The Witch Beyond Essentialism: A Reflection Circle

Fuelled by Diana Pho and Ashley Rogers’s discussion of the speculative as it convenes, contrasts with and unsettles white Western-centric and heteropatriarchal conceptions of the feminine-coded witch, Dan Vena and Emma Croll-Baehre will host a Reflection Circle that encourages participants to envision ‘the witch’ beyond a normative, essentialist framework. The Reflection Circle will be structured as follows:


-An overview of the Reflection Circle concept

-A brief recapping of Diana and Ashley’s talk

-Dan and Emma will introduce the following topic as a catalyst for dialogue:

Given that the witch has been historically elided with the organic (nature), serving to reinforce the figure’s association with an essentialized (‘natural’) femininity, how might we problematize essentialist understandings of gender by conceiving of the witch as inorganic (‘unnatural’)?

-Participants will be divided into ‘break out rooms’ to reflect on the prompt and other possible lines of enquiry raised by Diana and Ashley’s talk (15 minutes).

-We will reconvene for discussion in order to share our findings (20 minutes).

-We will conclude by considering how an anti-essentialist understanding of the witch might shape our work (research, activism, art, etc.) and other daily practices (spiritual, etc.) (10 minutes).


Emma Croll-Baehre

Emma Croll-Baehre is a Ph.D. candidate through the department of English and Cultural Studies at McMaster University. While Emma's central research pertains to twin cultural production in the digital age, the ‘witch’ has nonetheless figured into their creative and academic work as an effect of their upbringing in Newfoundland, where the ‘witch’ continues to hold important cultural significance.

Dan Vena

Dan Vena is a queer-trans white settler of Italian descent, who identifies as disabled in relation to capitalist calls towards productivity (under Eurocentric medical models, I am diagnosed with fibromyalgia/chronic pain). He is radically invested in spirituality and death positivity as part of his pedagogical practice and commitment to decolonial, anti-racist, queer-trans, disabled, anti-capitalist & neurodivergent collaborative world-making. His research interests and hobbies include: visual and popular cultures; genre cinemas; horror films & monster movies; feminist-queer-trans histories of Classical Hollywood; fan-based reading practices; superhero comic books (DC only); histories of Eugenic medicine and criminality in the West; curricular design and pedagogical strategies.