Jessica Scott ’04, assistant professor of gender studies at West Virginia Wesleyan College, will present “Home is where your politics are: Queer activism in two souths” as the third lecture in the spring Faculty Lecture Series on Monday, March 12 at 7 p.m. in the Culpepper Auditorium of the Virginia Thomas Law Center for the Performing Arts (PAC). The event is free and open to the public.
Scott’s talk is based on her PhD research, which looks at the work of queer activists who organize for rights and recognition at the margins. Explaining further, she says, “My talk will focus on the representation of spaces outside of the city centers that often dominate stories of what it means to be a lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender person. As I saw in my research, activists outside of metropolitan centers develop locally embedded strategies to engage communities around questions of violence, exclusion, inclusion, and being and staying ‘at home.’”
Scott says, “The talk carries forward a legacy of Women’s History Month, an effort to uncover the hidden contours of work that matters, but, to some gazes, remains unseen.”
When asked about the importance of her talk, Scott said, “I cannot think of a better time to be discussing the representation of marginalized geographies. The mainstream national and international news have been calling West Virginia ‘Trump Country’ in dismissive and derisive ways since before the last election. However, at this moment, thousands of public school teachers have launched one of the largest collective labor actions in a national environment increasingly hostile to the demands of workers. This movement of teachers with enormous strength and determination is not supposed to come from ‘Trump Country,’ so it is difficult for many mainstream commentators to interpret and understand. It is, in one of the earliest meanings of the word, queer. West Virginia, as a leader for collective action in the context of a Donald Trump presidency, is an unrecognizable space.”
While Scott’s research does not take up the subject of the teachers’ recent actions, she says it does ask questions similar to those about spatial politics raised by mass collective action in a place imagined as “Trump Country.” According to Scott, “Rural queer folks, like me, are often linked to our homes in ways that go unaccounted for in metropolitan narratives of acceptance or equality. Those linkages to home can make us difficult to interpret through metropolitan narratives of LGBT rights or equality because our political existence cannot be separated from the existence of our communities.”
In addition to her degree from WVWC, Professor Scott holds a Master of Music degree from the University of Illinois and a Master of Social Science in Gender Studies degree from the University of Cape Town. She is the coordinator of the Gender Studies program at West Virginia Wesleyan College, a role she has held since 2010. Scott has presented her work at international conferences and is published in journals and books about a wide range of topics, from meanings of same-sex marriage in different contexts to representations of race and sexuality in popular culture.
Join the Wesleyan community for one more lecture this semester on April 9 at 7 p.m. in the PAC. The final lecture of the semester will be given by Dr. Joanna Webb, assistant professor of chemistry. For more information on additional cultural events, please visit www.wvwc.edu.