Skip to main content

Greenville Business Magazine

USC Upstate Plans LGBTQ Symposium

Apr 02, 2018 03:15PM ● By Kathleen Maris

The 10th anniversary of the Bodies of Knowledge Symposium at the University of South Carolina Upstate will take place April 9-11. This year's theme is Creating a Better World for LGBTQ People.

The three-day symposium received funding from the Freeman Foundation and is sponsored by the LGBT Fund held at The Spartanburg County Foundation and the College of Arts and Sciences and Center for Women’s and Gender Studies. It is dedicated to changing the conversation about LGBTQ lives in the Upstate of South Carolina and includes an array of scholarly presentations and films. 

“The Bodies of Knowledge Symposium is an academic gathering to discuss LGBTQ scholarship, research methods, service-learning projects, literary art, and community organizing that affirms the historically marginalized identities of LGBTQ students, faculty, staff, and community members,” said Dr. Merri Lisa Johnson-Marsala, director of the Center for Women’s and Gender Studies at USC Upstate. “The goals of the Bodies of Knowledge Symposium are to improve the climate of the Upstate for its LGBTQ population, provide leadership opportunities for LGBTQ youth, and promote civil and well-informed discussion about sexuality and nonconforming gender identities in this region.”

The symposium opens Monday, April 9 with a screening of the documentary Holler If You Hear Me: Gay and Black in the Church, which is produced by Clay Cane. The film, which puts the narrative in the hands of Black LGBT people who are struggling with the intersections of sexuality, faith, and race, will be shown from 6-8p.m. in Tukey Theatre.

The opening keynote address entitled Out of the Closet, Into the Archives will be delivered by Jaime Cantrell on Tuesday, April 10. She is faculty affiliate at the Sarah Isom Center for Women’s and Gender Studies and the Center for the Study of Southern Culture and LGBT program coordinator at the Center for Inclusion and Cross Cultural Engagement at the University of Mississippi. Cantrell seeks to prepare students to understand that their educational experiences parallel activist efforts outside their learning walls, where people work collectively in meaningful, creative, and unexpected ways to transform lives—and that students are uniquely positioned to move ways of being and belonging from the institutions they attend to the communities those institutions are intended to serve.

E. Patrick Johnson, professor of Performance Studies and African American Studies at Northwestern University, will deliver the closing keynote address on Wednesday, April 11 based on his forthcoming two-volume project entitled Honeypot: Black Southern Women Who Love Women. Johnson has published widely in the areas of race, class, gender, sexuality, and performance, and he is a prolific performer and scholar whose research and artistry has greatly impacted African American studies.

“By featuring artists, creative writers, and academic specialists in LGBTQ Studies who translate scholarly discourse into accessible language, the symposium serves to legitimize sexual diversity and gay and lesbian identities as valuable parts of the normal range of human experience, and as productive sites of academic inquiry,” said Johnson-Marsala. “Students who see their lives reflected back to them in the mirrors of these engaging, personable, intelligent, and self-confident LGBTQ speakers will ideally feel valued in a way that their upbringing in this region may not have made possible.”

USC Upstate students, faculty, and staff may attend for free. Registration for non-USC Upstate students is $20 and for the general public is $40. To register, visit