Tuesday, 13 October 2015


Birds. Tonight, walking to the dining hall at the Cité, a flock of bright green, parakeet-like birds with long tails flew in overhead, settling into the trees! What birds! What sounds they made as they flew! What birds are these, in Paris?

I leave for Nice, early tomorrow morning. Meeting fellow Paris 8 faculty and students to take the train south, a five hour journey! We are gathering with women’s and gender studies faculty from a university in the south of France. This is the first meeting “Atelier” of “LEGS” as it is affectionately know. The trip has taken on the name, “Nice LEGS” (yes, to the English pun, and the French humour!).

LEGS is short for “Laboratoire d’études des genres et de séxualité,” http://legs.cnrs.fr/, which was established in partnership with and funding from Le Centre national de la recherche scientifique (of France). It’s a needed opportunity for the advancement of French women’s and gender studies, to have backing from the French National Institute for Scientific Research. The faculty and doctoral students of Paris 8 women’s and gender studies are all members of LEGS, as am I, a postdoctoral fellow. They say women’s and gender studies has a long way to go in France, but that may be true in Canada too. Though we think of this as an almost ‘established’ discipline, it is still a sideline field of studies.

Like the Aokian (a.k.a. Ted Aoki) curriculum and arts-based folk I studied with, there is a relational stream of professors here, who were taught or mentored by Hélène Cixous. These women are now leading and teaching in the women’s and gender studies program at Paris 8 (which Cixous initiated in 1974). So the Cixousian gift is passed down the line. It shows, I feel this gift, the way people attend and lean into ideas and creative ways, the way I was welcomed here, which despite my not-fluent French, has been the thread that carries me along during each of my visits. The creative, careful work of thinking and being through "d'études feminine et de genre" is held and valued.

Info on LEGS (French):
Première UMR interdisciplinaire dédiée aux études de genre et de sexualité, le Laboratoire d'études de genre et de sexualité (LEGS - UMR 8238) a été créé en 2014 à l’initiative de l’INSHS, sur proposition de l’université Paris 8 Vincennes Saint-Denis, et avec l’université Paris Ouest Nanterre. L’unité a entamé sa carrière institutionnelle au 1er janvier 2015.

Program info, and themes to be explored for Nice LEGS includes:
Seront privilégiés les formats ouverts : tables rondes, discussions suite à brèves présentations de recherches. Ces journées donneront l’occasion de faire émerger des projets communs et de susciter des travaux, qui pourraient par la suite donner lieu à d’autres rencontres, projets de recherche collectifs, publications, etc.

Axe thématique :
Stéréotypes et représentations des corps
Poétique/Poïétique des corps
Esthétique des corps
Politique des corps

I appreciate this focus on and of bodies - des corps. 
The politics of the body. And especially notions of "esthetics" and "poetics" of bodies. Cixousian I think, and mirroring my upcoming talk on the "Poetics of the Placenta."

I am doing okay with French. I realize I’m not going to be fluent this year, and have relaxed around that. In fact, I am re-appreciating how much French I do have, and can work with when speaking with people. This is from years of previous immersions, including my undergraduate studies at the University of Ottawa (université bilingue), with Québecois professors and fellow students ; many weeks spent over a period of 5-years in the Gaspésie ; and previous travel to France, including coming here for a summer 'work-camp' with a friend when when I was only 16. I have had an ear out for French language and culture for many years really. Being t/here, and reading Cixous, is another leg of this journey, one that deepens.

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