By Grace Fellman, LA'19
On Feb. 7 at noon, a panel discussion titled “Identity Narratives in Anti-Identity Times” will be held in Olin Library in room 142. The panel will feature the keynote speaker of the Faculty Book Celebration, Sidonie Smith, who is the director of the Institute for the Humanities and the Mary Fair Croushore Professor of the Humanities at the University of Michigan, as well as WashU faculty members Rebecca Wanzo, Melanie Micir, Erin McGlothlin, and Long Le-Khac. The discussion will take place over lunch, granting the event a conversational tone as panelists consider identity narratives from several contexts including gender, sexuality, and various religious, racial, and ethnic groups in the United States. Moreover, this event is designed to be an inclusive discussion, and the panelists will be taking audience questions in order to engage multiple voices in this discourse.
“I've been really fascinated post-election by the claim that one of the problems with this country (and college campuses in particular), is that people are focused too much on their specific identities,” says Rebecca Wanzo, a panelist and an associate professor of women, gender and sexuality studies. Identity has become something of a buzz-word as of late, and considering its role in society and in the past presidential election has proved to be a subject with a great deal to unpack. Wanzo continues, “At the same time, people continue to be compelled by life narratives, and stories about people who have overcome obstacles in relationship to discrimination are often popular. How do we think about this disconnect?”
“I hope that people think about why ‘identity’ has become a dirty word for some, and also gain a richer understanding of why discussions of identity continue to matter,” Wanzo says of the contemporary attitude towards identity. “And since we have one of the foremost scholars of life narratives on the panel, in addition to some brilliant faculty at our own institution who think about these issues, I think students will learn a great deal about what memoirs and life narratives have to teach us.”
This discussion promises to be informative, and it presents a venue for students to be vocal and engage in thinking about this matter alongside panelists. The subject matter is timely and will better equip those who attend to form opinions on things they hear on the news or read online. The experience of tackling an often intimidating issue in a collaborative manner is sure to be invaluable.