New Movements in Black and Latina/o Sexualities
April 11-12, 2008
Faculty from nine universities and colleges will hold the largest ever conference on black and Latina/o sexuality on April 11-12 at the University of Illinois at Chicago. “Race, Sex, Power: New Movements in Black and Latina/o Sexualities,” the culmination of more than two years of planning, will bring together academics, activists, and artists to address topics ranging from intimacy and desire to HIV/AIDS and teen pregnancy to humor and Hip Hop. Organizer Cathy Cohen, Professor of Political Science at the University of Chicago, calls the conference “a bold effort to rethink what sexuality means for the two largest racial minorities in the US.” Dr. Jocelyn Elders, the former United States Surgeon General appointed by President Clinton, will open the conference on Friday morning, April 11.
Sponsored by the participating universities with major funding from the Ford and Arcus Foundations, “Race, Sex, Power” aims to set a new agenda for studying, organizing, writing, and developing policy about sexuality. Juan Battle, professor of Sociology at the CUNY Graduate Center, argues that the conference is not only ambitious, but timely, as sexuality is central to current political debates. “Same-sex marriage, abstinence education, and abortion rights are all at the forefront.” Marysol Asencio, associate professor of Family Studies/Puerto Rican and Latino/a Studies from the University of Connecticut at Storrs, adds that the demographic shifts in the US mean that “sexuality has to be confronted from the perspective of race, not merely to challenge the pathologies historically assigned to Latina/o and Black Americans, but to explore the dynamism and heterogeneity within these populations as well.”
The conference program takes sexuality and race in all their complexity. Panels and speakers selected from hundreds of submissions will cover, among other things: media, migration and immigration, religion and spirituality, sexual tourism, reproductive rights, transgender, community organizing, gay and lesbian civil rights, poverty, social class, age, and the sex industry. Within the wide variety of approaches in both method and topic, a key idea emerges. Sexuality can only be imagined in the context of communities that are embedded in a national and international context of changing sexual mores and deeply entrenched habits of thought and representation.
One of the hallmarks of this conference, Cohen stresses, is its emphasis on collaboration and inclusiveness. The complex coordination of nine institutions permitted organizers to draw on a pool of expertise that no one college or university could hope to contain. The unusual blend of research, activism, and art encourages all participants to think outside their personal assumptions and the conventions of their fields. Finally, the organizers hope to draw an audience of specialists and non-specialists alike. Asencio reminds us that knowledge about sexuality is hardly confined to those who make a profession of its study. Everyone, Asencio argues, is engaged in a critique of current sexual conventions. The conference is simply the space where such knowledge can be shared, rethought, and transformed.
LOCATION: UIC FORUM, 725 W. Roosevelt Rd., Chicago, IL