I Intersectional Conference 2020

Encarceramento e sociedade

January 29 to 31, 2020

Faculty of Arts and Humanities, University of Coimbra


WG 1

Title: Intersectionality in the media: dilemmas and challenges
Coordination: Carla Cerqueira and Ana Cristina Pereira, Centro de Estudos de Comunicação e Sociedade [Centre for Communication and Social Studies], University of Minho

As much as it may be subtly enacted, the media often support the reproduction of present-day social stereotypes, although they may also contribute to channeling forms of speech embedded in social resistance. At a time when media outlets seem to exponentially multiply and diversify, it is paramount that the workings of power and the current regimes of inclusion and exclusion intrinsic to communication systems be discussed in all their complexity.

This research workgroup aims to explore in what ways the challenges of intersectionality have (or have not) been incorporated into the different media. It seeks to reflect on how gender, race, class and other proposed markers influence the makeup of professional groups in the media, whether mainstream or fringe, and how the media will, in turn, model their discursive practices.


WG 2

Title: Prison-islands as rule over the Other's body and spirit
Coordination: Ana Oliveira and Marisa Ramos Gonçalves, Centre for Social Studies (CES), University of Coimbra

Across colonial and post-colonial times, the use of insularity as a territory of natural confinement has been marked, historically, by colonial matrices of power and knowledge comprising of demographic racialisation systems, as well as state-run strategies for political, cultural, religious, security, border and sanitary control. Colonial violence was constitutive of these spaces which operated as concentration camps, where political foes or others condemned to security measures were sent, by administrative decision, without trial or formal sentencing, and who frequently faced, behind the so-called "racial contract", forced labour, torture, sexual violence or solitary confinement. This violence is being updated into new colonial technologies, sanctioned by new consensus built around security discourses: from the design and enforcement of prison-islands for asylum seekers and refugees, the development of buffer-spaces (such as in Turkey, by the EU) to war on terrorism spaces (the USA's Guantanamo Bay in Cuba), allowing for regimes of exception that suspend domestic or international law.

This workgroup welcomes contributions from a broad range of fields, from history to sociology, to law, and literary and cultural studies, that start out from the concept and imagery of the island, as metaphor or metonymy of border, to illustrate, densify or problematise the historical and present-day manifestations of these prison-islands, or hospital-colonies or island-ghettos. 


WG 3

Title: Blaxploitation and its historical legacy
Coordination: Érica Faleiro Rodrigues, Institute of Contemporary History (IHC), Universidade NOVA de Lisboa

Starting in the USA during the 1970s, the film sub-genre Blaxploitation has been both a commercial success and a movement always imbued with a strong political spirit. This, together with how it tackled ethnic, sexual or violence related subjects, contributed to making it controversial and lent it an extremely polarised reception – at the same time exalted and venerated or denounced and criticised, especially by the African American community.

With four decades elapsing since Blaxploitation’s golden age, there is now enough critical distancing to warrant some objectivity to the task of studying its social impact, of dissecting how its narrative devices may have worked as vehicles for gender and ethnic emancipation.

The workgroup “Blaxploitation and its Historical Legacy” will focus, in each session, on a range of specific political or aesthetic questions, such as:

  • Seductresses, Warriors or Victims? The representation of African American women
  • Jackie Brown, A Symbol – Clichés and counter-clichés
  • Blaxploitation, The Internal Demon – Representations of violence in the African American community
  • Between Gangster and Pimp — Figures that empower the African American man?
  • Blaxploitation, Political Controversies – The 1970s and the fight for racial equality
  • Blaxploitation, Sub-Genres – Crime, action, martial arts, westerns, terror, comedy, nostalgia and the musical
  • Blaxploitation, The Foundations of Rhythm — Vanguardism and traditions in music and soundtrack
  • Blaxploitation, Between Popularity and Boycott — Could this have been a censored genre?



WG 4

Title: Body, violence, and trauma
Coordination: Michelle Sales, Centre of 20th Century Interdisciplinary Studies, University of Coimbra; Pablo Assumpção, Federal University of Ceará

Colonialism, as a form of power intrinsic to modernity, has triggered off incalculable paradoxes and hallucinations. In Critique of Black Reason, Achille Mbembe reminds us that the territorial, economic and political expansion of Europe across the continents has carried with it a pattern of phantasies and deliriums of omnipotence which have fed the European imagination and whose effects, apparently impenetrable, coincide with the colonial ‘work of death’. The power of artistic representation inscribed in colonialism’s historical materiality cannot easily discard the capture, emptying out, and objectification of the many bodies colonization has found in its way; an indignity which exposes the constitutive and destructive force of signs, ideas and images in the larger field of political economy. We believe that the critique of modernity, imperialism, and colonialism will remain unfinished until we deal with the myriad modes in which art and the production of the sensible intersect with the scandalous reproduction of “alterocide” (Mbembe) and racism, and, ultimately, with the proliferation of death as a mode of governance. The meanings cast by the colonial reason upon native and black peoples, just as the idea of neutral space of representation/illustration of life, are severely questioned by the force of the debate, for example, around the notion of one’s “place of enunciation”, in Brazil as well as in Portugal. This operative concept emerges in North-American intersectional feminist contexts as a mode of marking and claiming the difference/alterity between distinct speaking subjects – as opposed to a neutral voice that speaks in the name of a “universal” knowledge – and of arguing the recognisable singularity of any place from which a discourse emanates, marked by race, class, gender, and by other markers of social “negativity”.

