Lesbian Lives Conference 2011

  • 11th Feb 2011 - 12th Feb 2011
    University of Brighton

Thank you to all speakers, performers, volunteers and conference delegates for making the 2011 Lesbian Lives Conference, hosted by the University of Brighton LGBT and Queer Life Research Hub in conjunction with the Women’s Studies Centre, University College Dublin, such a friendly, interesting and stimulating event! We hope that the conference  provided opportunities for new discussions and connections.

We have had very positive responses to the conference from both speakers and  attendees and would like to thank all of you for your contributions.

You can stay in touch with conference delegates by subscribing to  the Lesbian Lives mailinglist.

We will shortly be updating this website with pictures, podcasts and other material from the conference so make sure to visit us soon again!

In the meantime, please consider submitting a proposal for our planned publications.

About the conference

The Lesbian Lives Conference has been organised by the Women’s Studies Centre at University College Dublin for the past seventeen years and in 2011 it celebrated its 18th birthday in Brighton. The conference is a mix of academics, activists, performers, artists and writers and is open to all genders and any political and sexual orientations. There is an ethos of welcome and accessibility.

The Lesbian Lives Conference is not just the world’s only annual academic conference in Lesbian Studies, it is now a large international event that draws speakers and participants from all continents and hosts the best-known as well as emerging scholars in the field. The conference gathers together academics, activists, performers and writers who do not otherwise have the opportunity to address such large audiences or to network across international and professional boundaries. It is also a forum for political organisation on the levels of both community activism and established international NGOs. Many books (academic and literary) and films (documentaries and dramas) are launched at this event and it is continually referenced in lesbian work and events internationally.

The conference sets the parameters for debate in the manifold disciplines that now take‘ Lesbian' or ‘Lesbian Communities’ as the object of enquiry or as a category for analysis.

The Lesbian Lives organising committee members are: Leela Baksi; Kath Browne; Catherine Harper; Olu Jenzen; Irmi Karl; Mary McAuliffe and Katherine O’Donnell.

If you would like to get in touch please email us at LGBTQ@brighton.ac.uk.

Aims and objectives

  • To be welcoming – an open invitation to anyone who thinks they might be interested in 'Lesbian Lives'; a friendly atmosphere even as we debate and disagree; dedicated chill-out spaces and break-times for meeting old and new acquaintances; consultation on planning with community activists; encouragement to hear your advice on how to improve the conference
  • To be accessible – we try to be mindful to ease or remove barriers that might block the widest possible participation: so we have bursaries, sliding scale fees, jargon-free English (though some academic papers necessarily use specialist terms); wheelchair accessible venues; vegan and vegetarian snack options; a range of activities including workshops, roundtable discussions; performances and visual displays. We can also organise SL interpretation if required
  • To be an international social, cultural, political and artistic venue for sharing ideas and information of relevance to 'Lesbian Lives'

Lesbian Lives history

Here are some excerpts from Katherine O’Donnell’s introduction to Tribades, Tommies and Transgressives: Histories of Sexualities Volume I, edited by Mary McAuliffe and Sonja Tiernan (2008), outlining the history of the conference since its inauguration in 1993.

