Thoughtful Gatherings: Guest Post by Emily F. Henderson and James Burford

Thoughtful gatherings: gendering conferences as spaces of learning, knowledge production and community

Guest Editors

Emily F. Henderson, Warwick University

James Burford, Thammasat University

While conferences are a ubiquitous feature of academic work and represent a billion-dollar global industry, they rarely take centre stage in their own right as objects of educational inquiry. This is despite the fact that conferences, understood as spaces where learning can/should happen, can be subject to pedagogical analysis. This absence is consistent across explicitly feminist conferences, which is surprising given the decades of debate about feminist and gender pedagogy. Many questions remain about how delegates learn at conferences, the kinds of environments that support conference learning, and the pedagogical intentions of conference organisers and presenters.

Conferences are also important sites for knowledge dissemination and creation; ideas are developed and theoretical trends are set. Conferences are sites of embodied knowledge production, and as such academic hierarchies play out in full view. Furthermore, these questions are inflected by debates about situated knowledge production, and inequalities in global academia. Conferences often aim to be international in scope, but the travel that they require is exclusionary for a number of reasons—including border politics and boycotts, economic disparity, precarity, and caring responsibilities.

At conferences, collaborative relationships and friendships—and rivalries—develop. Yet analyses of the social, familial and sometimes erotic dimensions of conferences remains limited. Of particular relevance to the role of conferences in the development of feminist and gender research is the blurring of academic-activist boundaries. Yet where there is community, there are also issues of belonging, membership and exclusion. For example, how do conference spaces establish codes of in/appropriate gender presentation? How do conference spaces, particularly those held in the knowledge production ‘centre’ of the Global North, promote the inclusion of academic participants from the Global South?

The special issue explores the intersection between conferences, education and gender in relation to three key themes: (i) learning, (ii) knowledge and (iii) community, and is anticipated to appear in print in mid-2019. We hope the special issue is an exhortation to scholars in the field of gender and education and beyond to ‘gather their thoughts’ about conferences.

Please see the full Call for Papers here.

Abstracts are due by 5 February 2018. Please send abstracts and inquiries to Emily F. Henderson ( and James Burford ( Please note that selected authors will be invited, on the strength of their abstract, to submit a full-length manuscript by 2 April 2018. The guest editors are happy to discuss ideas prior to the deadline. We anticipate that the special issue will appear in print in mid-2019.

Leave a Reply