panel on "Policing Queer Bodies." Riggle is co-author of "A Positive View of LGBTQ: Embracing Identity and Cultivating Well-Being" (with Sharon Rostosky; Rowman & Littlefield, 2012). The publication received the Distinguished Book Award for 2012 from Division 44 of the American Psychological Association. Her latest book, "Happy Together: Thriving as a Same-Sex Couple in Your Family, Workplace, and Community" (with Sharon Rostosky) was published by the American Psychological Association LifeTools Series in 2015. Riggle's current projects include an examination of the impact of legal relationship recognition on the relationships of same-sex couples the U.S. and how identity impact well-being.

"This first event introduces the larger university community to our newest member of the department, Dr. Zhang, who is inspiring UK students to rise to the challenges of globalization and to Dr. Beauchamp, who is an emerging star in transgender studies," Mason said.

Fittingly with the U.S. Supreme Court simultaneously deciding to uphold the right for same-sex marriage and to retract important aspects of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, the second part of the series is "Policing Black Bodies." This panel discussion will follow at 2 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 18, at Young Library. The three scholars featured in this event will provide critical commentary, transnational connections and historical contexts for current struggles with violence against African and African-American communities. A Q&A session will be held at the end of this event, followed by a reception.

Melynda J. Price, director of the African American and Africana Studies Program and the Robert E. Harding Jr. Professor of Law at UK, will open the panel for "Policing Black Bodies." She is the author of "At the Cross: Race, Religion and Citizenship in the Politics of the Death Penalty."

The second speaker of the session will be Melissa Stein, assistant professor of gender and women’s studies at UK and author of "Measuring Manhood: Race and the Science of Masculinity, 1830-1934," newly published this fall.

Kevin Mumford, professor of history at University of Illinois and author of numerous books on black history, including "Newark: A History of Race, Rights, and Riots in America," rounds out the panel.

A special ancillary event, a film screening of the documentary "Let the Fire Burn" and a poster session analyzing the contemporary Black Lives Matter movement, will be held in the days leading up to the second panel discussion. The film will be screened at 6 p.m. Monday, Nov. 16, at Young Library. The poster session will be held in the adjacent Alumni Gallery and will feature poster presentations of research on recent killings of unarmed black people in the United States by students currently enrolled in Stein’s "GWS 595 - Crime and Punishment: Race and Ferguson in Historical Context."

Mason radiates enthusiasm about the student engagement in this series. "I am so grateful for Dr. Stein for her innovative pedagogy and very excited to see the posters that students have created in her class on 'Crime and Punishment.' This is the kind of real-world application of interdisciplinary scholarship that makes gender and women’s studies such a transformative experience for students."

The College of Arts and Sciences and the Gaines Center are sponsoring a year of programming around the broad theme of "Violence and the Human Condition." Over the course of the 2015-16 academic year, faculty members from many different UK departments will collaborate with each other and with visiting experts from other universities in a series of mini-conferences and workshops that will be free and open to the campus as a whole.

The partnership will explore the theme of violence across many different registers — architecture and conflict, political violence, war and gender, transnational dimensions of violence, the intersections of violence in Latin America, and the notion of war without end as a metaphor in contemporary life.

For more information on the series, contact Carol Mason at For more on the year of programming, contact the Gaines Center at 859-257-1537.