Conference, exhibit celebrates York research on gender and genre

An international conference on May 15 to 17 will celebrate the achievements of York University Professor Marlene Kadar, a noted Canadian feminist studies and life writing scholar whose research interests cluster around issues of gender and genre, with special attention given to trauma and illness studies, archival methodologies and transnational themes in the Americas.

Marlene Kadar

“Lives Outside the Lines: Gender and Genre in the Americas – A Symposium in Honour of Marlene Kadar” takes place on campus, and will explore the multiple lines that gendered lives in the Americas cross, including both physical boundaries and intangible crossings. Organized at the initiative of Kadar’s colleague Eva Karpinski, the conference is dedicated to recognizing the scholarship of Kadar, whose contributions have dramatically changed the field by pushing the conceptual boundaries of what constitutes life writing and expanding its interdisciplinary methods of study.

Focused on diversity and inclusion, this event brings together York community members and the International Auto/Biography Association Chapter of the Americas (IABAA) for three days of graduate student presentations and workshops, panel discussions, invited speakers’ talks, an activist art exhibit and a book launch of Auto/Biography Across the Americas.

Held at the Centre for Feminist Research, the conference is free to attend, and is part of York’s Canada 150 event lineup.

Kadar is a professor in the Departments of Humanities and Gender & Women’s Studies at York. She has published extensively in the field of life writing, especially in relation to traumatic historical events, archival lives and memory studies. Her 1992 essay on life writing as a critical practice is one of the first comprehensive attempts to theorize this genre. She has co-edited four volumes on life writing theory: Tracing the Autobiographical (2005); ARIEL: Life Writing in International Contexts (2008); Photographs, Histories, and Meanings (2009); and Working Memory: Women and Work in World War II (2015). She is the co-editor of Working in Women’s Archives (2001). She is the editor of the Life Writing Series at Wilfrid Laurier University Press.

Art exhibit

In addition to poster and digital presentations, the symposium will feature an art exhibit titled Outside the Lines: An art exhibition exploring the blurring genres of gender, body, disability and racialization. The exhibit runs at the Eleanor Winters Gallery, 129 Winters College, York University, from May 15 to 19, and includes an artist talk on May 16 at noon.

Detail from Forming 2, hand printed silkscreen comic by Eli Howey, 2016

Outside the Lines features 10 artists (Yvonne Singer, Naz Rahbar, Martha Newbigging, Lindsay Fisher, JoAnn Purcell, Erin Vincent, Estée Klar, Ellen Bleiwas, Eli Howey, Diana Meredith) who represent the beyond and within of lines through their artistic practices.

This exhibition brings together diverse ways of working with materials to show qualities of living that sit outside mainstream perception and narrative. The artists collaborate with autistic experience to challenge notions of independence and care narratives; explore the daily experiences of living with disability that are uniquely humorous, difficult or lovely; draw queer sexuality and gender through memory fragments; investigate the lived experience of existence with queer and immigrant identity; question the fragmentation of gender, feminism and the body; and challenge the dominant medical and pharmaceutical narratives of experience with cancer.

For more information, visit the conference website at

This exhibition is made possible in part by a grant from the Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council.