University of Vermont

University Communications

UVM to Hold “Gender and Precarity” Conference in Celebration of Joan Smith

Waterman Building, Burlington, VT
The conference will take place Thursday, April 16, in Waterman Building, from 1-5 p.m. (Photo: Sally McCay)

The University of Vermont will sponsor a conference in memory and celebration of former College of Arts and Sciences dean Joan Smith on Thursday, April 16 titled "Gender and Precarity: The Consequences of Economic and Climate Instability." The conference, consisting of two panel discussions, will take place from 1 to 5 p.m. in Memorial Lounge in the Waterman Building. UVM president Tom Sullivan will welcome conference participants and attendees at 1. 

Precarity, said conference organizer Felicia Kornbluh, associate professor of history and director of UVM’s Gender, Sexuality, and Women's Studies Program, is an academic term she and her colleagues hope to bring into public policy discussions. It refers to the precariousness of the contemporary economy, where people often have multiple low-paying jobs that don’t offer security or benefits and come with frequent schedule changes, often on short notice. The conference will look at this phenomenon in the context of women and family life. 

Panel I, from 1:30 to 3 p.m., is titled "Precarity and the Life of Gender." It will be chaired by Beth Mintz, UVM sociology professor. Panelists include Joni Seager, professor of global studies at Bentley University and former member of UVM’s Department of Geography; Cynthia Enloe, research professor in the Department of International Development, Community and Environment at Clark University; and Elaine McCrate, professor of economics at the University of Vermont.

Panel II, titled "Precarity and Contemporary Family Life," will take place from 3:15-4:45 p.m. Chaired by Margaret Nelson, professor of sociology at Middlebury College, its panel members will include Allison Pugh, sociology professor at the University of Virginia; Naomi Gerstel, professor of sociology at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst; and Kornbluh. 

Joan Smith, the first full-time head of the Women’s Studies program at UVM, was a transformative academic leader who died in office 10 years ago this academic year. The gathering has been organized by her colleagues, family and successors at UVM with the intention of remembering her many contributions, iincluding especially her commitment to studying and advocating for women's economic wellbeing.