We have just submitted the proposal below to APSA for the September 2020 annual conference in San Francisco. Watch this space for further news (and keep your fingers crossed)!
DESTABILIZING THE CANON WITH FEMINISM
AMERICAN POLITICAL SCIENCE ASSOCIATION MEETING
SEPTEMBER 10-13, 2020
The feminist political theorist and historian of political thought Megan Gallagher, in a recent review in the journal Political Theory (Summer 2019), called for the return of the WOLLAPALOOZA! mini-conference at APSA, after we took a one year hiatus. After two popular and productive iterations of this event—which generated the first philosophical compendium on Wollstonecraft, The Wollstonecraftian Mind (Routledge, 2019)—we’re back and ready to destabilize the canon of political thought even further! 24 scholars from Europe and the United States will gather in San Francisco to engage the enduring relevance of Wollstonecraft for political science and political philosophy, especially for questions and concepts of democracy, race, gender, and feminism.
Session 1 of WOLLAPALOOZA! III explores the paradoxes of the American dream and American democracy with respect to Wollstonecraft, her family, and her followers’ legacies in the Americas—including new evidence of her ideas spreading to the abolition movement in Jamaica just prior to the Haitian Revolution; her philosophical impact upon her sister-in-law, Nancy Kingsbury Wollstonecraft, during her life in Cuba, New Orleans, and New England; and her reception by Brissot, the Rolands, and Wright in their plans to establish utopian communes in the United States. Session 2 assesses the need to decolonize both canonical political thought on women and feminist criticism of it, beginning with pioneering figures such as Montesquieu and Wollstonecraft, and extending to nineteenth-century African-American women’s rights advocates such as Truth and Wells. Session 3 charts the relevance of late eighteenth-century political thought for honing new philosophical definitions of republicanism, liberalism, feminism, and democracy, and better understandings of their intellectual and political relationships with one another. Session 4 confronts the endless wars within feminism over the compatibility of motherhood and citizenship, which Wollstonecraft herself addressed in her landmark A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792), but also were engaged before her by Astell and Keralio, and after her by Wright, Fuller, Taylor and Mill, and Woodhull.
The guiding questions of WOLLAPALOOZA! III will be: What is Wollstonecraft’s legacy for thinking about race as well as feminism, in the Americas and other regions of the world, as well as in Europe and her homeland of Britain? Was her political theory republican, liberal, or democratic? And does her categorization as one or the other matter for contemporary debates about democracy, liberalism, republicanism, and feminism? And, last but not least, we will treat perhaps the most vexed question surrounding Wollstoneraft and her work: Just what sort of a (proto-) feminist was she? And what sort of a feminist is one who studies her work and its philosophical and political legacies?
Going forward, we hope that WOLLAPALOOZA! will be an annual one-day mini-conference at APSA, organized by members of the international Wollstonecraft Philosophical Society (founded at APSA in 2017), and co-sponsored by the Foundations of Political Theory and Women and Politics Research sections. The mission of this annual event is to raise the profile of feminist political philosophy in the profession of political science, showcase new approaches to the history of feminist political thought, and provide a welcoming, international networking space for feminist scholars at all stages of the academic career.
SESSION 1. Traditional Panel: "Wollstonecrafts in the Americas: Utopian Dreams of Democracy in the Long 19th Century."
Time: Thursday, 8 - 9:30am
Chair: Eileen Hunt Botting (University of Notre Dame)
The Londoner Wollstonecraft, like many revolutionary thinkers of the late eighteenth century, dreamed of going to America—the land of equality, freedom, and fresh starts. She didn’t, but she succeeded in sending her brother there. His second wife, Nancy Wollstonecraft, wrote a defense of women’s rights published in Boston in 1825.
In France, Brissot and the Rolands also planned to move to America to start a republican commune. Their plans fell through, so they turned their minds to buy a piece of land in France, and starting a commune there, to educate citizens in the new democratic mode.
In Scotland, the young Frances Wright also dreamt of escaping her conservative surroundings. She travelled to America to document what freedom looked like. In her second trip across the Atlantic, she had as a companion her adoptive father the French revolutionary statesman Lafayette. This time she stayed in America, founding a feminist and free-thinking commune in Kentucky for the goal of emancipating slaves.
Wright and Brissot had read Wollstonecraft. Brissot was possibly the French translator of her A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792). Wright sought out the patronage of Wollstonecraft’s daughter Mary Shelley in London as well as former U.S. President Thomas Jefferson in the United States.
The opening session of the mini-conference “WOLLAPALOOZA! III: Destabilizing the Canon with Feminism,” this panel traces the still largely uncharted legacy of Wollstonecraft’s American dream in democratic, feminist, abolitionist, socialist, communal and other utopian political thought of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. It will begin with a presentation of the little-known yet fascinating history of the Wollstonecraft family in the United States and Cuba from the 1790s to the early twentieth century, by the American historian Wayne Bodle, then proceed with four papers on Wollstonecraft’s (previously unstudied or understudied) reception in American democratic imaginaries during the nineteenth century: (1) amid the Anglo-American abolition movement in the Caribbean, (2) by her American sister-in-law, Nancy Kingsbury Wollstonecraft, on women’s rights, (3) by British and French thinkers who were concerned with the development of democracy in America, Fanny Wright, Brissot, and the Rolands, and, finally, (4) by nineteenth-century American thinkers on women’s rights and race such as Nancy Kingsbury Wollstonecraft and Frederick Douglass.
