For the past few days our small group has been attending the NOISE conference and it has been quite the experience! I was really nervous going into the conference, as we are the only undergrad people in attendance, and I am even younger than the rest of our group, yet somehow we are the ones leading discussion in each of our individual groups. Surprisingly to me, most of the MA students in the program have little to no experience with gender studies, and gender or queer theory, which puts my group at the advantage. I even felt comfortable airing these reservations with my group, and they were so supportive and understanding, and helped to reinforce the notion that I was contributing valuable ideas and opinions, and some students really vocalized that they were very impressed and surprised that I am as young as I am.
Noise has been focused mainly on ableism, crip theory, and the politics of breathing, and we attend 2 lectures a day focused on these topics, then break off into small groups to discuss. The first two days, Thursday, and Friday were all similar in structure and outcome, yet Wednesday was very unique. Rather than have our normal lectures, we instead had writing workshops with activists and creative writers. My workshop was lead by Quinsy Gario, an artist and activist who is one of the leading forces against “ZwartePiet”, or Black Pete, the racist character in the Dutch Christmas story. We discussed the Ross Gay poem “A Small Needful Fact”, and wrote our own pieces on experiences of suffocating, breath, and justice. This was an incredibly powerful and interesting experience, and I am so grateful to have worked with him. I was even able to also talk to him a bit about racism in the Netherlands vs. in the US after our workshop, and I appreciated the perspective he was able to share.
Later in the day, all 80 of us Noise participants gathered in a square nearby and participated in a breathing exercise. For 15 minutes, we spread across the square and stood still, breathing, not talking, just existing. This was powerful, scary, and confusing, and afterwards, we walked as a group silently to go process the experience. It was quite the spectacle, and many people walking through the very public space we were occupying stopped to take photos/videos, ask questions (that went unanswered), and one man even tried getting in a fight with one of the group leaders. After this experience, my abroad group was overwhelmed, and thus we spend the rest of the night relaxing and getting to know one another better.
Today is the last day of NOISE, and while I have enjoyed this week, I really am excited to begin taking courses with the rest of the students on my program, and to begin my interviews, the first of which I already have scheduled, and luckily four additional people have agreed to speak with me, and even show me around Amsterdam! Oh, and today after Noise ends I am planning on getting a bike for the rest of our time in Utrecht! I have been having a lot of bike envy watching all of the Dutch cruising around town, and a few women in my tutor group recommended this bike service where as a student I can (hopefully) rent a bike for 12 Euros a month, and if anything happens, it breaks or the like they will come and replace it, and if it gets stolen, I will have to pay a small deductible, but not replace the bike entirely! More to come on that experience soon….
Here is a quick article about the activism against ZwartePiet which I believe is incredibly interesting: