The ninth annual Gender Conference at Western Carolina University to be held Wednesday, March 10, will celebrate the life, work and contributions of the late Josefina Niggli. A poet, playwright, novelist and screenwriter, Niggli was born 100 years ago in Mexico and worked in the United States at locations including Cullowhee, where she was a member of the Western Carolina faculty.
Scholars of Niggli’s life, work, heritage and Latino culture will participate in the conference, which will be held from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at locations within A.K. Hinds University Center.
The keynote address titled “The Legacy of Josefina Niggli” will be delivered at 11 a.m. by Elizabeth Coonrod Martínez, chair of Chicano and Latino studies, and professor of Latin American literature and cultural studies at Sonoma State University. Martínez authored “Josefina Niggli, Mexican American Writer: A Critical Biography.”
Also speaking at 9 a.m. will be Yolanda Padilla, an assistant professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania. Padilla’s area of specialization is U.S. Latina/Latino literature and culture, and she is working on a book manuscript that examines the role of the Mexican Revolution in shaping early Mexican-American letters and politics. In addition, Padilla was one of the editors of “The Plays of Josefina Niggli: Recovered Landmarks of Latino Literature.” The title of her address at WCU is “Josefina Niggli in Our Time: Race, Revolution, and the Transnational Imaginary.”
Other conference events include poster and research presentations, a performance at 10 a.m. titled “Josefina Niggli in Her Own Words” and a screening at 1 p.m. of the 1953 movie “Sombrero,” which was adapted from Niggli’s “Mexican Village.” A discussion of the movie’s production and sociopolitical issues will follow. On hand will be “Sombrero” and Niggli historian Bill Fisher from San Antonio. “During the project, MGM had to deal with Hollywood censorship, the Humane Society and union issues both in the United States and in Mexico,” said Fisher. “The latter included a meeting with the president of Mexico.”
Marilyn Chamberlin, a conference organizer and associate professor of sociology at WCU, said she hopes participants learn something new about the issues that affect men and women, and about the great works by the person for whom Niggli Theatre is named. Mickey Randolph, a conference organizer and WCU professor of psychology, said the conference will offer many great presentations on a variety of topics, including Niggli’s contributions. “I hope that attendees will gain a new respect for a woman who was ahead of her time, and one who had a profound impact on the way people viewed her native culture,” said Randolph.
The Gender Conference at WCU is sponsored by the women’s studies program and Office for Undergraduate Studies. “Josefina Niggli: A Celebration of Culture, Art, and Life” is a campuswide, integrated learning theme for the 2009-10 academic year.