Graduate Student Colloquium: Katherine Aid (Comparative Literature) & Jasmine Salters (Communication)
Monday, November 12, 2012 - 8:30am

Please join the Gender, Sexuality and Women's Studies Graduate Student Colloquium for exciting presentations from Katherine Aid (Comparative Literature) and Jasmine Salters (Communication).

This monthly interdisciplinary colloquium is open to graduate students working on all things women, gender, queer and sexuality studies. Please feel free to join us and participate in the discussion! If you are interested in participating and not yet on the Gender, Sexuality and Women's Studies Grads email listserv, please email Matt Goldmark (goldmark[at]sas[dot]upenn [dot] edu) so that you can receive all future announcements.

Katherine Aid (Comparative Literature) “The Sisters in Dahomey”: Staging New Women

In the 1890s, as France colonized the West African kingdom of Dahomey, the “amazons” who comprised the female corps of the Dahomean army became popular figures of entertainment in music-halls, colonial expositions, and the press throughout Western Europe and the United States. In this presentation, I argue that the ubiquitous presence of “Dahomean amazons” on stage and in print around the turn of the twentieth century made these professional soldiers available as rhetorical points of reference in debates on the changing roles of Euroamerican women. For instance, feminists argued that “Dahomean amazons” testified to women’s rightful say in military affairs, while anti-feminists claimed these recently colonized Africans as proof that emancipated white women would become ‘unnaturally’ masculine both in body and profession. Ultimately, I ask in what terms we can understand the three-way network of comparison that linked military enemies of the French Empire to both the women who performed as “amazons” onstage, and to New Women across the Northern Atlantic.

Jasmine Salters (Communication) "Commodification of Black Female Sexuality & Intimacy: Ethnography of a Black Massage Parlor"

Given the degree to which black female sexuality has been historically mediated and policed by black respectability politics, shame, and silence, as well as hindered by and constructed in opposition to white womanhood, this project seeks to address and illuminate the complexities of black female sexuality. Drawing on twelve months of field research between 2011 and 2012 conducted at Heavenly Hands—a predominantly African-American massage parlor in Los Angeles, CA that caters to white businessmen—I conceptualize the agency and experiences of black erotic masseuses at this unique site where race, gender, class, and sexuality coexist. I explore how these workers attempt to represent, recuperate, and (re)imagine their own sexualities, as well as utilize preconceived notions of hypersexuality for their own professional and personal advancement.

The colloquium allows graduate students to workshop parts of chapters, articles, essays, or practice conference papers and presentations. Longer pieces will be pre-circulated. Katherine will deliver her paper at the meeting; Jasmine will pre-circulate her paper (registrants will receive the paper by Thursday, Nov. 8th, at 5 pm).