November 15, 2013
I don’t know what to do about conferences. I don’t know if I’m post-ac, alt-ac (that’s the worst), or still-trying-to-get-a-job-ac.
There’s a conference right now that I’ve attended every year for the past 11 years (except for 2009, when it was in Mexico City and I was super broke from getting hitched). It’s my home conference, where I’ve presented tons of papers and chaired meetings and served on committees. But I don’t think anyone will notice I’m not there, because there’s always new people who cycle into the academic world to take the place of those of us who leave. This depresses me.
There’s also a pair of conference abstracts I should be submitting right now for two conferences in the spring. They’re for my real home, the interdisciplinary world of “pop music scholarship.” I want to go to these conferences, but I’m ambivalent about why I’m still interested. If it’s not going to help me get a job (and spring conferences won’t), or if I’m leaving academia, why spend the money? Why add to my already crushing credit card debt? Is it just so I can show people that I’m not an out-of-touch loser whose scholarship never mattered? Or am I genuinely interested in going? I don’t know, but I need to decide in the next few hours.
Lurking somewhere in these conference-related bad feelings is the simple fact that I’ve always sort of hated conferences. I’m not exactly an introvert–I’m loud, and I’m not afraid of people, so yeah, pretty much an extrovert–but the constant jockeying for position, the sucking up to famous scholars, the persistent need to be on at all times wears me out. I don’t know if I can summon all that energy if I don’t need to.
But I still feel like I have something to say. The one good thing that I always took away from conferences was that at least people genuinely wanted to hear about my research. I just don’t know how much I need conferences to do that, though.