Lilith Symposium


Gender in Catastrophic Times

Online symposium, Thursday 23 September – Friday 24 September, 2021

The 2020s have thus far been defined by catastrophe. The decade began in the midst of widespread environmental devastation, with bushfires across Australia choking entire cities until whole towns fled the flames, followed by fires in the Amazon and across the west coast of the United States as well. 2020 has since been designated one of the hottest years on record. Political crises have been rampant, too. The world has witnessed the continuing blight of white supremacy, epitomised by the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor at the hands of police officers, which fuelled the global Black Lives Matter movement. Australia is beset with the ongoing damage of colonisation, such as the over 400 Indigenous deaths in custody since the 1991 Royal Commission in Aboriginal Deaths in Custody. Even 2021 began in political turmoil, with the world watching as the U.S. Capitol building was stormed by right-wing extremists. The beginnings of this decade have been characterized by catastrophe in multiple ways, even before we consider the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic that has caused inconceivable loss of life world-wide and exposed many deep-seated social inequalities.

In this symposium, we turn to past instances of difficult times to understand how societies have responded to and survived catastrophe. We specifically seek to understand gender in catastrophic times: how is gender mediated through and by catastrophe? How has gender contributed to or even caused catastrophe? And how have people reconsidered or reframed gender and gender norms in light of catastrophe? We seek to understand this not for a cynical recirculation of trauma, but in the hopes of searching for a means of emerging from the current disasters through which we are living.

The Lilith Editorial Collective invites proposals for 20-minute papers that reflect on and explore these themes and more. We invite proposals from scholars across academic disciplines, and particularly encourage postgraduate and early career researchers to submit proposals. We also encourage scholars outside of Australia to apply: please indicate in your submission if you are based outside of Australia, and we will endeavour to schedule your paper at an accessible time. Keynote speakers for the symposium will be announced soon. Symposium participants will be invited to submit article-length versions of their papers to Lilith: A Feminist History Journal for a 2022 special issue.

As a special measure for this year’s symposium, the AWHN will be awarding two prizes: best paper by a student currently enrolled in a higher research degree programme (inside or outside of Australia); and best paper by an early-career academic who received their PhD in the past five years. These prizes take the place of the travel bursaries that would typically be supported given the symposium’s online format. Prize winners will receive $300 and a citation from the judges on the strengths of their paper; the runner-up in each category will receive $200.

All participants in the symposium who want to be considered for these prizes will need to submit a written version of their paper (maximum 3000 words not including referencing) by 5pm Sunday 19 September AEST. The papers will then be reviewed by the judging panel – we suggest three individuals, perhaps a representative from the AWHN executive, a representative from Lilith, and a senior academic figure (perhaps with a long history of involvement with the AWHN/Lilith). The prizes for best papers will then be awarded at the close of the symposium on 24 September.

The symposium will be held online over Thursday 23 September and Friday 24 September 2021.

Please email a 200-word abstract and 150 word biographical note to by 30 April 2021.



Monash University, Friday 8 November, 2019

Feminist thought and feminist movements are in a state of constant evolution and contestation. The recent global rise of conservatism and authoritarian populism has been met with renewed and vocal opposition to the patriarchy, evident in the popularity of women’s marches and the strength of the #MeToo movement. Masculinity has come under increasing critical scrutiny in this changed socio-political context, but what of its gendered, relational opposite, ‘femininity’? How can the history of the broad and diverse movements known as ‘feminism’ frame understandings of our political present?

Submissions (consisting of a 200 word abstract and 150 word bio) should be emailed to by 4 October 2019. You can find more details about the Symposium and register to attend here.


‘Blood, Sweat and Cheers’: A Long Journey to Equity?

Griffith University, Friday 15 September, 2017

The symposium is intended to celebrate and build upon the academic scholarship which explores women in historically male dominated spheres, such as police, military, medicine and academia, governance and executive leadership positioned within the centre of feminist historical analysis. It will explore how gendered norms are reflected, reinscribed and contested through perceptions of women, physical and psychological, and encourage consideration of new methods and sources for studying the long standing moral construct of women as God’s police.

Keynote Speakers:

Tim Prenzler, Professor of Criminology, University of Sunshine Coast

Katarina Carroll, Commissioner of Queensland Fire and Emergency Services


Flesh and Blood: A Feminist Symposium on Embodied Histories

Australian National University, Friday May 8, 2015

The symposium was intended to celebrate and build upon the rich tradition of placing the body at the centre of feminist historical analysis. It explored how gendered norms are reflected, reinscribed and contested through bodies, and encouraged consideration of new methods and sources for studying the elusive bodies of the past.

Keynote Speakers:

Joanna Bourke, Professor of History at Birkbeck, University of London

Joy Damousi, Professor of History at The University of Melbourne and Kathleen Fitzpatrick Australian Laureate Fellow.

Download the programme here: Lilith-Programme-2015


‘Women Without Men: Spinsters, widows and deserted wives in the nineteenth century and beyond’ 

Australian National University, Friday 10 May 2013

The inaugural conference of the relaunched Lilith: A Feminist History Journal was held on Friday 10 May 2013, following the Allan Martin week of events at the School of History at ANU. The keynote speaker Professor Carolyn Steedman was the Allan Martin lecturer for 2013. The conference was sponsored by the ANU Gender Institute.

Download conference program here. Women Without Men Conference Program.

‘Women Without Men: Spinsters, widows and deserted wives in the nineteenth century and beyond’

Nineteenth century colonial Australia and New Zealand are commonly viewed as a man’s world, just as colonialism and the imperial project have been frequently gendered male. While women have been added to our picture of the colonial world in recent years it has been as adjuncts to male enterprise, as ‘colonial helpmeets’. They have been grated roles as civilising agents of empire and as domestic wives and mothers. Nevertheless, women on their own have proved problematic within this story. As ‘damned whores’ or domestic servants they appear briefly on the colonial stage before taking up their prescribed vocations as wives. But not all women married, and of those that did many found themselves on their own, often with children to support, having been widowed or deserted. In spite of this, few historians, with notable exceptions such as Shurlee Swain and Renate Howe, have dealt with how these women navigated the man’s world of Australia and New Zealand in the nineteenth century.

This conference seeks to place these ‘women without men’ at the centre. It will explore themes of financial and social independence that women in the nineteenth and into the twentieth century chose for themselves, or had thrust upon them by circumstances. While there has been more discussion of women alone in the twentieth century, particularly in relation to their wartime experiences, a consideration of continuities and difference over time is valuable. similarly, placing the antipodes within a wider context of empire and viewing ‘single’ women through a transnational lens offers different perspectives on what might have hitherto been considered peculiar to one country.

The conference organisers would like to thank the ANU Gender Institute and the ANU School of History for their support.