The Big Pow Wow 1

Once per year, the German branch of the American Studies Association, the GAAS (German American Studies Association), holds a big get-together, where people present their current research projects, hold presentations and basically talk with each other about what they are doing, what they are planning to do and with whom they are planning to do what.


If so inclined, one might compare it with the Cannes Film Festival, with everybody showing off their latest work and talking about some exciting future plans. Or, if not so enthused, one might see this event as just another of these strenuous “networking” events which are better left to managers whose domain is producing empty talk bubbles. The truth might lie somewhere in between.


At least my own presentation this year went much better than last year (ie. I felt that I had prepared something better than in 2015) and I felt much more at ease. Plus, my paper was due on the first workshop day, which meant that the second one was a quite relaxed procession. And I could participate in the apparently famous Maiwoche concerts in Osnabrück


Still, I am not sure if such big events, organised around topic that can mean everything to everybody is what I enjoy when giving talks. Actually, the very idea of giving talks is a bit of an anathema to me; engaging in conversations is what I seek when meeting with (academic) people, but on these huge conferences that is rather difficult. It is great to chat with some old friends and acquaintances — and obviously the factor of being seen and heard is also important in an academic community — but I think I really prefer smaller and more focused events.


Didn’t I say something similar already long time ago after the ASA-conference in Washington? What is it that always entices me to go there anyway? I think it is the idea that I will find researchers there that work the same problems as I do, that we strike it off alright and can start right away with some great collaborative work. That, and the arguably egoistic feeling that it is great to present one’s own ideas to a room full of people (and this time, the room was really packed right from the start. The workshop topic “Graphic Justice” seemed to hit on some nerves), and maybe even the pride to be accepted onto a panel and have this opportunity. In the end, though, I always wonder if it was worth the effort, stress and sleepness nights.


Anyhow, I will work on my presentation with the fancy title “Just(ice) Smiling? The Guy-Fawkes-Mask between Constitutive Justice and Veiled Spectatorship” to turn that into an article someone wants to publish. And then I’ll do some soul-searching if next year’s conference “Modernities and Modernization in North America” in Hannover is something for me…


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