1. Wayne Bodle (Indiana University of Pennsylvania), “Wollstonecraft(s) in the Americas, 1792-1904.”
2. Eileen Hunt Botting (University of Notre Dame), “Wollstonecraft and Jamaica: Feminist Abolitionism before the Haitian Revolution.”
3. Sandrine Bergès (Bilkent University), "Colonizing the American Republic - from Manon Roland to Frances Wright"
4. Carol Bensick (UCLA), “'As Much Force, and More Justice': The Boston Publisher's Comparison of Anne Kingsbury Wollstonecraft's ‘Natural Rights of Women’ with Mary Wollstonecraft's Vindication of the Rights of Woman in his 1834 Female Biography.”
5. Alan Coffee (King’s College, London), “Women’s Rights and Race in America after Wollstonecraft.”
Discussant: Virginia Sapiro (Boston University)
2. Traditional Panel: “Decolonizing Wollstonecraft.”
Time: Thursday, 10:00-11:30am
Chair: Laura Brace (University of Leicester)
Although Wollstonecraft demonstrated an overarching political concern with the injustice of slavery and the justice of abolition in her oeuvre between 1787 and 1797, she grew to use the concept of slavery to primarily conceptualize northern and central (white) European women’s conditions of subordination under patriarchy (especially in her internationally-received treatise A Vindication of the Rights of Woman and posthumously published novel, Maria, or The Wrongs of Woman). Some have criticised her work, and the style of feminism that can be derived from it, for that reason, while others have tried to show that her arguments could and should, in fact, be used to decolonize feminism.
The second session of the mini-conference “WOLLAPALOOZA! III: Destabilizing the Canon with Feminism,” this panel will debate what Wollstonecraft’s position and legacy on slavery and non-white feminism is, and it will look at how philosophers (of colour, and white) have drawn on arguments similar to hers in their work, from Montesquieu to Sojourner Truth to Ida B. Wells.
Discussant: Alan Coffee (King’s College, London)
LUNCH BREAK: Thursday, 12:30-2pm
SESSION 3. Roundtable: “Rethinking Republicanisms after the Revolutionary Era.”
Time: Thursday, 2-3:30pm
Chair: Alan Coffee (King’s College, London)
What is the relationship between republicanism, feminism, liberalism, and democracy after the politics and political thought of the American and French Revolutions? This roundtable addresses this historical and methodological question with lightning-short presentations (10 minutes) so as to accommodate a broad (and often conflicting) range of views on how the development of republicanism, feminism, liberalism, and democracy should be represented in the history of political ideas. As part of the “WOLLAPALOOZA! Destabilizing the Canon with Feminism” mini-conference, it will treat the use of these four rubrics to interpret a pivotal revolutionary-era political thinker, Mary Wollstonecraft, in the canon of the history of political thought, and alongside her fellow political scientists and constitutional theorists of the late eighteenth century, such as Thomas Paine, John Dickinson, William Godwin, the Rolands, Olympe de Gouges, and Edmund Burke. It will also critically engage the broader methodological question of these four terms’ wider use and abuse in the fields of political theory and political philosophy. The upshot of this roundtable will be to think through, in new and creative directions, with the mini-conference participants and other audience members, “Do we need a new term or, better yet, a new vocabulary to discuss what Wollstonecraft and other revolutionary-era political thinkers stood for in their time, and stand for the schools of thought on republicanism, feminism, liberalism, and democracy that they have shaped since?”
1. Jane Calvert (University of Kentucky)
2. Serena Vantin (University of Modena and Reggio Emilia)
3. Adam Lebovitz (University of Cambridge)
4. Stephanie DeGooyer (Willamette University)
5. Megan Gallagher (University of Alabama)
6. Sandrine Bergès (Bilkent University)
SESSION 4. Roundtable: “Feminist Wars! Motherhood, Domesticity, Sex & Citizenship.”
Time: Thursday, 4-5:30pm.
Chair: Sandrine Bergès (Bilkent University)
Wollstonecraft famously argued that a mother did not deserve the title of citizen unless she cared for her children properly. On the other hand, she also argued that women did not have a duty to marry or become mothers. During and after Wollstonecraft’s lifetime, the question of whether women were wives and mothers before they were citizens or vice-versa divided feminists. The concluding session of “WOLLAPALOOZA! III: Destabilizing the Canon with Feminism,” this roundtable looks at Wollstonecraft’s attitudes on relationships and domesticity as well as that of 19th-century proto-feminists who were influenced by her.