Les femmes et les milieux urbains/Women and Urban Environments
Londres (30 mai 2014)

The city has traditionally been configured as a fundamentally masculine space, an ordered, rational, manmade expression, both literal and symbolic, of men’s intellectual and spiritual projects and ideals. In contrast, rural domains, metaphorical ?wild zones’, are associated with the natural, the non-rational, the feminine. This gendered perception of the city finds further reinforcement in the binary opposition of culture/nature. A brief consideration of literary and filmic texts dealing with representations of the city brings to mind a host of male writers and directors ranging from Baudelaire to Zola, to Carné (Hôtel du nord) and Kassovitz (La Haine). It would appear to be men who found, plan, build and dominate cities « who constitute the City Fathers and Sons « while women figure far less frequently in cityscapes and feel less »at home » when they do. Yet, in 1405, Christine de Pizan wrote an allegorical account about women planning, building and living in an urban environment in Le livre de la cité des dames. This conference seeks to question and challenge many of the idées reçues surrounding women’s ongoing association with the private, the domestic, and the rural. Is the urban flâneur a quintessentially male phenomenon’ ‘I love walking in London’ remarks Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway, expressing the confidence and pleasure of a woman moving freely in the urban environment, a true flâneuse as active agent. Is the city environment inevitably hostile and threatening to (lone) women, an intimidating and dehumanizing force« Or, rather, does it represent a liberating space ? whether anonymous or sororal – of rich social and cultural horizons where women can self-determine »

We invite proposals on the theme of ‘Les femmes et les milieux urbains/Women and Urban Environments’ for this interdisciplinary conference. Potential topics for papers might include, but are not limited to, the following:
– Women and urban architecture: who is planning and being planned for? (Childcare; transportation; domestic and professional spaces)
– Women and the urban workplace
– Gender and (political) power
– The flâneuse
– Prostitution
– Deconstructing binary oppositions: rural/urban; private/public; reproductive/productive
– Consumerism in the city
– Urban violence and women
– Women in the banlieues

200-300-word proposals are invited for 20-minute papers in English or in French by or about women in any area of French Studies. We welcome papers from postgraduate students as well as established scholars from the U.K. and beyond. Proposals should be sent to siobhan.mcilvanney@kcl.ac.uk or gilliannicheallaigh@gmail.com and by January 20th, 2014.