Students host annual symposium on gender, focus on medicine, science

Photo of Keynote Speaker at Gender Studies Symposium
Leo Bernstein Newman / The Mossy Log

Today, the 42nd Annual Gender Studies Symposium continues for its third and final day of student presentations, workshops and keynote speeches. 

This year’s events kicked off Wednesday morning with a reading and workshop led by Lee Hinkle ’24 in the Gregg Pavillion. This year’s symposium has the theme of ‘Gender, Sex, Science and Medicine.’ 

Eli Bricknell ’23, who co-chaired the symposium alongside Sofia Reeves ’23 and Julia Salomone ’23, describes the event as “a gathering of academics and intellectuals” who have created works relating to gender studies and sexuality. 

Most of this year’s events are panels of students presenting academic work and creative pieces.

 “Our friends are presenting these really cool pieces of work, research and commentary on life,” Bricknell said. “It’s really cool that we get to see it in such a professional, formal setting.”

 Most of these panels are moderated by faculty members who work in corresponding or adjacent fields to the panel topics.

To conclude Wednesday’s events, Jules Gill-Peterson, associate professor of History at Johns Hopkins University, delivered the first keynote speech Wednesday evening in the Council Chamber. Gill-Peterson discussed the history of transition and abortion as vernacular medicine. 

Vernacular medicine, as Gill-Peterson explained, refers to “everyday lay people’s practices in science and medicine.” Gill-Peterson presented the argument that amid “the organized abandonment of those deemed to be unworthy of healthcare,” marginalized peoples of the United States have demonstrated an interest and ability to procure medical treatments themselves. 

“The highlight of the day was meeting Jules Gill-Peterson,” Salomone said. “She’s just so cool and so accomplished and inspiring.” As co-chair, Salomone was heavily involved in outreach and getting students engaged with the symposium.

After a day of workshops and panel discussions on Thursday, the second keynote speech was delivered by Dàna-Ain Davis, professor of Urban Studies and Anthropology at Queens College. Through the birthing stories of two Black women, Davis traced a history of racism and medical mistreatment of Black women in the field of Obstetrics, the branch of surgery dealing with childbirth. 

Bricknell, Reeves and Salomone were selected to organize the symposium in April of last year. With the guidance of Kimberly Brodkin, the director of the Gender Studies Symposium as well as the Ray Warren Symposium, the three co-chairs spent the summer and fall semesters confirming the keynote speakers and other presenters. They also composed a symposium syllabus, a set of suggested readings and other media to accompany the event. 

According to Bricknell, it was a straightforward and, at times, overwhelming process. 

“I remember freaking out when I read the schedule we had,” Bricknell said. The nearly year-long process involved staging community meetings and sending out calls for proposals to local academics as well as undergraduates from neighboring institutions.

Also accompanying the symposium was an art show curated by Anika Bednar ’23, Burton Scheer ’25 and Sascha Tappan ’25 and a Special Collections and Archives Exhibit researched and curated by Cassie Harper ’23 and Scheer, both of which began Wednesday.

 The latter presented documents and physical artifacts relating to the life of Dr. Alan L. Hart, an alumnus of Lewis & Clark’s predecessor Albany College known today as one of the first transgender individuals to undergo gender-affirming surgery in the United States. 

“His gender identity was not the most important part of his life, even though it is what we remember him for” Harper said. 

Hart popularized the use of X-Ray screenings to detect and treat tuberculosis through the 1930s and ’40s. He later became a prolific author of medical texts, novels and short stories, some of which have been displayed as part of the exhibit in the Watzek Library, including “These Mysterious Rays,” which discusses the use of X-Rays and radium in medical practice. 

Harper and Scheer procured all artifacts on display, including a draft card belonging to Hart, from Special Collections. 

The Gender Studies Symposium continues for its final day through this afternoon. After a day of panels and other events, the symposium will conclude with a discussion on sexual assault and care in the Council Chamber at 3:30 p.m.  

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