Attending this event?
To view sessions, please select the Grid view below.

After registering for the conference, you can log in here to save sessions to your personalized itinerary, sign up for workshops and performances with limited capacity, edit your profile, and edit your session description. For help using Sched, please see support.

For full details about the conference, please visit hastac2023.org
Back To Schedule
Thursday, June 8 • 5:00pm - Saturday, June 10 • 7:00pm
Words Matter 3.0

Log in to save this to your schedule, view media, leave feedback and see who's attending!

In December 2017, media outlets reported that the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) had prohibited seven words from appearing in budgeting proposals. The words were: diversity, entitlement, transgender, vulnerable, science-based, and evidence-based (Sun and Ellperin). Later reports suggested that the words were not banned, but merely listed as possible red flags for reviewers (Kaplan and McNeil). These later reports, which attempted to assuage anxiety about censorship under the Trump administration, are indicative of a wider misunderstanding of the nature of censorship. In The History of Sexuality, Michel Foucault challenges the narrative of Victorian repression by drawing the reader's attention to the veritable explosion of legal and medical discourse about sexuality during the 19th century. During this time discourses about sexuality multiplied, while “repression operated as a sentence to disappear, but also an injunction to silence, an affirmation of nonexistence, and by implication, an admission that there was nothing to say about such things, nothing to see, and nothing to know” (Foucault 4). In the 21st century, a range of social identities are similarly situated within a Foucauldian multiplicity of force relations that includes both an amplification of juridic discourse and discursive erasure.

Discursive erasure may take the form of outright prohibition, such as forbidding indigenous language usage in schools (McCarty) or the recent uptick in “Don’t Say Gay” legislation (Sanders). It may take more subtle forms, such as the argument that concealed weapons on college campuses will have a chilling effect on expression (Wolcott). It may take the form of mediated aphasia as in the case of device dictionaries that do not contain words like vagina or rape, as though un-naming something could erase it (Jackson). The relationship between language, reality, and materiality is complex (Hekman). There is power in recovering, naming, renaming, unpacking, and screaming against attempts at erasure (Self and Hall). To explore these complexities, we have developed an ongoing project centered on the premise that words matter. For HASTAC 2023, we are proposing an installation of work from the latest iteration of this project, Words Matter 3.0.

The installation is organized by Fashioning Circuits, a public humanities project that began in 2011 as an investigation into wearable media and technology. Fashioning Circuits is now a place where we also engage with the rich histories and practices of computational craft, domestic technologies, soft activism, and so forth. These practices, often hyper-feminized and located within homes or community collectives, are an important and often unacknowledged pre-history of “maker culture.” We both study and engage in these practices in our scholarship, creative practice, and community partnerships.

We first organized a workshop on the concept that words matter in February 2018. In this space we used embroidery, a slow medium, to evoke reflection on the seven words from the CDC. In 2019, we continued workshopping and expanded our approach to include a range of domestic and material technologies, computational craft, and physical computing. Work from this process was curated into the first Words Matter installation at HASTAC 2019 in Vancouver, BC. In 2020 – 2021 Words Matter 2.0 took various forms as we negotiated the connections, constraints, tensions, and traumas of the pandemic. For Words Matter 3.0, we propose to return to the curated installation format, bringing a variety of work/words to install at HASTAC 2023.

It our hope that remediating words, often considered ephemeral, into material forms will prompt viewers to consider the materialities of language and censorship. We assert through this project that words are not just important; words matter.

Our participating artists and makers have selected words on which to center their projects, including “safety,” “visibility/invisibility,” “incident,” “normal/abnormal,” “real,” “cancel,” “gay,” and so forth. Sample material forms include embroidery, 3d fabrication, papercraft, and more. Participants include faculty, graduate students, and undergraduates, both advanced and first year.

Works Cited
Foucault, Michel. The History of Sexuality: Volume I. Pantheon, 1978.
Hekman, Susan. The Material of Knowledge: Feminist Disclosures. Indiana University Press, 2010.
Jackson, Rosemary. Fantasy: The Literature of Subversion. Routledge, 1981.
Kaplan, Sheila and Donald G. McNeil Jr. “Uproar Over Purported Ban at C.D.C. of Words Like ‘Fetus.’” New York Times. Health, 16 Dec. 2017.
McCarty, Teresa L. “Dangerous Difference: A Critical-Historical Analysis of Language Education Policies in the United States.” Medium of Instruction Policies: Which Agenda? Whose Agenda? Taylor and Francis, 2003, pp. 71 – 96.
Sanders, Chris. “Fighting Back in a Red State: Tennessee’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ and ‘License to Bully’ Legislation.” QED: A Journal in GLBTQ Worldmaking. Inaugural issue, Fall 2013, pp. 141 – 147.
Self, Rico and Ashley R. Hall. “Refusing to Die: Black Queer and Feminist Worldmaking Amid Anti-Black State Violence.” QED: A Journal in GLBTQ Worldmaking. Vol. 8, no. 1, Spring 2021, pp. 123 – 130.
Sun, Lena H. and Juliet Ellperin. “CDC Gets List of Forbidden Words: Fetus, Transgender, Diversity.” Washington Post. Health and Science, 15 Dec. 2017.
Wolcott, Christopher M. “The Chilling Effect of Campus Carry: How the Kansas Campus Carry Statute Impermissibly Infringes Upon the Academic Freedom of Individual Professors and Faculty Members.” Kansas Law Review, vol. 65, no. 4, 2017, pp. 875 – 911.


Kim Knight

Associate Professor and Director of Fashioning Circuits, The University of Texas at Dallas

Thursday June 8, 2023 5:00pm - Saturday June 10, 2023 7:00pm EDT
Steuben Gallery