Making Scenes, Building Communities: “Women Who Rock” (Un)Conference, Film Festival, and Courses

Michelle Habell-Pallan (right) with Women Who Rock participants.

The Women Who Rock (Un)Conference and Film Festival return for their second annual meeting March 2-3, 2012. Focusing on “Making Scenes and Building Communities,” Women Who Rock will feature keynote speakers Alice “Bag” Armendariz, author of Violence Girl: From East L.A. Rage to Hollywood Stage, A Chicana Punk Story, and Medusa, also known as the “Godmother of West Coast Hip-Hop.”

A collaboration between the Simpson Center-funded Women Who Rock Project, Ladies First Collective, and other community organizations, this year’s event includes a day of workshops, dialog sessions, a Radio Kiosk, and D.I.W.O. (“Do It With Others”) stations followed by a Ladies First Showcase that bridges punk, Hip Hop, and son jarocho, featuring performances by Militant Child, My Parade, and a community jam facilitated by the Seattle Fandango Project.

This year’s meeting is modeled after the idea of the (un)conference, a participant-driven form of gathering intended to create an open structure through which transformative conversations may emerge. Women Who Rock will explore and expand the meanings of terms such as women, rock, Hip-Hop, music, space, gender, race, class, and sexuality through community-curated workshops and film screenings.

According to Women Who Rock organizers Michelle Habell-Pallan (Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies) and Sonnet Retman (American Ethnic Studies), the goal of this year's (un)conference is “to generate dialogue and provide a focal point from which to build and strengthen relationships between local musicians and their communities in collaboration with educational institutions.”

Two digital scholarship/production courses are being offered to upper-level undergraduates and graduate students at the UW in conjunction with Women Who Rock. Taught by Angelica Macklin, a filmmaker and multimedia producer at the National Center on Quality Teaching and Learning, the project-based courses use a feminist framework to explore the politics of representation through the production of digital narratives and oral histories of women (of all genders, transgenders, and sexualities) and their allies who are making social change and building community through music. Students are filming twenty-eight oral histories, which will be added to the Women Who Rock Oral History Archive, hosted online by the UW Libraries. They will also document the (un)conference with a variety of media and will be recording stories on-site with attendees.

Macklin, also one of the conference organizers and curators of the Women Who Rock Film Festival, says: “When I think of the digital humanities and public scholarship, this is exactly the type of work I imagine it to be: a genuine mix of theory and practice where students not only read about and discuss oral history work, but also have the opportunity to produce public media with amazing people in music scenes that will have an impact far beyond the boundaries of the classroom. The Women Who Rock Oral History Project, this set of classes, and the (un)conference are working together in great harmony!”

The first of the two-part course, “Women Who Rock: Digital Scholarship,” is meeting this quarter. It focuses on hands-on audio and visual technical skills-building and production techniques, as well as ethical approaches to producing oral histories. Part two will be offered Spring Quarter; enrolled students will review, edit, and curate their footage and create short digital stories for public broadcast.

The Women Who Rock Film Festival and (Un)Conference will take place at Washington Hall in the Central District of Seattle. All events are free and open to the public, but registration is requested. For more information, and to register, visit:

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