Birthing the Nation Sawyer Seminar Gender Panic Colloquium

Friday, March 15, 2024
8:00 a.m.–6:00 p.m.
W043A Dewey Room, Patee Library
Birthing the Nation Sawyer Seminar Gender Panic Colloquium

March 14-15

Sex, sexuality, and gender are always political, and they also frequently become the terrain on which political campaigns are waged. The contemporary moment, not only in the United States but around the globe, is one of hyper-charged moral panic over the spread of so-called ‘gender ideology’. The perceived erosion of a ‘natural’ gender binary, the visible queering of public space, and an unprecedentedly open-minded generation of young people have spurred the right’s culture warriors into action. Variously claiming to defend families, children, and Western civilization itself these affective entrepreneurs target drag queens, the trans ‘agenda’, and the so-called ‘grooming’ of when non-heterosexual love dares to be mentioned in school.

The two-day colloquium “Gender panic: Critical perspectives on the weaponization of sex and gender in contemporary culture wars” aims to analyze these phenomena through transdisciplinary, transnational, and transhistorical perspectives.



Faculty and graduate students with an active research interest in these topics from all Colleges and all Penn State campuses are invited to submit short abstracts to be included in the program. If required, travel support for accepted abstracts will be available. Attendance is open to all members of our community, whether presenting or not. Registration is required. Undergraduate students are especially welcome.



We are open to a wide variety of research contributions, in any stage of completion. The meeting will be structured so as to allow for feedback from other participants, and your work will be discussed by some of the leading scholars working in the field, including our plenary speakers:

  • The chair of proceedings will be Hil Malatino, Joyce L. and Douglas S. Sherwin Early Career Professor in the Rock Ethics Institute and Associate Professor of Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and Philosophy, Pennsylvania State University
  • Other plenary speakers are:
    • C. Heike Schotten, Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Massachusetts, Boston
    • C. Libby, Assistant Professor of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, Pennsylvania State University
    • Jules Gill-Peterson, Associate Professor of History, Johns Hopkins University
    • Zein Murib, Associate Professor of Political Science at Fordham University


 Topics might include:

  • TERFism across the political spectrum
  • The gendered logics of the contemporary far right
  • ‘Anti-genderism’ around the world
  • The sociolinguistics of pronouns
  • Gender panic and its impact on reproductive justice
  • And others…


Lunch will be provided on both days



Registration is a two-step process. In the first step, please fill out this form before the end of the day February 29. If you indicate that you would like to submit an abstract, you will be contacted directly by the colloquium organizer, Scott Burnett (

W043A Dewey Room, Patee Library


Event Type