On Papers and Conferences

Posted by sepoy on March 02, 2006 · 3 mins read

Two weeks ago, I went to Berkeley to present a paper. It was a mere footnote in my dissertation but a digression that I felt needed to be made. For whatever reasons, the paper I delivered was not the paper I wanted to deliver. Afterwards, I had one of two reactions: 1. That sucked 2. Fascinating. I understood both. What I was presenting, was indeed fascinating, but I had little analysis to offer of those meanderings in the historical archives. I gotta say, though, the first reaction stung. It stung the most because it came from someone whose opinion I value. Therein lies the secret to any intellectual heart, gentle readers. All critiques are not created equal. Anyways, a bit shaken, I returned to Chicago. Only to face the second conference and one, in whose intellectual project, I was quite involved. So I wrote another paper [Yes, all this paper writing is being done while I should be doing nothing but churning out the diss. non-stop]. This time around, I thought the paper went nicely. Lots of very positive feedback as well as a solid feeling that I had _said_something. What was the difference? Was it was the home turf? I doubt it. Berkeley is like a second home front for me. I have presented there 3 times. And I am sure many more in the future. And the panel we had prepared for Berkeley was well envisioned. My guess is that I was too harried to do a good job. But, I wrote the second paper in about the same amount of time. A more realistic assessment would be that I tried to do too much at Berkeley.

The conference at Chicago was perhaps the best conference I have ever attended and I have been to all the main conferences in Asian Studies, Middle East Studies and South Asia Studies. None could come close to the quality of engagement we managed in those two days in terms of critical and intellectual involvement with the papers [I am glad mano agrees]; it was all there. I don't know what we did right but we did it all right. David Ludden had a lot to do with it; Rajeev Kinra had a lot to do it. But, eventually, it was the quality of the papers. If this conference is any indication of the future of South Asian studies [and it should be because we had a wide swath of students from varied fields in South Asia], I can say with confidance that good things are coming. Which is about 180 degrees from the reaction I have at Madison every single time. Something was different about this conference. I have one more conference left this year. It is a festschrift for my advisor. Let's hope that one goes as well. After that one, I will write down all my thoughts on how to run/manage an academic conference and post it here.

And as for these papers, I think that meshed into one, they could be a journal article. Dissertate, O Sepoy!

Also, see pdcs on the conference. He speaks truth to this subaltern.


Land of Lime Conferencing - 2 | March 02, 2006

[...] Now that the Chicago South Asia Graduate Student conference (SAGSC) is over, it is time to revisit my earlier report on the Berkeley South Asia conference and add a few more thoughts. Look at another take on SAGSC by Sepoy. [...]

PDCS | March 02, 2006

not 'for' the subaltern? how do i earn that privilege?

sepoy | March 02, 2006

the path from cushy post-docs to tenured chairs is striven with the bones of the subalterns called 'graduate students'.

zp | March 03, 2006

"Afterwards, I had one of two reactions: 1. That sucked 2. Fascinating. I understood both. What I was presenting, was indeed fascinating, but I had little analysis to offer of those meanderings in the historical archives." The way you phrased it, I thought that ONLY YOU had had these reactions, understandable. But it was even more interesting when I realized that these were actual reactions articulated by other people. I know I've had "eh" reactions to papers that didn't perform the standard analytical narrative, and I tend to feel bad about that later. There are lots of conventional (confrencial?) expectations that we have for papers that maybe should be shaken up a bit, no?

sepoy | March 03, 2006

Always good to shake things up, yes. In fact, pdcs' post after Berkeley raises these same issue. I don't have a clear sense of how to change the conventions for conference papers but I think that we can learn more from our science colleagues here.

Andrew Reeves | March 12, 2006

On the subject of conferences: How often do South Asian Studies/Middle Eastern Studies conferences have Islamic Theology sessions?

sepoy | March 12, 2006

Yes, there are. Though, I'd guess more of such panels would be at the AAR. The MESA programs are online, if you are curious.