(De)Generations: Reimagining Communities
Notions of genealogy and tradition have been central in the configuration of intellectual, political, and social communities. Communities define themselves through the identification of founding fathers, genealogies, and generations of forefathers. History (particularly cultural and literary history) has often been divided into "generations" that can sometimes span as many as thirty years: the 1898 generation in Spain, the Lost Generation in the United States, the Baby Boom generation, Generation X. The notion of generation presupposes genealogy, reproduction, belonging and filiation (one generation is always the product of another). At the same time, a generation is defined horizontally, in the present, and usually typified by a small or representative group of agents who embody a certain Zeitgeist, those who are deemed best able to represent the time, the era or the epoch.
Several key texts have attempted to deconstruct this notion of generations by proposing alternative tropes that interrogate the implicit gender and age hierarchies that inform the invention of a distinct community over time. In A Room of One’s Own, Virginia Woolf promoted the feminization of a cultural tradition. Years later, Barbara Johnson reintroduced the question of gender and intellectual production in “Gender Theory and the Yale School.” More recently, Jane Gallop has examined and attempted to circumvent the internal tensions of the concept of “sisterhood” in her foundational essay “Econstructing Sisterhood.” A new set of terms has emerged to imagine the complex interactions that configure communities, such as solidarity, consensus, habitus, friendship, and intimacy.
This seminar investigated representations and meanings of belonging and non-belonging implied in genealogies and generations. We included projects that envisioned not only alternative temporalities, but also other ways of creating solidarities and agency within academic, social, and intellectual communities. Seminar participants included fellows from the Graduate School of Education and Douglass Residential College, as well as from such departments as Sociology, English, History and Women's and Gender Studies. We were also joined by our first WGS/IRW Mellon Fellow and by IRW Global Scholars from Italy and the United Kingdom.