Working Groups

Working groups are an opportunity for members of the UC Davis community to engage in ongoing dialogue about a specific topic, conversation, intervention, or application of feminist research. Groups are expected to meet a minimum of four times during the academic year. The program is open to groups composed of faculty members, staff and/or graduate students that traverse degree programs and disciplines. Each group must have at least one faculty member who serves as the group’s sponsor.

2019-2020 Working Groups

Dreaming Different Futures

Graduate Conveners: Maya Cruz (Cultural Studies) and Kelly Thomas (Creative Writing)

Faculty Sponsor: Mark Jerng (English)

Creative writing, artistic practice, and speculative methods have long been a means through which social justice is imagined and built, particularly in critical feminist praxis, womxn of color feminisms, and critical race and ethnic studies scholarship. As scholars, writers, and creative and artistic practitioners with commitments to feminist of color and queer politics, transformation, abolition, and collective liberation, we seek to continue to experiment with the promise of these methods as feminist practices for refusing the worlds that we find ourselves in while conjuring the alternative futures of collective living that we demand for ourselves and our communities. As such, this working group seeks to provide a space to engage in interdisciplinary creative and speculative praxis, critical dialogue, shared learning, and community building as we expand our visions of what is possible and dream up more socially just worlds and futures. We will collaboratively engage in speculative methods, writing and artistic praxis as a means for responding to and having critical dialogue around the following themes and questions: What do we mean by transformation, abolition, collective liberation, and social justice? What are the histories and legacies of these terms, and which dreams and visions hold and sustain them? How can we best work across our differences to collectively embrace these political imaginaries? How might we take these political imaginaries seriously, given our positions in the University?

Critical Bioethics

Graduate Conveners: Marco Dell’Oca (Cultural Studies) and Anne O’Connor (Anthropology)

Faculty Sponsor: Lisa Ikemoto (Law)

Recent innovations in biomedicine have raised possibilities for a number of new forms and modes of life. From human germline editing to gene drive bearing mosquitoes, what appears ubiquitous in public debate are calls for bioethical attention to the “social implications” of such practices. Many research institutions and review boards call upon expert analyses in bioethics to weigh in on debates about risk and morality in relation to those practices. Together, we would like to better understand: what makes a moral perspective into an authoritative bioethical expertise? Why do some idioms of writing and speaking about morality, risk, and bioethics have more currency than others in the practice of biomedicine and bioethical research? How do contemporary funding structures shape the debate in bioethics? Our object in this reading group is not the adjudication of what is “right” and “wrong” but discourses of bioethics themselves: how do they come to be recognized as legitimate ethical expertise on a certain issue? How do they circulate? How do various debates come to hold together as a coherent line of inquiry known as bioethics? Feminist voices continue to be sidelined in popular discourses around morality, inequality, risk and biological engineering; by experimenting with the limits between disciplines and idioms we hope to explore spaces of porosity and opportunities for feminist viewpoints which are legible and meaningful in the determination of “what is right and wrong” in the life sciences.

Transportation Equity Workshop and Discussion Series

Graduate Conveners: C. Sequoia Erasmus (Community Development) and Sarah Grajdura (TTP and Civil Engineering)

Faculty Sponsor: Susan Handy (Env Science & Policy), Deb Niemeier (Civil Engineering)

The transportation equity discussion series continues the work of the transportation equity reading group from Spring 2019. The group, which has convened faculty and graduate students from departments across campus, has addressed the need for a space on campus to discuss transportation equity. The discussion series is intended to build on this momentum and provide more opportunities for students and faculty to convene and collaborate on themes and topics related to transportation equity in a dynamic and thoughtful space. The group will advance feminist approaches by exposing students and faculty in community development, engineering, and transportation to mobility justice and transportation equity: the associated history, current research, and community-based strategies. As these fields are largely responsible for designing the built environment, more dialogue and collaboration are needed in order to foster a deeper understanding of the importance of centering equity and inclusion in transportation and mobility studies.

Mother-Scholar Working Group

Graduate Convener: Ashlyn Jaeger (Sociology)

Faculty Sponsor: Natalia Deeb-Sossa (Chicano/o Studies)

We recognize that parenting students, faculty, and staff are currently working to challenge institutional norms and structures that do not adequately provide an equitable environment for parenting scholars in their own capacities. However, a broad coalitional dialogue has not yet occurred among members of the university community concerned with these issues. In creating a working group centering Chicana feminism and women of color feminisms, the goal of this working group is to bring together the dialogue already occurring on campus to challenge systems of heteropatriarchy that serve to reproduce institutional violence, link the work being done here to other campuses, and to apply an intersectional framework so that the broader UC Davis community of mother-scholars, regardless of academic position (undergraduate, graduate, faculty, and staff), can have meaningful dialogues about what it means to be a mother-scholar by witnessing each other’s struggles for change – this working group seeks to be coalition building. In addition to meeting to learn about the work that is being done by our peers, we will focus on the theoretical approaches and research presented in the recently released Chicana M(other)work Anthology to ground our working group.

