Published: April 4, 2019

The Blow Things Up (BTU) Lab lives in the Roser ATLAS Center.

The Blow Things Up (BTU) Lab, in the Roser ATLAS Center is one of the labs participating in the symposium. 

As research labs have proliferated in recent years, it has increasingly become necessary to examine them through a feminist lens. Feminist approaches to the cultures within research labs are gaining traction as an important form of interdisciplinary scholarship.

Cue the “What Is a Feminist Lab?” Symposium, taking place at the University of Colorado Boulder this month. This is the first event of its kind to be held at the university and is likely to serve as a model for other symposia that consider the intersection of feminism and labs.

The symposium will bring together lab leaders and collaborators from across the U.S. and Canada with representatives from many of the university’s interdisciplinary labs to address best practices for restructuring equitable and inclusive research spaces.

The event organizers are Associate Professor and Director of the Media Archaeology Lab (MAL) Lori Emerson, Ph.D. candidate and Curator of the MAL, Maya Livio, and Professor and Director of Digital Scholarship for the Center for Research Data & Digital Scholarship (CRDDS), Thea Lindquist. Emerson, Livio, and Lindquist said the symposium is about re-thinking what feminist thought in-practice can look like and how they can be further implemented across the campus community and beyond.

“The symposium is a great opportunity for people to engage with thinking through what a feminist lab is, and why feminist labs are important, as well as to get to know several labs here in Boulder— a nice interplay between theory and practice over the one-and-a-half days of the event,” said the organizers.

Feminist practice draws attention to the ways in which researchers acknowledge the range of labor that takes place in a lab in a way that is non-hierarchical and that does not privilege some forms of labor over others. It also seeks to address the equity of social needs that impact the quality of work such as personal health, childcare, and wellbeing.

“There is such a long lineage of labs, going back at least to the 16th century, which is entirely bound up with enlightenment notions of reason and rationality, which are in turn bound up with patriarchal structures, that it’s difficult to know where to begin with transforming a lab into one that’s feminist,” said Emerson.

Livio said that time and resources are among the challenges labs face when restructuring practices to be more feminist oriented. “Feminism takes time," she said. "It involves slowing down and addressing what can sometimes feel bureaucratic and mundane in comparison to the other kinds of work a lab might do, such as generating research and producing new knowledge. However, I believe that making the effort will inevitably produce better research and knowledge."

Presentations will take place on Wednesday, April 17 from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. in Norlin Library, Room N410. Lab briefs and tours of campus labs such as the Blow Things Up (BTU) Lab, Media Archaeology Lab, and CRDDS will occur on Thursday, April 18 from 9:30 a.m. to 12:45 p.m., also starting in N410. Fifty seats will be available on a first come, first served basis.

Lindquist said that the University Libraries promote openness, experimentation, and collaboration in partnering with researchers and learners both on and off campus.

“This approach is probably best seen in the launch of the Center for Research Data and Digital Scholarship last year,” said Lindquist. “These values, I think, resonate for many feminist labs as well, so collaborating with Lori and Maya on this symposium was a natural outgrowth of this development.”

For the most up-to-date schedule, go to