Monday, October 25, 2004

Back from Vancouver: the raven who freed the sun from a box

Vancouver: a pretty town. And the conference was fun, though I always come away from MSA feeling like a bit of a half-wit. Favorite papers were on topics like Ginger Rogers ("Ginger Rogers in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction"), the Caribbean writers coterie who all wrote for the BBC "Caribbean Voices" program in the 1940s and 50s, and a paper on ethics in Jacob's Room.

While I was really impressed by most of what I heard, I did have the unpleasure of some very jargony papers that weren't about much of anything at all (most useless word: "intersectionalities"). Folks who criticize English academics for using too much jargon are usually over-simplifying what it is we do and why we do it. But sometimes I do get the urge to 1) Take to the streets to Fight Oversyllabification (i.e., intersectionalities --> intersections), 2) Remind people that not everything can be about race, gender, class, sexuality, and empire, all at once, 3) Reintroduce the profoundly underrated phrase "I don't know" to academic discourse, and 4) Institute a total ban on neologisms for a trial period of 4 years. And those are just some starting provisions.

And did I mention that Vancouver is pretty? Maybe I'll post some pictures soon...

Other Vancouver nicety: it's polyglot and multicultural, as much or moreso than New York City. I met some interesting Punjabi and Ethiopian cab drivers, and a Chinese lady who told me one of the main Native American myths from that part of Canada: of the demon that locked up the sun in a box, and of the raven who disguised himself as a little boy in order to trick the demon and return the sun to its rightful place. (Figures that the most prevalent ethnic icon in Vancouver pertains to the absence of the sun!)

Meanwhile, Sepia Mutiny has had some great posts on India stuff.


bitchphd said...

Yeah, Vancouver is very nice indeed. Glad the conference went well!

Kerim Friedman said...

I agree that some socratic doubt is sorely needed in the humanities. I've been thinking the same thing since I started writing my own dissertation. Doing research is a very humbling process!