Pudding Seminar: Keir Hesse and Jude Taylor (JCR), ‘Spaces within Spaces: Gender Non-Conformity at a Women’s College’

Abstract: In this seminar, we will lay out the preliminary findings of our year-long ethnographic study of gender non-conforming students at Newnham College. One of just two remaining women’s higher education institutes in Europe, this exclusively defined space is experienced in a multitude of ways by its diverse student body. A significant minority of respondents identified themselves as trans in a recent survey of the JCR.

We draw attention to how Newnham has come to create its own terms of gender normativity, exploring how its designation as a women’s space makes it simultaneously the site of gender creativity, and of social sanctioning for those students who do not conform to certain expectations of womanhood. Further to this, we consider the symbiosis of different ‘spaces’ carved out by queer, feminist, and religious communities, and how this is impacted by the overlapping and interweaving of the public with the private and the academic/theoretical with lived experiences.

Ultimately, our findings illustrate that Newnham’s 150 year history as a site of contestation over gender-based norms is far from over. Whilst hegemonic notions of womanhood are upheld via institutions, culture, and peers, the college – as always – remains a space that those who refuse to conform to gendered norms call home.

Biography: We are both second year students studying Human, Social and Political Sciences. Jude is doing the Sociology track, and Keir is doing the Social Anthropology track. Last year, we were the zine editors for the SU LGBT+ Campaign and are both founding members of CU Butch Society.

All staff, students, and senior members are very warmly invited to attend the Pudding Seminars. Talks usually last between 20-25 minutes, followed by time for questions, comments and discussion before we finish at 1.50pm, to allow people to get to 2pm appointments. Please note that coffee and cake will be available from 1 o’clock with the seminar starting promptly at 1.15pm. Details of all our seminars can be found at: https://www.newn.cam.ac.uk/research/pudding-seminars/forthcoming-pudding-seminars/