BCRW @ 50

Women's Art, Activism, and Writing

Artists and cultural workers have been involved in shaping the BCRW’s concept of feminist work and feminist space from the founding. Similar to the broader archive, the record on BCRW’s work with artists, poets, and writers from the 1970s and 1980s offer windows into familiar struggles of feminist movements and feminist spaces, struggles around race and class and sexuality, nationalism and colonialism, power and representation, activist and intellectual focus, local and international orientations of lefitst politics, and definitions of feminism. Event themes, recordings, brochures, and photographs offer insights into how terms were understood, terms like feminist, womanist, Black liberationist, and Third World, as well as feminist art and feminist criticism, and how those definitions shaped and constrained artistic, intellectual, and scholarly creation and curation during this time.

Through these records we are able to glimpse outlines of political imagination, political struggles that crossed boundaries within and outside delineated communities, transformations in culture and critical interpretation, as well as marginalization in artistic fields and in academia. We also glimpse some of the power struggles that shaped the contemporaneous emergence of women’s studies and ethnic studies at Barnard and beyond. At times, the archive reveals BCRW’s struggle to decenter whiteness and cisgender womanhood from feminist inquiry and critique. At other times, the records suggest that artists, writers, scholars, and others were thinking and creating (and organizing) toward an intersectional, internationalist, and expansive politics of liberation. 

This section will explore the 1970s through an analysis of the work of women writers and artists at BCRW, focusing on the inaugural Reid Lecture given by June Jordan and Alice Walker in 1975.

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