GWS professors, student to host Hip Hop and Punk Feminism symposium

By Alexander Vassiliadis

Punk. Hip-hop. Feminism. Three seemingly unrelated subcultures will be brought together and analyzed during “Hip Hop and Punk Feminisms: Theory, genealogy, performance” on Thursday and Friday in the Asian American Cultural Center lounge at 9 a.m. 

Professor Mimi Thi Nguyen, Dr. Ruth Brown, Dr. Karen Flynn, graduate student Susan Livingston and Dr. Fiona I.B. Ngô, who are all part of the gender and women’s studies department, have been working for the past year to organize the symposium. 

“Over the years of knowing each other and reading each other’s work, we realized we are doing this research that is inspired by feminisms and cultural forms that were often thought of purely distinct,” Nguyen said. “Like punk or hip-hop. We wanted to bring these two subcultures together through the lens of feminist inquiry and art-making.” 

In an attempt to combine these components and form academic inquiries on the two subcultures’ relationship with feminism, the symposium will feature scholarly speakers who will present papers and articles on the subject, as well as various musical performances and workshops. 

From workshops on beat-making to the pedagogical abilities of the music styles, the symposium aims to address how women of color have been involved in the genres of punk and hip-hop and the genres’ inceptions. It will also cover how their presence has helped form the aesthetics and sounds of the two genres. 

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“It is a mix of wanting to inform and inspire new kinds of questions about how we think about something like hip-hop and punk, and how we make art in these scenes,” Nguyen said. 

Anna Vo, a punk musician and presenter at the symposium, entered the punk scene when she was 13 years old and has been playing in punk, metal and indie bands for more than 10 years. She will be touring across Europe during the spring of 2014 as a part of a 12-string solo guitar project. 

“I don’t consider myself an academic, and because it is an academic conference, I find it interesting and an honor to be a part of it and express myself in a scholarly way,” she said.

While Vo is a musician, her purpose at the conference is a little different from what she usually does. 

“As a feminist punk, and as someone who has been involved in punk since the age of 13, my purpose specifically at the conference is to present a spoken-word piece and present an article that I am writing,” Vo said. “(The article is) on my perspective as someone who is from an immigrant background, a woman of color, a survivor of different types of abuse and violence as a child, and how I have overcome all of that in a very artistic and creative way.”

Alice Bag, a punk singer and punk culture author, will also be at the event to read an excerpt from her 2011 book, “Violence Girl: East L.A. Rage to Hollywood Stage, a Chicana Punk Story.” 

“My perspective (of punk) is very different from people in subsequent years. As punk was introduced, it created a very innovative and creative atmosphere that was very different at the time,” Bag said. “It was inclusive and welcomed people of color and people that didn’t quite fit into other cultures. For me, it was being part of a movement and it was cathartic as I was raised with abuse and as part of a community that wasn’t accepting.”

In addition to the lectures and workshops of “Hip Hop and Punk Feminisms,” there will be hip-hop and punk performances on both Thursday and Friday at the Lincoln Hall Theater from 8 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. All events are free and open to the public.  

Alexander can be reached at [email protected].