  • "The first Lesbian Lives Conference, held in the spring of 1993, was organised by Dr Ger Moane, Ailbhe Smyth and Rosemary Gibney, in conjunction with a Dublin lesbian community group called LOT (Lesbians Organising Together), which had been founded in 1991.  There were a little over forty women in attendance for the day and all sessions were plenary."
  • "In spite of two decades of lesbian activism, lesbian life in Ireland in 1993 was still lived very much in the realms of the closet. There were very few lesbian women living in Ireland ‘out’ as lesbians in all aspects of their lives and homophobia was securely expressed in every area of Irish society. The university administration at UCD, the venue for the Lesbian Lives Conference, had only recently, and with great reluctance, followed the decision made by University College Cork in 1990 to finally grant formal recognition to an organisation of lesbian and gay students."
  • "Rosemary Gibney was the prime organiser of the Lesbian Lives Conference for the first four years of its existence, except for the conference of 1995 when Grainne Healy filled that role. The conference grew, it was still held over one day (generally a Saturday in February) but there were parallel sessions, and presentations were more likely to take the form of workshops rather than academic papers. Once business was concluded at UCD, the Lesbian Lives Conference party was held at a city centre venue and this attracted hundreds of women, a multiple of those who attended the conference proper, thus ensuring the place of the Lesbian Lives Conference in the social calendar of Irish lesbians."
  • "By 1997 the Lesbian Lives Conference had grown to the extent that there were now parallel sessions, more academic papers and a few visiting international activists and academics; attendance figures were also steadily rising. These trends continued year by year with the organisation of the conference depending more and more on email and internet."
  • "Every year Lesbian Lives has been organised around a broad central theme: one of the most popular of these was ‘Lesbians and the Arts’ which inspired Dublin lesbians to organise aLAF (a Lesbian Arts Festival), [and] this small community arts festival has run almost annually since 1999."
  • "As the millennium turned, the Lesbian Lives Conference, (or perhaps more accurately, the party after the Lesbian Lives Conference and the social events such as the cabaret and literary readings organised around the conference) had a prominent position in Irish lesbian lives. It was a very popular occasion for meeting friends from different parts of the country, for hearing about what other lesbian communities were doing, and sharing (and generating) that vital gossip that lubricates the whirl of all social circles."
  • "The conference experienced a shift in its scope and size in 2003 when Noreen Giffney came onto the organising team for that year and exploited the internet much more widely than had been used before to broadcast the call for papers. That year was the first year we saw a large-scale presence by international academics, addressed by some of the major figures in Lesbian Studies and the conference spread, in multiple parallel sessions, over two days. The four Lesbian Lives Conferences that have been run since then have all been major international conferences with delegates numbering about 300[…] [and a] number of publications […] have come from these conferences."
  • "Each of the last four Lesbian Lives Conferences has been bigger than the year before. They have been chiefly organised by Dr Mary McAuliffe, with the notable assistance of Dr Sonja Tiernan. Mary is also currently organising the next two conferences."
  • "Celebrating its 18th birthday this year the Lesbian Lives Conference clearly shows that '[T]he lesbian perspective still continues to be a critical gaze from a charged margin and the Lesbian Lives Conference continues to be a friendly experience of energetic engagement."

All excerpts from:O'Donnell, Katherine (2008) 'Lesbian Lives and Studies in Ireland at the Fin de Siècle' In: Mary McAuliffe and Sonja Tiernan (eds). Tribades, Tommies and Transgressives: Histories of Sexualities Volume I (Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Press (with permission from the author)).

Why use the 'L' word?

Why 'Lesbian' Lives?

We, the organisers, call the conference 'Lesbian Lives' because we believe that lesbians are a group worth investigating, celebrating and debating with and there are not nearly enough times or spaces where these things can happen.

However antique, ill-fitting, awkward, intimidating, haunted or comic the term 'lesbian' may be for some of us, a primary desire of the organisers is to create a conference where those of us who identify as lesbian can have the opportunity to meet other lesbians to agree and to argue, to dissent and to dream.

We use the word ‘lesbian’ as a noun and as an adjective but most particularly as an invitation to gather – regardless of whether or not it is a term you would personally use to describe yourself. We do not use ‘lesbian’ as a term to exclude attendance or police participation at the conference.

The term ‘lesbian’ is always being contested, often under pressure from conceptual theorising, pragmatic politics, oppressive structures and the forces of fashion. There are many times and spaces at the conference where we continue to debate what ‘lesbian’ might mean and there are other times and spaces where we act as if we all share the same understanding.

Why 'Lesbian Lives?' - We think it might be fun.