Despite suffering from a terrible case of tonsillitis – which has restricted me to my bed on an on and off basis over the past week and a half – I spent last weekend in Newcastle, where the 60th annual conference of the British Association of American Studies (BAAS) was held at Northumbria University. It was the first conference I’ve been to this academic year (and it might be the last, for I’m busy with other things) and despite the handfuls of painkillers I needed to function I thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
It is always inspiring to see what other people are up to. I attended an excellent panel on race, religion and American pop music, which did not only introduce me to DC Talk but also gave me some interesting ideas for future projects of my own. One of the things I love about American studies is its interdisciplinarity: I’ve witnessed historians, literary critics and political scholars chatting merrily about a subject they all love. In an age where universities appear to become increasingly segregated this is a good thing: I feel we need to stick together, rather than restricting ourselves to our own little niche.
My own panel on the Sunday morning was not well attended – initially the panellists outnumbered the audience – but the people who did show up were lovely. We had a great discussion afterwards which significantly broadened the panel’s original scope. Somehow I always end up on panels with words like “violence” in the title, while I feel my work concentrates on the body in a more general sense. It was nice to expand the intended focus of the conversation a little bit, and focus on the body as a more universal space of power. We ended up having a lovely Foucauldian discussion about body image and power, and I met a fellow Poppy Z. Brite aficionado, too. We are a rare breed, so this discovery was definitely among the more exciting ones of the weekend.
After the conference I went back home and straight to bed. I don’t know how I made it through the weekend; I suspect it was sheer willpower. This week I’m taking things down a notch, enjoying the beautiful weather and reading Ursula K. le Guin’s The Dispossessed. It’s fascinating, so the moment my brain no longer feels like mush I will sit down and write a proper review of it.