CFP: A Feminist Space at Leeds: Looking Back to Think Forward

School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies, University of Leeds

16 & 17 December 2017


‘Re-vision – the act of looking back, of seeing with fresh eyes, of entering an old text from a new critical direction – is for us more than a chapter in cultural history: it is an act of survival.’

 ~ Adrienne Rich, ‘When We Dead Awaken: Writing as Re-Vision’

On the occasion of Griselda Pollock’s 40th anniversary of teaching at the School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies, University of Leeds, we invite scholars, pedagogues, activists and artists to come together in a moment of reflection and re-vision for a symposium in two parts. 

This event aims to provide a space for critical reflections and responses in the context of a feminist project that has been sustained through the work of, and inspired by, Griselda Pollock in her 40 years at Leeds. As a conceptually rigorous body of work, at the intersection of art, culture and education, Griselda Pollock’s scholarship offers critical and cross-disciplinary interventions. Sharing the unfinished project of feminism, but ultimately in different ways, we aim to, first of all, reflect on what happened at Leeds over the past forty years and the specificity of different encounters with this feminist project.

It is looking ‘back’ that enables us to look ‘forward’: by reflecting on the significance of the presence of feminist critique in the context of art history, art practice, psychoanalysis, aesthetics, cultural theory, different differences and differencing, [etc.] this symposium––as a space of encounter––aims to think through the theoretical, political and institutional conditions necessary for feminist critical and constructive interventions in these fields in the future. Placing at the centre Griselda Pollock’s sustained address of a feminist problematic to art history, cultural theory and analysis and creative practices why were (and are?) these interventions important to the feminist project? What are the resistances that persist (or return) today at this specific intersection of writing with, or making art and its feminist effects? What are the feminist gestures we make in dedicating ourselves to scholarship, writing, and working on and with the creativity of women?

A Feminist Space at Leeds: Looking Back to Think Forward commits to critically examine the diverse and rich intellectual and creative production which has developed in conversation with Griselda Pollock’s work. In attending to the following questions, we especially invite considerations of what the space of critical feminist engagements in Leeds has engendered within the context of art and education: What were the urgencies of the 1970s? How did these change in the 1990s? What are they now in terms of the challenges feminist practice and enquiry is facing in post 2008 and even in post 2016? What can we learn from feminist educators, artists and scholars who took up this issue as a political project in the 1970s onwards? Where have these ideas and concepts travelled? How can we develop feminist strategies for higher education in the coming years? How do we safeguard the advances we have made and secure space for future development? We want to consider productive ways of countering the anti-feminist and anti-education trends that would like to forget how crucial the presence of feminist critique has been and still is in the context of higher education and, particularly, within art history, cultural theory and analysis and creative practice more broadly.

A Feminist Space at Leeds: Looking Back to Think Forward will be spread across two days. The first part will comprise of short presentations and discussions looking back, towards a genealogy of a certain kind of contribution to feminism via art, art history and cultural studies. We are also interested in collecting contributions from those unable to attend in person to be shared online as an archive of individual encounter, responses and contributions. The second will look forward to ask what is urgent to scholars currently working at the intersection of critical engagements in art, feminism and education, in the context of this practice of ‘re-visioning’.

We seek papers, proposals and provocations (in the expanded sense) from scholars, pedagogues, activists, artists and practitioners. These make take various forms (e.g. talks, conversations, workshops, screenings, performances, readings, interventions, artworks, recordings for those unable to attend, etc.) including but not limited to:


·      Encounters between art, education and feminism

·      Work on, or inspired by the writing of Griselda Pollock

·      Historiographical and methodological questions for feminist studies in art, art history and cultural analysis

·      Women and modernity

·      The challenge of different differences and differencing

·      Psychoanalysis, aesthetics and ethics

·      Trauma, memory and the aesthetic

·      The virtuality of feminism

·      Cultural resistances to the questions raised by feminism

·      Feminist as signifier/ the feminist subject?

·      The complexities of ‘difference’ and the entwining of race, class, gender and sexuality

·      Sexual difference

·      Art writing and its different modes

·      Working with, reading with, making with artists

·      Working as a feminist on ‘non-feminist’ topics, e.g. totalitarianism and the concentrationary

·      Maternal bereavement and mourning ‘in the feminine’

·      Ethical reading practices 

·      Feminist challenges to scholarship, disciplines and the academy

·      Feminist genealogies and collectives

·      Feminist futures


Please get in touch with proposals (max 300 words + bio) by 25 October 2017. We will be in touch soon after.

Contact: [log in to unmask]


This event is the first main event of a series of events, reading groups, screenings and exhibitions in Leeds aiming to address the question of looking back to think forward with Griselda Pollock’s work. We also welcome contributions to an ongoing online archive.


We also would appreciate any advice and contacts you may have, as well as hearing about other plans being made to mark this exceptional anniversary.