The workgroup “Body, violence, and trauma” seeks to investigate the political economy of social relations in the present as a material language of violence, on the one hand, and the aesthetic production that responds to this structural violence (imbedded in law and in social reality), on the other – an aesthetic production which, occasionally, uses the very [language of] violence and its power of materialization. We want to interrogate art in its power to stage and disturb the violence of the modern western state’s political-juridical apparatus; its genesis in colonial pillage, genocide, and the primitive accumulation of capital; the neoliberal institution which naturalizes a civilizational order directly dependent upon the state monopoly (nowadays expanded into the market) over use of force and the right to kill. This workgroup intends to engage the many fields of artistic production: film, visual arts, performative arts, music.


WG 5

Title: Technologies of surveillance and control: ‘decolonial’ and intersectional perspectives
Coordination: Fernanda Bruno, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro

Studies about surveillance and control technologies from the last 3 decades have, overall, shown a strong penchant for interdisciplinarity, drawing from fields such as sociology, communication science, anthropology, law, cultural studies, geography, urbanism, the philosophy of technics and information science. More pronouncedly after 9/11 2001, a global research effort has been picking up steam around issues such as privacy and data protection in cyberspace and the urban environment, the generalisation of security and anti-terrorism policies, the monitoring of activity on digital platforms, the automated capture and processing of digital footprints, etc. More recently, several important studies have been exposing the convergence of surveillance and control technologies with contemporary capitalism and neoliberal forms of governance, also drawing attention to the employment of algorithms as mechanisms for controlling behaviour. It is with this arena of algorithmic governance (Rouvroy, 2017) and surveillance capitalism (Zuboff, 2018) in mind that a series of crucial works have started to point out the presence of racial, gender and class discrimination in this context (Eubanks, 2018; Noble, 2018; O’Neil, 2016). Moreover, quite a few recent research works claim a perspective attentive to racial and gender problems in the field of surveillance studies (Browne, 2015; Dubrofsky and Magnet, 2015). Such perspectives remain, however, a minority. Even though the preferred targets of surveillance and control technologies have been, historically, the native peoples, women and black working-class populations, there is still a lack of research around the topic. Similarly, although the study of technology and society has tended to incorporate, recently, a strong feminist perspective, the more specific field of surveillance and control technology research still lacks a feminist and intersectional approach. The same could be said about the dearth of ‘decolonial’ perspectives (Arora, 2019) in this area. The workgroup “Technologies of surveillance and control” aims to promote the strengthening and amplification of the intersectional and decolonial debate around surveillance and control technologies, mapping both their historical matrices and contemporary complexities.


WG 6

Feminism and punishment: an ongoing debate
Coordination: Rita Luís, Institute of Contemporary History (IHC), Universidade NOVA de Lisboa

The emergence of public denouncement phenomena such as #MeToo has triggered a debate, already classic in the face of anti-authoritarian movements, about the place a punitive logic can/should have amid movements self-perceived as emancipatory. Public denouncement, nowadays facilitated by social media, has its roots in the methods found by second wave feminism – together with the wider use of escrache in Argentina, to combat the legacy of military dictatorship – to deal with situations of violence and impunity resulting from gender inequality.

Today, facing a judicial and penal systems which often boomerangs impunity and generate frustration on a global level (see, in Portugal, the judicial decisions made by judge Joaquim Neto Moura, or, in Spain, the case of the Manada), a window of opportunity opens for the critique of rape culture (Herman, 1984) (a culture which permeates not only the State but also institutional life and social relations) to surpass these militant movements and for the very notion of justice mediated by the courts to be called into question in the public arena.

These practices that condemn the patriarchal logic intrinsic to the judicial system reduce the boundary between the need to challenge impunity and obtain justice, on the one hand, and the actions aiming to reinforce criminalisation, punishment and incarceration, on the other, to an extremely fine line. The Argentinian feminist anthropologist Rita Segato sees the amplification of the debate around such court cases as a positive sign. Segato has been advocating the need to abandon the kind of binary thinking that responds to impunity with incarceration. Far from a consensual position within feminist practices, this idea nevertheless prompts a series of fundamental present-day questions: what notion of justice can we build beyond a punitive logic and how can this be achieved?

This workgroup aims to contribute to the current debate by welcoming theoretical, methodological and/or practice-based proposals (including conflict mediation experiences) that address the concept of justice in its relationship with feminism, and, in particular, the tension between concrete forms of dealing with impunity and a punitive pulsion