Carnegie Mellon University
March 23, 2023

Laboring for Community in the Humanities

Open to the public, ‘Bridges and Borders’ will run April 14-15

By Stefanie Johndrow

Stefanie Johndrow

What are the ways to incite, develop, respond, produce and care for your community? “Bridges and Borders: Laboring for Community,” aims to answer this question by considering different perspectives across disciplines, time periods and programs in the humanities. Graduate students from 12 universities around the United States, United Kingdom and India will convene virtually for the third annual conference, happening April 14 through April 15. 

“We’re specifically trying to think through how we labor together. Because we’re specifically a graduate-student-run conference, we recognize graduate student labor might not always shine through and intentionally we created a space for us to share the kinds of exciting work we’re doing. At the same time, we also are thinking about labor across culture and languages in places where it is often hidden,” said Catherine Evans, a graduate student in Carnegie Mellon University’s Department of English and co-chair of “Bridges and Borders.”

Sponsored by CMU’s English and Modern Languages departments, the virtual conference is open to the public and will feature 22 presenters and seven panel discussions. The conference will include research presentations from coursework, dissertations or extracurricular projects, project showcases where participants can display or read something they have created, and a special topics roundtable on motherhood and the academy. Topics from this year’s presentations include Resistance, Solidarity and Liberation; (In)justice in Education; Language, Labor and Constructions of Self; Behind the Scenes: Labor and Identity in Cultural Production; and (Re)gaining Narrative Control.

The keynote address will be given by Xine Yao, a lecturer in American literature whose book, “Disaffected: The Cultural Politics of Unfeeling in Nineteenth-Century America,” was the inspiration for this year’s conference. She is also a BBC Radio 3/AHRC New Generation Thinker and the co-host of PhDivas Podcast. 

“She is a young scholar who successfully transformed her PhD dissertation into this wonderful book ‘Disaffected,’ and that process must not be an easy one. Her publishing experience will motivate and inspire many graduate students,” said Eunji Jo, a graduate student in CMU’s Department of English and co-chair of the conference. “Her work is primarily situated in the 19th century, but her approach to race through the lens of feeling, unfeeling and distancing resonates with many of our committee members’ research interests. Furthermore, her work on emotional labor will be something interesting to see alongside the submissions we received this year.” 

For many graduate students who present at “Bridges and Borders,” this is their first experience showing their work in a conference setting. In the past, students have gone on to refine their work post-conference and successfully find placements in academic journals.

“‘Bridges and Borders’ is a stepping stone in sharing research with scholars,” Evans said.

The conference is organized by a group of 13 graduate students and staff members, including co-chairs Evans and Jo, Laura DeLuca, Michael Desalvo, Elizabeth Dieterich, Kiera Gilbert, Baron Glanvill, Emma Johnson, Jen Loughran, Vickie McKay, Rachael Mulvihill, Devon Renfroe, Bhawana Sharma, Elizabeth Walker and Benjamin Williams.

See the full schedule for Bridges and Borders