Gender Studies Now 2023 - keynotes

Dr. Nafeesa T. Nichols and Dr. Mathea Slåttholm Sagdahl are the keynote speakers at the conference Gender Studies Now 2023.

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Nafeesa sitting on a bench outdorrs, smiling

Afro-Norwegian Women’s Voices: Shifting the Conversation?

Nafeesa T. Nichols, Associate Professor at Western Norway University of Applied Sciences

Current conversations around race and gender in the Nordic context are increasing in both volume and complexity (Bangstad 2015, 2019, 2020; Laurie McIntosh 2014, 2015 Oda-Kange Midtvåge-Diallo, 2019; Hervik et al. 2019, Cora Alexa Døving et al. 2022 ). Indeed, the seminal works of Afro-Norwegian women writers Sumaya Jirde Ali (2018, 2021), Guro Jabulisile Sibeko (2019, 2022) and Camara Lundestad Joof (2018, 2022), offer their readers important and nuanced insight into the intersections of race and gender and its specificities for the Norwegian context. However, they also contest and demand a shift in some of the most dominant and highly problematic discourse in and around race and gender in Norway. This paper investigates those contestations calling into question popular and accepted definitions of racism in Norway, discourse around the so-called impostion of U.S. based critical race and black feminist theories onto the Nordic context, and colorblind ideology. In this paper I ask: What kinds of shifts are possible when centering Black feminist Norwegian voices in these conversations? Further, I wonder what are the implications of drawing upon literary offerings as sources of knowledge and theoretical insight around questions of race and gender? Drawing on the theoretical work of Christina Sharpe and Jennifer Nash I think through these questions through an analysis of Camara Lundestad Joof’s Eg Snakkar om det Heile Tida (2018), De må føde oss eller pule oss for å elske oss (2022), Guro Sibeko’s Rasisme’s Poetikk (2019) and Sumaya Jirde Ali’s Melanin Hvitere ennn Blekemiddel.

Nafeesa T. Nichols is Associate Professor of English, Culture and Didactics at the Western Norway University of Applied Sciences. Her research focuses on the intersections of race and gender and its representations in Afro-diasporic literature. Her forthcoming book Black Feminist Geographies: Race, Space and Gender in Black South African Post-Apartheid Literature is set for publication in 2024.

Mathea Slåttholm Sagdal in a green field

Gender as Idea and Material Reality

Mathea Slåttholm Sagdahl, Senior Lecturer in philosophy at the Department of Philosophy, Idea and History of Art and Classical Languages (IFIKK), at the University of Oslo

Trans people's entry into public life has challenged traditional ways of thinking about sex and gender as simple and binary categories. In the public conversation both in Norway and elsewhere in the world, this has met with a lot of opposition. Part of the resistance uses ideas of natural science and philosophy as weapons against newer understandings of gender that trans people are made to represent. In this context, trans perspectives on gender are described as a dogmatic ideology. "Gender-critical" debaters have argued that trans-inclusive language and perspectives on gender make invisible the material reality that constitutes sex. Certain gender-critical debaters also argue that such perspectives are based on a problematic Cartesian and substance dualist idea of gender.

In this lecture, I will argue for an opposite conclusion. A precise and scientific use of language about sex and gender presupposes the perspectives and language practices that the gender-critical debaters argue against. The idea of sex as changeable, which is associated with trans perspectives, is necessary to avoid a substance dualist position and to be able to have a view of gender that respects a material and physical reality. Furthermore, I will argue that a view of gender that is based on material reality supports a trans-inclusive policy.

Mathea Slåttholm Sagdahl is Senior Lecturer in philosophy at the Department of Philosophy, Idea and History of Art and Classical Languages (IFIKK), at the University of Oslo. She previously held a position as Associate Professor in philosophy at the Arctic University of Norway, in Tromsø.

Sagdahl's area of expertise is in ethics and moral philosophy. She has written the book Normative Pluralism: Resolving Conflicts between Moral and Prudential Reasons which was published by Oxford University Press in 2022. In addition to other philosophical interests in topics such as meaningfulness, melancholy and the philosophy of emotions, she also has a strong interest in feminist philosophy and gender metaphysics . She is particularly interested in transgender issues and has contributed to the book Gender Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Academia - A Conceptual Framework for Sustainable Transformation with a chapter on the inclusion of trans people in higher education.

Sagdahl also holds positions in the Ethical Council for the Defense Sector (ERF), Regional Committees for Medical and Health Research Ethics (REK) and is the subject responsible for ethics and moral philosophy in Store Norwegian Lexicon. She has previously held a position as a board member of the Patient Organization for Gender Incongruence (PKI).