Reorienting the BWWC
Revised: February 2021.
For its virtual 2021 annual conference, the British Women Writers Association announces “Reorientations.” In the past, the British Women Writers Conference has featured panels, plenaries, and keynotes that address race and representation, but in response to the ongoing transformations of the field, we seek to reorient the conference with a singular focus on the work of women of color, both from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and today. This year, the conference will be held June 1-4 over Zoom.
The 2021 conference will open with a workshop on antiracist pedagogy led by Brigitte Fielder (University of Wisconsin, Madison). Days two and three will feature two panels of plenary speakers bringing innovative approaches to archival materials and women of color in the Revolutionary and Victorian periods. The plenary addresses will be delivered by Jessica Marie Johnson (Johns Hopkins), Marisa J. Fuentes (Rutgers), Jazzmen Lee-Johnson (2020 Artist Fellow at the RISD Museum), Ryan Fong (Kalamazoo College), Hilary Nicholson (Video for Change, Jamaica), and Samantha Pinto (University of Texas at Austin). On the fourth and final day of the conference, participants will discuss two recently published texts centering Black women writers of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries: Honorée Fanonne Jeffers’s The Age of Phillis (2020) and Jackie Sibblies Drury’s Marys Seacole (2019). The Common Reads event, new to this year’s BWWC, is an opportunity to host virtually the kind of fellowship that makes the annual conference so special, while expanding the conference’s historical focus to include work by contemporary Black writers.
We are grateful for the feedback we received on the initial Call for Papers. We apologize for perpetuating the institutional racism which pervades the profession and which this year’s conference seeks to counter. The revised conference announcement aligns more clearly with the goals for this year’s conference. Inclusivity and equity have always been at the core of the BWWA by surfacing the work of underread women writers. This task demands continual reorientations and re-examinations, specifically to combat a history of canon formation that privileges whiteness. We are aiming to stage an inclusive, antiracist virtual conference that practices a conscious engagement with the history of exclusion within the field.