The inaugural Gender Matters conference was held in 2011. Originally conceptualized as a single, stand-alone conference for activists and scholars in the Chicagoland region, the first conference attracted people from all over the world. Based on this success and with GSU's support, Gender Matters has become an annual event attracting an interdisciplinary collective from around the globe. Details and conference programs for each year's conference can be found below.

  • 2011 - Gender Matters


    The first Gender Matters conference was held on April 8, 2011, at GSU.

    The name of the conference, Gender Matters, playfully invokes the germinal work of Judith Butler referencing:

    • "Gender Trouble"
    •  "Bodies that Matter"

    Broadly, conference planners invited work on all matters of gender. More specifically, we were particularly interested in work that explicates how gender matters, and continues to matter, in our world.

    The keynote address was provided by Dr. Karma Chavez, an assistant professor in the Department of Communication Arts at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

    Her work uses queer, feminist and critical race approaches to examine the rhetorical practices of marginalized groups, and she is very interested in coalition politics and social movements. Her most current research examines the intersections of immigration and sexuality politics.

    She's published several essays in communication journals and is currently completing a book project, "Queer/Migration Politics."

  • 2012 - Gendered Borders


    The second annual Gender Matters conference was held at GSU on April 13-14, 2012. 

    This year's theme, "Gendered Borders," focused our attention on borders in all contexts -  virtual, geographical, physical - or any other delineating marker that serves to exclude, encircle, or expand the concept of borders as gendered sites and sites of gender.   While conference planners invited work on all matters of gender, we were particularly interested in work that explicates the shifting relationships between gender, sexuality, space, and place in our world.  

    The 2012 keynote address, "Gentrify My Love: On the Borders of Neighborly Desire," was delivered by Dr. Richard T. Rodríguez. Rodríguez is associate arofessor of English and Latina/o Studies at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, where he is also affiliated with the Department of Gender and Women's Studies and the Unit for Criticism and Interpretive Theory.  He received his B.A. in English from the University of California, Berkeley and his Ph.D. in the history of consciousness from the University of California, Santa Cruz. His research, teaching and writing are grounded in Latina/o cultural studies, literary and film studies, critical theory and queer studies. He has published articles and reviews in "American Quarterly," "Aztlán: A Journal of Chicano Studies," "American Literary History, Biography: An Interdisciplinary Quarterly," "Velvet Barrios: Popular Culture and Chicana/o Sexualities," "A Concise Companion to American Studies" and "Gay Latino Studies: A Critical Reader." His book, "Next of Kin: The Family in Chicano/a Cultural Politics," was published by Duke University Press and won the 2011 National Association for Chicana and Chicano Studies Book Award.  Recently named a Conrad Humanities Scholar, a designation supporting the work of exceptionally promising associate professors in the humanities within the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Illinois, he is currently writing a book on queer Latino representation and the politics of social space.


    Dr. Laila Farah presented our featured performance, excerpts from her performance piece "Living in the Hyphen-Nation." Farah is a Lebanese-American, feminist performer-scholar. She attended Lebanese American University and Eastern Michigan University while working toward her Bachelor of Arts in theatre and communication arts. She continued at Eastern Michigan University in order to complete her Master of Arts in performance studies and communication. She received her Doctorate in performance studies at Southern Illinois University. She is currently an associate professor and graduate director in women's and gender studies at DePaul University. She continues to work on future performance pieces in Chicago, as well as touring with her production of "Living in the Hyphen-Nation." Her creative scholarship includes research with and the performance of "third world" women and women of color, postcolonial identities and "alien-nation," and ethnographic and autoethnographic performance. She is active locally, nationally and globally in gender-based initiatives through various organizations, including the National Women's Studies Association and the Arab American Action Network and the International Oral History Organisation. Farah has taught performance of gender, women in the Middle East, international women film directors, women in Chicago theatre and transnational feminisms and other women's studies and performance studies courses at DePaul, Southern Illinois University and SUNY Potsdam. 



  • 2013 - Continuities & Instabilities


    The third annual Gender Matters conference was held at DePaul University in Chicago on April 12-13, 2013. 

    The year's theme,"Continuities & Instabilities," focused our attention on the ways gender and sexuality stay the same and change over time and in relation to cultural shifts at the macro level, as well as how they are (re)constructed moment to moment through unstable micro-practices. While conference planners invited work on all matters of gender, we were particularly interested in work that explores how the mutable character of gender and/or sexuality is used to both maintain and resist existing social relations historically and contemporarily. 
    Keynote Address: Jack Halberstam is a professor of American studies and ethnicity, gender studies and comparative literature at the University of Southern California and an internationally recognized feminist and queer theorist. Halberstam is the author of "Female Masculinity," "In a Queer Time and Place," and "The Queer Art of Failure." Halberstam's address was based on his recent book "Gaga Feminism: Sex, Gender and the End of Normal." The text offers "a hard look at the meaning of family, sex, intimacy, parenting and childhood at a time of great social upheaval. 'Gaga' is the term given to the sense of a system gone wild."  
    Featured Performance: M. Heather Carver offered the featured performance of "Booby Trap: A Hair-Raising Experience,"  a one-woman play about surviving breast cancer one laugh at a time. Carver is an associate professor of playwriting and performance studies and the University of Missouri. She received the 2004 Chancellor's Award for UM women for her work as artistic director and co-founder of the "Troubling Violence Performance Project," a troupe that performs personal narratives about domestic/relationship violence. She co-authored "Troubling Violence: A Performance Project,"  published by the University Press of Mississippi in 2009. 

    Featured Film: Laurens Grant presented excerpts from her documentary "Rokia: Voice of a New Generation." Rokia grew up the daughter of a diplomat and was raised in Africa, the Middle East and Europe. When she was a high school-age student, her family returned to Mali to live for a short period before relocating again to Europe. While in Bamako, Mali's capital, she lived through a turbulent period. People were in the streets en masse calling for democratic reforms and an end to decades of dictatorship. The movement was energized by students and their energy galvanized Rokia, who decided to march in the streets with them.

    "Rokia: Voice of a New Generation" is about how that political awakening helped Rokia find her voice and become a singer for women's rights in conservative Mali. Her lyrics speak out against polygamy. When men refused to work with her, she became her own arranger, songwriter and boss, all without knowing how to read or write music. "Rokia: Voice of a New Generation" includes exclusive access to Rokia, her songwriting and rehearsal process, explores her musical roots from her family's village in Mali, and includes rare footage of her collaboration with the Grammy-winning avant-garde string quartet Kronos Quartet. "Rokia: Voice of a New Generation" is ultimately about perseverance and how women who believe in themselves can control their own destiny.