The History of the Women's Network

Carmen Birkle

For several years the Women’s Caucus met at EAAS events and, each time, a new crowd of people gathered, discussed—sometimes heatedly—issues related to women’s and gender studies, the political and economic situation of women’s and gender studies in the various EAAS member states, and how the Women’s Caucus could work. At most meetings, we easily agreed that networking and the mutual exchange of ideas would be a wonderful undertaking. However, we also disappointedly agreed that hardly anyone could spare the time to start either a members’ list or even a separate website. While the meetings were always full of enthusiasm and new ideas, the aftermaths of such gatherings proved disillusioning because every-day academic life made it difficult to maintain connections.

I recall our first official “meeting” (shoptalk) in Cyprus in 2006 with a pretty large number of people engaging in discussion, but I also recall another meeting in Dublin in 2010, where we were a last-minute addendum to the program, and the only room left was what one participant called a broom closet. But perhaps because of the narrowness of the room and the ensuing closeness we felt then, first stirrings emerged, and we at last started a list and received a promise from the EAAS webmaster to post anything we sent him. In Dublin, Justine Tally from the University of La Laguna in Spain and I were elected the first Steering Committee members, and we managed to contact the organizers of the 2012 Izmir conference (Meldan Tanrisal and Tanfer Emin Tunc) for a preferred slot on Monday morning. The Izmir meeting proved to be a turning point.

In Izmir, a relatively large number of people from Turkey and elsewhere gathered, among them Meldan Tanrisal, then Vice President of EAAS, and Tanfer Emin Tunc, Vice President of the American Studies Association of Turkey. Justine and I were happy to welcome them as members of an enlarged Steering Committee, and together we set up a new list on the EAAS website and invited/sponsored Lisa Hayes, who performed a one-woman show—“Finding the Light”—on behalf of the Women’s Caucus at the 2014 Hague conference. This conference made it clear to us that we needed to be in touch more than just biennially, so we reorganized the Steering Committee to include four members. In addition to Tanfer, we gained the new, vigorous, and enthusiastic voices of Annessa Ann Babic from New York, Ingrid Gessner from Germany, and Rubén Cenamor from Spain. It is because of their hard work that the Women’s Caucus, renamed the Women’s Network, was able to hold its first symposium in 2015 in Lublin, Poland on “The State of the Nation: American Women in the Twenty-First Century.” The Steering Committee hopes to host this platform for the discussion of women’s and gender issues biennially, in different locations throughout Europe, to alternate with the EAAS Conference.