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Tea Talks

Now entering its 12th year, the Tea Talks lecture series at Augustana will begin in fall semester 2021, featuring speakers on a range of topics. The series is sponsored by the Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies program.

All lectures are given from 4:15 p.m.-5:15 p.m. via Zoom.

Lectures are free and open to the public as well as the campus community. For more information about the series, contact

Schedule 2021-22

Sept. 29: Your Truth Your Champion: Setting Yourself Free from Gendered Expectations

Dr. Monica Smith, vice president for diversity, equity, and inclusion

Abstract: Gender is a socially constructed and socialized concept. Traditionally, gender has been used to create distinctions between men and women and define the parameters within in which each ought to function. Although truths about gender are emerging, too many of us still hold ourselves to the confines of gendered 'oughts' rather than embracing and expressing our personhood. This talk will encourage participants to tap into their truths and become champions for their own personhood.

Zoom link

Nov. 3: Reclaiming Classics: Classical Allusions and Racial Equity in HBO’s 'Watchmen' and 'Lovecraft Country'

Dr. Kirsten Day, professor of classics

Abstract: The discipline of Classics has a race problem: The glorious achievements of Greece and Rome have long been framed as the ancestral heritage of “Western civilization,” not just as a way of bolstering pride in national identity and inspiring progress and achievement, but also as a means of furthering a white supremacist agenda. While classical scholarship has come a long way in recent years, bringing women into the discipline both as scholars and as subjects of study, and working to counter the erasure of the existence of people of color in antiquity, the effects of these racist ideologies are still felt, and continue to ripple into popular perceptions and filmic depictions.

This talk will examine how two recent HBO television series, Damon Lindelof’s 2019 "Watchmen" and Mischa Green’s 2020-present "Lovecraft Country," help to push back against these perceptions by using targeted allusions to Classical antiquity in order to reclaim the relevance of the classical past for Black audiences, while also featuring strong Black women in roles that are complex and individualized in a way that is all too rare in film, and an important counterpoint to traditional trends in both gender and race in Classics as well.


Nov. 17: No Man's Land

Dr. Jane Simonsen, professor of history

Abstract: An 1824 federal treaty set aside land in what is now southern Iowa for mixed-race individuals — those with a Sauk or Meskwaki mother and a Euro-American father. Scholars have looked at the convoluted history of this tract of land, but none have attended to the role of gender and intimate relations as they intersect with changing perceptions of race.

This presentation will recover the stories of some of the mixed-race women who laid claim to this land, and whose stories have been overwritten by laws that subsume women’s identities in their husbands’, by sentimental notions of "half-breed" sexuality or romance that cover up financial motives, by a public mythology of the "Vanishing Indian," and by histories that privilege men’s public and legal transactions over women’s private and intimate ones.


Feb. 23: Teaching Histories of Wartime Sexual Violence in a Liberal Arts Curriculum

Dr. Liza Lawrence, assistant professor of history and Asian studies

Abstract: Teaching the history of sexual violence during the Asia Pacific War requires consideration of some thorny questions: 

Should one adopt the now conventional but euphemistic term “comfort women” or the increasingly accepted but still problematic “military sex slaves” to describe the victims and survivors of sexual violence perpetrated by the Japanese Imperial Army?

When is the right time to introduce course content involving traumatic violence? What content or trigger warnings are necessary? And is there a danger of introducing cultural stereotypes when students have limited prior academic or personal experiences related to Asia or people of Asian descent?

Finally, there are questions that lie at the heart of Augustana’s First Year Inquiry curriculum: “How do you know what you think you know, and to what extent can you be certain” and “How is difference constructed and what differences matter.” My talk begins with these last two questions, which I relate to controversy over a peer-reviewed article that argued, without evidence, that “comfort women” were willing prostitutes. I argue that it is worthwhile to teach students with no prior interest in Asia, women and gender studies, or history, to respectfully apply those histories to acquiring the skills of academic inquiry, critical thinking and intercultural competency.

March 30: White Men in Cold Places: the Portrayal of Mining, Masculinity, and Race in American Reality TV

Dr. Brian Leech, associate professor of history

Abstract: Starting in the 19th century, Americans began to associate gold rushes with adventurous white men who, despite facing extreme conditions and supposedly hostile indigenous people, managed to strike it rich. Best-selling books like the Jack London's  "The Call of the Wild" brought these ideas into the 20th century, even if London used a dog as his stand in for white masculinity.

Instead of disappearing, though, these old colonial themes have been replicated by reality TV shows like "Alaska Gold Diggers," "Ice Cold Gold," and "Gold Rush: Parker's Trail." Despite their focus on modern-day mining, these shows often point to or even replay famous mine rushes to highlight the connections between the past and present. The end result? A continued suggestion that only hard-working white men can conquer the cold tundra.