Art and Defiance: Narratives of Disobedience facilitates important dialogues around rebellious narratives

The 2020 annual World Literature Student Conference is emphasizing engagement in innovative dual-conference virtual format

Interact with the Art and Defiance online journal and then attend the Q&A on November 20. Photo courtesy of the 2020 WLSC Communications & Design Team

By: Yelin Gemma Lee, Peak Associate

Editor’s note: Yelin Gemma Lee is involved with the 2020 WLSC as the Director of Communications and Design.

The World Languages and Literatures Student Union (WLLSU) presented the 6th annual World Literature Student Conference (WLSC) as an online journal, Art and Defiance: Narratives of Disobedience, on November 15. The conference, which typically occurs each spring, was postponed to the fall semester due to COVID-19, and then had to be reimagined through a virtual format. The WLSC team was dramatically reduced from over 40 members to 16 members, but this small but mighty team adamantly got back to work rebuilding the 2020 conference from the ground-up. 

Despite challenges such as these, the WLSC team decided on a dual-conference format that included the online journal, as well as a live Q&A over Zoom, set to occur on November 20 at 3:30 p.m. WLLSU president and 2020 conference producer Mizuki Giffin talked to The Peak about what this year’s experience has been like.

“We not only adapted to an online world, but we took the opportunity to thrive in this virtual environment,” explained Giffin. “We didn’t want to just transplant the in-person conference to Zoom, but rather to come up with a conference structure that was more exciting, interactive, and engaging for presenters and audience members alike.” 

The WLSC is known for offering students from all disciplines the opportunity to gain experience presenting their papers in a professional, academic setting — an experience that is invaluable on a resume or CV, but difficult to come by as an undergraduate student. The new virtual format, in addition to offering students the opportunity to be published academically, had the major benefit of opening submissions up to any virtual format including pre-recorded lectures, film shorts, poetry, photography, and more. 

“These were some of the best works we’ve seen because the presenters were really able to show[case] their creativity this year [ . . . ] The online journal [format] really allowed for such creativity,” said Giffin.

Art and Defiance: Narratives of Disobedience is both the name of the journal and its theme — a topic with as much relevance to current events as historical ones. The WLSC’s 19 published works are split into three sub-categories on the journal website: Resilient Voices, Media and Modernity, and Historical Defiance, each consisting of short films, short essays, narrated PowerPoints, poetry, and more that explore the subtopic.

This journal is a multimedia vortex of engaging niche discourse on how art propels narratives of disobedience, and explores what we consider “art” and the potential it has to act as sociocultural activism. Unlike a typical academic journal, the journal doesn’t read as block after block of text (as if any of us need any more of that right now), and is an innovative way to present student scholarship outside of the classroom setting. 

The dual-conference structure was created to make sure engagement with the material was a priority: the WLSC team didn’t want to lose this with the transition to a virtual event. The Q&A event is planned as a panel discussion, where audience members will have the opportunity to engage with the contents of the journal and the creators behind the work. Additionally, the contact section of the website also encourages any commentary and questions directed to the individual projects of the journal prior to and after the Q&A.

“It was both daunting and exciting to go off the script [ . . . ] The final 2020 conference is really the result of many students putting their ideas together and that’s what makes it so special,” Giffin says proudly.

The WLSC team, made up entirely of students, is showing event organizers transitioning into the virtual realm that there are ways to turn this obstacle into an opportunity to break new ground and try out new ways of engagement. 

The Q&A webinar requires registration through their Eventbrite page. Regular updates and details on the WLSC can be found through their Instagram @sfuwlsc. The 2021 WLSC is currently planned to progress in a similar format with a new call for submissions and call for volunteers in Spring 2021.