Like most faculty in higher education, I attend many conferences. However, I try to avoid the most common uses of academic and professional conferences: 1) hanging out with a closed-circuit clique; 2) searching for academic celebrities on the academic red carpet; 3) accumulating professional accolades from the organizational leadership, or; 4) gathering up an entourage like a new, one-hit music entertainer.
Oftentimes, it is the small, university-based conferences that I find most compelling and intellectually provocative. You get to know people more genuinely and you don’t feel like you are in a big shopping mall with all that bad air and glitzy displays/rooms, all with the singular goal of showcasing the newest trends. Despite these criticisms that I (may be) slyly making, I do still like to go to research conferences to learn new, emerging research and rigorous scholarship. I like to spend a great deal of time (as much as I can) working on the paper/research I am presenting: coding and analyzing data, shaping the paper/presentation into an accessible oral presentation, and finding a new charge for myself for the political-academic work I want to do. And I am always talking about or from a publication in progress when I present. Insomuch as I am able to achieve the active, learning goals I have set for myself when I attend conferences, I hope to create for myself a place where academic conferencing can push my thinking and writing rather than get in the way of it.