on conferences and identity

My Twitter timeline is full of conference hashtags this weekend. The AIA and SCS are holding their join annual meeting for classicists and archaeologists this weekend in Toronto; historians are gathered in Denver, CO, for the annual AHA meeting; and  the MLA annual convention, the largest in the humanities, is on in Philadelphia.

I have yet to make it to one of these big conferences, but I do miss academic conferences from my grad student days. I miss the renewed enthusiasm that comes with such gatherings. I miss the sense of community and shared purpose that comes from talking with other scholars. I miss meeting new people and learning about the diversity of work we do.

The best conference I went to as a grad student was Inter-Disciplinary.net. I presented part of my MA thesis research at the Evil, Women, and the Feminine conference in Warsaw in 2011.

A number of EWF 2011 conference papers (including mine) were voted to become a part of the conference book.
A number of EWF 2011 conference papers (including mine) were voted to become a part of the conference book.

The conference was small but wonderfully diverse. I think I was the only classicist there. I met scholars from around the world who were working on the theme of evil women in a diversity of disciplines: Japanese theatre, Harry Potter, film noir, werewolves, Elizabethan literature, and comics and cartoons, to list a few.

Meeting these scholars expanded my network and showed me how I could take my MA interests beyond the field of classics– and why it was important to do so. I made new connections that I’ve kept for the past six years.

Most importantly, though, the conference introduced me to the idea of the independent scholar. Until that point, for whatever reasons, I associated research with the institution of the university. At EWF, I met scholars who were not associated with universities but were using their academic training to pursue their research interests.

Since 2011, I had to make the difficult decision to not pursue a PhD and take the route of the independent scholar. The drawbacks, of course, are the lack of dedicated research time and access to funds to attend conferences and travel for research, but the scholars I met at EWF inspired me to rely on my MA training to keep being an academic, to keep researching and thinking on the subjects that interest me.

I have mixed feelings about not being at the AIA/SCS this year. I’ve never been, and as it’s only a few hours down the road from me this year, I used to think that this would be the year I would go. There’s good reasons for me not to be there- I’m not a grad student anymore so I’m not immersed in the culture of the department to the same degree; conferences are expensive and I don’t have access to funding; my own research interests go beyond the traditional bounds of classics; and, finally, I doubt a multi-day conference is the best environment for recovering concussions, anyway!

So far now, I will live vicariously through Twitter!

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Artist, writer, creator, teacher, researcher Twitter & Instagram @InnesAlison

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