Conference presentations

Monday randomness: Debut edition

Let’s kickstart this blog a bit, shall we? And let’s try doing so with a recurring quick-hit approach that will (hopefully) goad me to drop a fresh chunk of prose here at least once a week.

  1. A few folks have inquired about the long-promised but not-yet-delivered intellectual property tale. And I’d love to say that this has reached a point of resolution that would allow me to share it here. But, alas, the denouement that was afoot in April got postponed . . . and has since been deferred . . . and may still be a few weeks away from achieving sufficient closure to go public with the tale. But I haven’t forgotten. Promise. (Truly curious parties can always contact me off-blog for further details.)
  2. I keep meaning to write a more detailed post about the Cultural Studies Now conference — even though Ted Striphas has already proclaimed that my previous tease of a post fulfilled that duty. There’s more to say than that, I think, but it’s been a hectic month since London, and the fast approaching semester only adds to the frenzy. But this story, too, will be shared.
  3. The latest entry in my personal lifelong struggle with institutional “check one box only” approaches to racial identification came last week, when the University noted that it did not have a formal race/ethnicity code connected to my personnel file . . . and asked me to fill out this form. I was particularly amused by the last two lines:

    The University may acquire this information by visual survey. This may, however, result in the collection of erroneous information.

    I have fantasies of the University sending teams of ethnographers — all trained in the subtle art of “visual survey” with respect to racial identification — into the field to suss out the “truth” about folks such as myself who “fail” to shoehorn ourselves into a single box. And I want to be a fly on the wall for the deliberations that result from different team members deciding that different visual cues are the key to answering the question “correctly.” “Sure, his skin’s pink enough,” someone will say, “but those aren’t a white man’s lips.”

Catching up, checking in

I’ve been meaning to post about the Cultural Studies Now conference and my trip to London ever since I got back . . . but Margaret’s mother arrived for a week’s visit three hours after I got back . . . and then three hours before she left, the roofers showed up to start what turned out to be a three-day job that drove Margaret and I out of the house for much of the duration (have you ever tried to write coherent prose while half a dozen men pounded on the ceiling directly above you for hours on end?) . . . and then three hours or so after the roofers were done, the I-35W bridge collapsed . . . which has been its own distraction for the past 24 hours or so, partially for the “disaster porn” that goes along with tragedies of this sort, but mostly because of the varied and multiple rounds of “checking in” that have taken place since last night.

Sometime over the past week, I did actually manage to HTMLify my presentation from the conference, but let me save a more detailed report on the event as a whole for a later post. For now, I’m still processing the bridge collapse. So far, at least, no one from my circle of friends and colleagues and acquaintances was on/under the bridge at the crucial moment yesterday . . . but given the where and when of the situation, it’s still perfectly plausible that someone I know wasn’t so lucky, and I simply don’t know it yet. The bridge is — was — right next to campus, and I-35W is the major north-south highway running through Minneapolis. I didn’t use that bridge every day, but it also wouldn’t have been unusual for me to have done so: I crossed it at least twice last week, walked by it on two other occasions, and was more or less right around the corner a mere hour before it fell.

For me, though, I think the biggest chunk of my “there but for the grace of Elvis” reaction to yesterday’s tragedy is the fact that Minneapolis is very much a river-straddling city. Unlike, say, St. Louis or Memphis, where the river marks the line between the city and the suburbs (and not always the most desirable of suburbs either) and one can plausibly spend years living and working in the area without ever needing to cross a bridge, here the river pretty much runs through the heart of things. I’m sure there must be people in town whose lives are such that they rarely have to cross the river, but I suspect they’re the exception, rather than the rule. There are six or seven different bridges across the Mississippi that I might use on any given day for any number of reasons, and I can easily need to cross the river a dozen times (or more) every week. I’m not exactly worried about crossing those bridges again — the odds that a bridge that’s stood for decades will crumble at precisely the moment you’re on it are still pretty damned small — but I’m also mindful of the fact that I could very easily have been on the I-35W bridge at the wrong time yesterday . . . or that those long odds might’ve kicked in during any of the other bridge-crossing moments that routinely happen.

A-conferencin’ we will go

A quick-hit blog entry from Oakland as I wind up my time at the American Studies Association conference. My formal work at this gathering was relatively modest — a response to a panel — but fruitful, since the process of thinking about the papers in question gave me a potential jump-start on the first chapter of my Mixed Messages project.

ASA continues to be my favorite “big” disciplinary conference for a lot of reasons, and that list has grown since the last time I actually attended (and, to my shame, I’ve just realized that I haven’t been to ASA since 1997). One of the major new reasons, though, is that ASA has become a haven for a broad range of smart scholarship on race and ethnicity, If the Crossroads in Cultural Studies conference in July was laudable for its international-ness (among other things), this year’s ASA — and the vibe around the meeting suggests that this has been going on for a few years now — is comparably laudable for the astoundingly strong presence (maybe even dominance) of scholars of color. I’m already looking forward to next year’s gathering in Philadelphia.

Crossroads 2006: My paper

As promised/threatened on CULTSTUD-L, I’ve typed up the talk I gave at last week’s Crossroads conference and put it online here. Watch this space in the days to come for actual commentary on the conference itself.