Culture and gender collide in colloquium

Ali Colleen Neff, musician, documentarian, doctoral candidate and author, is the keynote speaker for the 31st annual Gender Studies Colloquium. She is discussing ethnography as well as her field work in Senegal, West Africa and Mississippi.

By Megan Pendagast

Gender, sexuality and music all come together on April 11 in a conglomeration of student and faculty work to commemorate the 31st annual Gender Studies Program’s colloquium in Sweigart Auditorium.

The colloquium kicks off with the first panel of student papers, “Sexuality in Movies and Music,” spanning from 9:45-11 a.m. The second panel “Gender in Commercials & Music Videos” will be presented from 2:50-4:10 p.m.

The third panel, “The Gender that Binds Us,” which runs from 4:30-5:45 p.m., consists of three papers that were accepted for the New Jersey Women’s and Gender Studies Consortium written by senior liberal studies major Amy D. Loux, sophomore English major Winifred Mackintosh and senior psychology major Veronica Villacres.

Loux’s paper, “The Gender Wage Gap: From the Senate House to Our House,” touches upon the subject of unequal pay.

“Why is there a gap?” Loux said. “The size of it is debated, but percentages really don’t matter because there really is a gap and covert discrimination, even though the preference for men is subconscious. How long do these things take to change?”

Mackintosh’s paper is about female character representation in young adult literature, particularly in regard to the ‘manic pixie dream girl’ archetype where the female’s purpose is to advance the male protagonist.

“I think the colloquium hopes to get students at Rider to think more intensely about gender issues in our lives and in the media we consume,” Mackintosh said. “It matters a lot more than people realize because the books we read and the women we see in the media really shape how women are perceived and, therefore, what opportunities are open to us.”

Ali Colleen Neff, a musician, documentarian, doctoral candidate in the University of North Carolina communication studies program and author of Let the World Listen Right: The Mississippi Delta Hip-Hop Story, is presenting the keynote address from 1:10-2:40 p.m.

“I’m going to be speaking about a couple of different topics, like my field work with female vocalists in Mississippi and Senegal, West Africa,” Neff said. “In Senegal, I worked with reggae artists, and there is an amazing culture in the Mississippi Delta.”

According to Dr. Mary Morse, head of the Gender Studies Program, this has been in the works for some time.

“Dr. Justin Burton first alerted the colloquium program committee to Neff’s work,” Morse said. “The connections she makes between women’s music and political agency in the American South and Senegal represent original and groundbreaking research with global implications.”

Neff’s research focuses on sound and critical ethnography, among other areas.

“Ethnography is the practice of writing culture or the art of understanding and representing cultural practices in my own words,” Neff said. “These understandings work in partnership with the music to shape the research that I do.”

Neff combined ethnography with a lyrical perspective, resulting in a permutation that she calls “ethnolyrical.”

“Ethnolyrical is a space for experimental work in global music-making,” she said.

Morse believes that Neff’s area of focus will appeal to students.

“A number of gender studies minors are very interested in the intersections between gender, sexuality and popular culture, which of course includes music,” Morse said.

A new class for the Gender Studies Program was just approved for the 2013-14 academic year: GND-245: Popular Constructions of Gender and Sexuality, which Morse believes will also interest students.

According to Mackintosh, the colloquium offers a chance to examine gender and sexuality issues from different viewpoints.

“Students should definitely come to see the panels and the speaker because it’s a great opportunity to see gender issues from many different perspectives,” Mackintosh said.

Neff looks forward to speaking to the Rider community about her work and hearing feedback.

“What I like about Rider is the way it mixes art, music and social sciences together to speak to students,” Neff said. “It’s fun to be in conversation with a diverse group of students with people coming from all over but also close to the urban sector. I think it will be really challenging to hear from different perspectives. The voices of women are really important to all of us in different ways.”

Neff’s research, videos and ideas can be accessed at her website,

Contact this writer at

Printed in 4/5/13 edition.


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