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Interview Gina Opiniano – Beauvoir Seminar

Gina A. Opiniano is a full-time faculty member of the Department of Philosophy, Faculty of Arts and Letters, University of Santo Tomas, Manila, Philippines where she also finished her doctorate degree in Philosophy. Her undergraduate degree in Political Science was obtained from Saint Louis University, Baguio City, Philippines, and her master’s degree in Philosophy from the University of the Philippines Diliman, Quezon City, Philippines. She is frequently invited to give talks on her two major areas of interest namely feminist philosophy and gender studies. Her dissertation focused on Simone de Beauvoir’s Existentialist Feminism: A Critical Reading of the Philippine Magna Carta of Women. Apart from teaching, she is also a project-based research consultant for the Philippine Institute for Development Studies, and a board member of the Philosophical Association of the Philippines. Pics from Gina A. Opiniano.

Tiphaine Martin – How was the project conceived ?

Gina A. Opiniano – This project was conceived by yours truly in partnership with Marine Rouch of the Universities of Lille and Toulouse, in recognition of the importance of continuously exploring the thoughts of Simone de Beauvoir, the great feminist thinker. I met Marine few years back (in 2015) as a struggling PhD student looking for scholars who are also working on Beauvoir because my dissertation topic was on Beauvoir’s existentialist feminism which I applied to an important Philippine legislation called the Magna Carta of Women. As graduate students, Marine and I were able to help each other through exchanging literatures and works related to Beauvoir’s thoughts. I was able to finish my dissertation in 2016 and learned a lot about Beauvoir from this journey.

Fast forward 2020, at the time of pandemic, knowing each other’s advocacies and interests in gender studies and Beauvoir, I thought it would be relevant to keep these advocacies going even (especially) during the time of world crisis, and as Filipino (Asian), contribute to Beauvoir scholarship. After an initial webinar collaboration with Marine on gender and development, I offered to organize a virtual dialogue on Beauvoir which was warmly welcomed by Marine. Hence, this academic friendship resulted to the Beauvoir webinar project. Fellow scholars like Tiphaine Martin and Judith Coffin were just few of those who showed immediate support to the idea. Meetings followed until the 1st part of the webinar was set to be held on October 16, 2020.

To be able to engage as many audiences and disciplines as possible, the project was proposed to my University, the University of Santo Tomas and Marine’s networks such as The International Simone de Beauvoir Society. The first webinar became a collaboration with the Department of Philosophy, Faculty of Arts and Letters, University of Santo Tomas headed by Assoc. Prof. Dr. Jovito Cariño, and this project is part of the 10th anniversary celebration of the UST Department of Philosophy, one of the country’s center of excellence in Philosophy.

T.M. – Could you describe the projet ? 

G. A. O. – The pandemic might have limited our options, however, the capacity to do things virtually was seen to be a good opportunity to easily connect to people. The idea of a webinar was an option taken to fulfil the following Simone de Beauvoir Webinar Series objectives:

General Objective: To foster discourse on the thoughts of Simone de Beauvoir through online activities.

Specific Objectives:

  1. To gather Beauvoir scholars and enthusiasts all over the world through online activities like webinars;

  2. To explore the relevance of Beauvoir’s thoughts to the current pandemic.

  3. To share Beauvoir’s works and thoughts to audiences from various disciplines.

  4. To initiate collaboration through research and partnership including but not limited to:

    1. Presented papers to the webinars may be proposed to be submitted for a special issue for the Simone de Beauvoir Studies

    2. Depending on the response of the participants, an international conference may be organized in the future

T.M. – Who are the different participants of the first session ?

G. A. O. – The first webinar held on October 16, 2020 (Friday) was attended by more than 150 international audiences. The topic was on Beauvoir and her Readers with Marine Rouch and Judith Coffin as the speakers and interlocutors. The dialogue revolved around the book of Judith Coffin titled Sex, Love and Letters which was recently published. The conversation was a very interesting exchange of questions and answers which received positive feedback from the audience—some participated in the discussion through asking questions, sharing of insights and comments. The commentator, Dr. Marella Ada Bolaños, my colleague at the UST Department of Philosophy, also gave an interesting insight on her realization about Beauvoir’s letters. She has also been interested on Beauvoir’s philosophy and the experience to be part of the webinar further rejuvenated that interest.

Jennifer McWeeny and Claudia Bouliane, editors of the Simone de Beauvoir Studies, were the special guests of the webinar and their role in the program was to present the relevance of Beauvoir scholarship. The Simone de Beauvoir Studies was introduced, and an invitation was opened to the audience to submit papers for the succeeding issues. Per reactions from the audiences, Jennifer and Claudia were indeed able to prove that Beauvoir scholarship is relevant.

Other Beauvoir personas such as Sonia Kruks, Sylvie Chaperon, Constance Borde, Meryl Altman, Qrescent Mali Maison, Guillaume Dealunay were also present, which made the discussion even more enriching and meaningful. Some of them took part of the open forum, thereafter, presented collaborations with us for the future webinars and other projects.

While the pandemic has negatively impacted the lives of many people all over the world, this Beauvoir webinar project which anchors on the advantage of having to connect with nations, cultures and races, makes possible the persistence of dialogues and learning from each other. Truly, this project is a testament of that possibility, now a reality.

When the invitation to take part of this webinar was opened to our guests, we received an overwhelmingly positive response from them. We are grateful to Judith Coffin who, during the webinar was in Austin, Texas for accepting the invitation despite her busy schedule and the challenge of having to wake up very early for the webinar. Of course, we are also equally grateful to Claudia Bouliane and Jennifer Mcweeny for gracing the activity with their presence and for their enriching contributions focused on the importance of Beauvoir scholarship through the Simone de Beauvoir Studies.

When the invitation was made available to the public, we likewise received “huge” responses from the undergraduate students, graduate students, scholars, professionals from various disciplines, and quite a number of educators on literature, gender studies, philosophy from the different parts of the world.

The next sessions are worth looking forward to. For now, plans are underway to collaborate with The International Simone de Beauvoir Society. Several Beauvoir scholars have expressed their intent to be speakers for the next sessions. We can say that the first-ever Beauvoir webinar was successful as can be gleaned from the feedback of some of our audiences and guests :

« I gained more knowledge about Beauvoir. Thank you. »

« I like how the esteemed speakers shared their expertise on De Beauvoir. I like the light and friendly aura of the webinar. »

« It was a fresh thorough introduction of Simone, especially for the neophytes of her works. Collaboration of the speakers were very comprehensive and it’s worth mentioning the background of each speaker greatly contributed to a fruitful discussion. »

« Spontaneous discussion among the scholars. »

« I like how every idea was very well-presented and they were able to answer the questions from the participants so clearly. »

« All of the international perspectives represented and the great questions and conversations. »

Even with this 1st leg, we can say that we have fulfilled most of our objectives. We hope to inspire more audiences (undergraduate and graduate students, professionals from various disciplines) to be interested in Simone de Beauvoir’s thoughts that remain to be relevant until this time. Without having to sound bragging, we are proud to say that we have contributed a history to the Beauvoir scholarship. For this and all future opportunities, we give back the gratitude to Beauvoir’s legacies.

Gina A. Opiniano.

Pour citer cet article : Tiphaine Martin, Gina Opiniano, « Interview Gina Opiniano – Beauvoir Seminar », Voyages autour de mon cerveau, novembre 2020. URL : https://vadmc.hypotheses.org/694

Tiphaine Martin

Tiphaine Martin est chercheuse en Lettres au Laboratoire Babel (Université de Toulon). Elle est également membre du Comité éditorial Simone de Beauvoir Studies.

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