26/08/10

09:10:31 pmCategories: Academic life and family

Can a conference be a family occasion?


Early morning, Maynooth Campus

Taking one’s family along to a conference is obviously not that uncommon. “Where can I sign up for that anthropologists’ wife association?” my partner wondered, as he saw yet another man pushing a stroller along on the campus here in Maynooth. This month I’ve tried both, conference – or festival, as I often missay it – with and conference without husband and child. With is definitely not much of a festival, but it’s got other charms.

As long as my son isn’t busy with his trucks and tractors in kindergarten, I tend to choose his company. And I’ve to admit that a workshop or plenary must look more than moderately interesting to beat an opportunity to go rabbit spotting in the Gothic garden where we live or clap for street musicians (who play the theme from the Godfather on saxophone and accordion in Balkan fashion) at Grafton street with him.

I’ve managed sort of a mix, but the selective and quick dip into the flood of academic activities a joint family & work solution offers, has deprived me of what I like most about conferences. This happens also to be the reason behind my frequent Freudian slip of calling it festivals. I experienced some of the same phenomenon during the last championship in football: The more you see the more fun it gets. The more anthropology (or other academic genres) I engage in during a 3-4 days period, the more engaging it gets. Listening to debates and commenting on papers during the day, and discussing , chatting and mingling during the night, with too little sleep in-between high-wire the brain in a very creative and inspiring fashion. The first time I experienced it, weeklong camping on rock festivals was still fresh in my memory, and that experience was what an anthropology conference reminded me of. Music, hanging around, meeting new people and much too little sleep until one feels extrovert and elated by nature. Or, in the case of academic festivals; until one dreams of fieldwork and can’t go anywhere without a notebook to jot down the ceaseless spinning of the mind.

So, yes, it’s been nice – Leo abroad for the first time and some new ideas for my thesis (e.g. here) – but not the best of two worlds like I wrote about some posts ago, and not like the balance I seem to have found at work between a short, but hyper-efficient workday and the relaxed and focused time before and after. Probably conference with family is never going to be a festival, but just a plain conference and a nice family event. Next is family at fieldwork.

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