The Centre for Women’s Studies, University of Hyderabad organised an online meeting on December 20, 2021, titled “Reminiscing bell hooks” to honour the life, writings and legacy of the prominent African American feminist scholar bell hooks. Prof K Suneetha Rani, the Head of the Centre, introduced bell hooks and her rich and diverse thoughts, and shared a video titled “Pain to Power.” Professor Rani elaborated on hooks’ academic practices, her ideas, theories, her teaching practices and the concept of “oppositional gaze.” Professor Rani contemplated the deep loss in the feminist and scholarly community due to the passing of bell hooks on 15 December 2021. She called upon three of the first year MA Gender Studies students – Abhuruchi Chatterjee, Gurpartap Singh and Herlin Mathew to share their thoughts and their reflections on hooks’ work.
Abhiruchi Chatterjee penned an open letter to bell hooks, emphasising the liberating power of hooks’ theory to understand the intersecting systems of oppression and imperialist white supremacist heteropatriarchy. Abhiruchi thanked bell hooks for putting into words, the feminist solidarity in the spaces of subversion and transgression. Gurpratap Singh engaged with bell hooks’ text All About Love: New Visions where the new meanings of love as an act, the conflation of care and respect with love and the hypocrisy of society’s notion of love in the form of violence were explored. Gurpartap concluded by talking about love ethics as defined by bell hooks. Herlin Mathew presented two works by hooks – “Choosing the Margin as a Space of Radical Openness” and Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center. Herlin spoke about hooks’ idea of the margin and the centre where the conventional order is reversed and where the margin is the centre. By drawing in the works of other feminists like Sandra Harding and Audre Lorde, Herlin put a spotlight on hooks’ revolutionary feminist worldview centred on the emancipatory tone that could emerge from the margin.
The floor was open to the audience and they shared their experiences of reading bell hooks. Professor Rani commended the students for making the session captivating through their readings of hooks’ work. She remembered hooks’ writings on masculinities, intersectionalities and her nuanced use of language that evoke a traumatic self-discovery. Professor Rani ended the session by sharing another video of bell hooks titled “bell hooks on interlocking systems of oppression.” She thanked the first year MA Gender Studies students for their participation, her colleagues from the University of Hyderabad and guests and students from other universities. Dr Deepa Sreenivas wrapped up the session by thanking all the attendees and reflecting on how bell hooks impacted scholars from different disciplines, as evinced by the discussion.
Report by Dr Ann Mathew
The Video link for the online meeting is below: