Through her latest research on socio-spatial difference, HWS Assistant Professor of Women’s Studies Jessica Hayes-Conroy joined with her sister, Allison Hayes-Conroy, a visiting professor of geography and urban studies at Temple University, to explore how a community-based activist group in Medellin, Colombia, uses bodily movement, such as dance, to encourage nonviolence.
This research is addressed in their paper, “Alternative Body Logics: La Legión del Afecto and the subversion of urban violence in Colombia,” which both sisters recently presented during the 19th Annual Conference on Critical Geography at University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. The three-day conference was attended by critical geography scholars, activists, artists and others. Hayes-Conroy works frequently with her sister, Allison, who asked her to co-author the paper because of Jessica’s expertise in feminist theory and community-based research.
“All of my work is in some way focused on socio-spatial difference,” says Jessica Hayes-Conroy. “This work is about understanding how the body becomes a location through which political goals (like social justice) can be addressed. It is also about giving those who are typically disenfranchised in Medellin an opportunity to repractice their connections to their city.”
The La Legión del Afecto (The Legion of Affection) is dedicated to helping at-risk youth. The group uses movement of the body to encourage practices of nonviolence in Medellin, which historically has had high rates of gang and drug related violence. Drawing on empirical material that Allison Hayes-Conroy and several colleagues collected during the summer of 2012, the paper addressed both theoretical and methodological challenges faced by critical geographers when exploring the space of the body.
This year, the annual critical geography conference was titled “The Near Future: Volatility, Opportunity, and Critique.” The aim of the conference was to inform research and answer questions about changing landscapes of political action and movements within spaces of conflict typically studied by scholars. The Hayes-Conroy sisters presented in a session called “Specters of Violence.”
Next year, Jessica Hayes-Conroy also will present on a related topic at the Association of American Geographers Annual Meeting to be held in April 2013 in Los Angeles. At the upcoming presentation she will present on La Legión del Afecto, but will extend beyond the example to identify a politics of affinity in social activism that is based on affective experience.
Hayes-Conroy joined the HWS faculty in fall 2012. Hayes-Conroy also served as a visiting professor at the Colleges in 2011. Her research focuses on the intersection of food activism, bodily health, and socio-spatial difference. She earned a B.A. from Bryn Mawr College, a M.A. from the University of Vermont and a Ph.D. from Pennsylvania State University.