Feminist Approaches to Public Political Ecology

Graduate Conveners: Gabi Kirk (Geography Graduate Group)

Faculty Sponsor: Clare Cannon (Human Ecology)

Political ecology (PE) addresses how power relations shape nature-society systems, complicate the binary between nature and culture, and understand and critique dominant forms of knowledge production and representation about human-nature entanglements (Elmhirst 2011). While historically feminist political ecology specifically looked at ways gendered difference affected access to environmental resources or harm from environmental degradation (Rocheleau, Thomas-Slayter, and Wangari 1996), recent intersectional critiques have pushed the field to expand its critical engagement to multiple systems of power beyond a narrow reading of gender (Mollett and Faria 2013, 117). We see this working group as an opportunity to broaden our understanding of feminist PE as a set of relations between political ecologies and ontologies that both disagree and overlap (Leff 2015), with a focus on what emerges in our northern California region and on the obligations of the public university in our scholarship and praxis.

This working group would expand the already fruitful endeavors of the UC Davis Political Ecology lab. In this workshop, graduate students will give presentations about how feminist approaches to public scholarship and political ecology emerge in their work, serving as an opportunity to exchange ideas and provide each other constructive feedback. It will be an open event with a CFP open beyond our lab members, in which we will invite students and faculty across disciplines on campus. By expanding the current scope of the PE lab, we hope this working group will position UC Davis as a thriving site of publicly-engaged feminist political ecology research, where the creation of new imaginings of the region and the world are possible.

Sporing the Mycological Archive

Graduate Convener: Mercedes Villalba (Anthropology)

Faculty Sponsor: Joe Dumit (Anthropology, STS)

The Sporing the Mycological Archive working group will bring feminist modes of attention to the John Cage Mycology Collection in UC Santa Cruz. Cage (1912-1992), most known for his experimental compositions for piano, was a mushroom lover who founded the New York Mycological Society. In our preliminary visit to the UCSC collection, we discovered that Cage was also a lover of chance and play as well as art, poetry, food, and his extensive network of friends and collaborators. We propose to trace the queer indeterminacies of Cage’s relationship to mushrooms through select notes, letters, recipes, drawings, and ephemera in his archive. We will explore questions of improvisation across disciplines—an element that was fundamental to Cage’s creative process. Following Bahng, we consider how Cage’s multifarious encounters with mushrooms provide ways to think about alternative modes of collaboration and creativity shared among human and more-than-human worlds. Inspired by the intimacy of Cage’s collection, we will forefront the queer affections expressed in art and words by Cage’s interlocutors (both alive and dead). By paying attention to mushrooms, what stories emerge about Cage that model his deep relations with others rather than the more popular narrative of Cage as a singular “genius”? Moreover, how might attention to his mycelial relations illuminate Cage as a queer icon—a subject rarely addressed by Cage scholars?

Data Feminism

Faculty Conveners: Emily Merchant (STS), Lindsay Poirier (STS), and Pamela Reynolds (STS)

Making decisions based on the evidence, free of individual bias, is often a stated goal of data science. But, computers and code are part of sociotechnical systems that embody the biases of our society and data, and reflect existing structures of inequality. Increasingly, data science also has the potential to reveal the sources of inequality and inform social justice projects. We propose to explore the interaction between systems of power and oppression within the development and application of the data sciences. “Data Feminism” brings together approximately 15 faculty and graduate students working at the intersection of feminist theory, critical data studies, and data science to explore four themes surrounding data feminism: feminist critiques of data science, causes and consequences of the lack of diversity in data sciencei, how mis-applications of data science perpetuate social inequality, and critical and participatory data science. We will encompass considerations of data collection, management, analysis, and storytelling. Through interaction with the literature and one another, participants will explore the domains of feminism and data science to develop working definitions of ‘data feminism’ meaningful to their collective and individual efforts. Participants will explore a variety of frameworks and approaches to bring feminist theory into their own work, undergraduate education, the consciousness of data scientists, and ultimately the process of data-driven discovery. Outcomes will include a series of blog posts, a feminist data studies curriculum and curated reading list, and planning for the 2020 Women in Data Science (WiDS) Davis Conference.