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A mountain-top view of feminism through the ages

Keely Jobe’s PhD project is centred on an important moment in the history of a rural lesbian separatist community in NSW.

Keely Jobe’s PhD project is centred on an important moment in the history of a rural lesbian separatist community in NSW.

“It’s an interrogation of what emerges and what’s lost when a group is forced to adapt to change,” Keely said. The project is divided into a larger work of literary fiction and a separate literary analysis that applies feminist, queer and environmental philosophies. “That sounds a bit serious, but it’s actually shaping up to be a pretty wild ride.”

 Keely lived for a time in the community on which the work is based. “It’s on top of a mountain in NSW and has been a women’s refuge for almost 50 years now. Living in a remote subtropical rainforest had a profound effect on the way I viewed my relationship with the natural world – I never felt entirely in control and that was quite liberating. It made me more curious about smaller lives and hidden connections and made me question my place in those systems. Having long and often fraught conversations with older lesbians about gender, sexuality, politics, and conservation inspired me to pursue an intergenerational feminism based on shared interests, ethics and experiences, whilst making room for points of difference and tough conversations.

Every day, I am reminded of how desperately we need feminism. One of my favourite aspects of feminist philosophy is that it is never stagnant, and it has no end.

"For me, flux is a hopeful and productive state, and it’s a condition that feminism has at its core, but one area of western feminist philosophy that I find lacking is intergenerational feminism. Contemporary western feminism tends be ageist and has trouble looking back to seek knowledge This is something I want to tackle and I’m using narrative as the means to do that.”

 Keely completed her Bachelor of Arts in Sydney when she was in her 20s, before taking a different turn and working in theatre as a set builder for many years.

I wrote for fun during that time, but never took it very seriously. When I moved to Tassie, something about the place made me want to write again and I just couldn’t stop. This little island is bursting with creativity!

In the future she would like to split her time between writing and teaching. “They’re mutually beneficial. I learn so much about my own writing when having conversations with other writers and university has been the best environment for that. It’s a safe place to experiment, to fail, to learn how to give and receive feedback, and to hone your craft.

 “I’ve attended presentations and symposiums that I found extremely eye-opening, and being published is a real buzz, but the best thing about being here is the relationships I’ve formed. Being surrounded by other researchers and batting ideas back and forth is so much fun. I share my office with a brilliant philosopher and some of the conversations we have just blow my mind.”

 Read Keely’s published work in The Monthly and Island magazine.