This past week, I had the privilege of attending the Global Studies Association’s 2012 Conference on Global Rebellion and Dystopia. This was my first academic conference, of many more I hope, and I learned a ton about academia and the various topics presented at the conference.
The first thing I should mention is something I hadn’t thought about until attending this conference. There is a difference between International Studies, my undergraduate major, and Global Studies, which was the field of many of the conference attendees. Both are interdisciplinary areas, pulling from a wide range of areas to create a better understanding of the world and our place in it, whoever “we” may be. But International Studies is primarily focused on political science, the relationships between states, their governments, organizations, and international law. Global Studies, as I learned, is much more of a sociology/philosophy/psychology-focused discipline where more abstract ‘thinking person’ subjects, like identity, come into play. It was great to learn and experience this difference because one of my shortcomings is accessing the ‘thinking person’ inside myself and making ties between the areas I am interested in and larger ideas.
The other thing I want to mention should have been clear in the topic of the conference, “Global Rebellion and Dystopia.” This was a conference of leftist-thinking, and sometimes Marxist, academians. While I expected some level of agreement between everyone at the conference, I had no idea just HOW similar everyone would be in their views. It made me feel a little awkward at times because I wasn’t fully indoctrinated into their counter-hegemonic, anti-neoliberalism point of view. It’s not that disagreed with any of the main views of people there, but I guess I am still a bit naive and optimistic about the world than to view dystopia and ruin everywhere I go.
The conference events were broken down into keynotes and panel sessions. My favorite was a panel about Education and Liberation, which featured 3 papers on creating more of a global outlook in the classroom. As a long-time Model UN and Arab League participant, I really enjoyed a speaker who ran a human rights simulation for high school students as a way to teach them, and his own university students, about different human rights situations around the world.
My panel was entitled “Cyber Rebellions, Social Media, and the Struggle for Democracy,” and there were three of us presenting. You can see my PowerPoint on Social Media and Democracy in Latin America on SlideShare! The other two presenters talked about Kony 2012 and the Collateral Damage documentary by WikiLeaks, which led to an interested discussion about the difference between these two videos and the amount of attention they each received.
I should mention here that the question and answer period in every panel or keynote really became more of a comment period or in some cases a discussion. While this was great because it is far more interesting to discuss ideas than listen to Q&A, often times people would make a comment that was about their own personal soapbox than the topics presented. This leads me to believe that the people that do this in classes grow up to be professors that do this at conferences, a vicious cycle of annoyance…
I am so glad I had this opportunity to learn and explore a new city. I loved every second of it (even the annoying seconds) and can’t wait for next time!
Check out my photos on Facebook for what it’s like in Victoria.