Despite the best efforts of the weather, I am back home from a conference in Detroit. It was worthwhile if only for the extra line on my CV and because I got to see fellow Eugene ex-pat KW (who is loving the big city and her new tenure-track job).
As for the conference itself, I remain ambivalent. It was ostensibly concerned with citizenship and race, but also with, what I would term, an effort to define this legal-political framework as “culture” writ large. In fact, one heavy-hitter suggested that citizenship was basically identity. (I take great exception to such ham-handedness.) The plenary sessions and seminars were useful though marred by excessive morphemes – in particular, the overuse of “ity.” Out of a single mouth I heard “factuality,” “religiosity,” and “textuality.” In the context of his pontification, he really meant “facts,” “religion,” and “texts.” This suffix – along with others – dribbled out of many mouths producing little pools of spittle here and there. Needless to say, they created slipping hazards and dampened paperwork. And I admit I was only half-heartedly interested in mopping up the spills so that we could move on to more productive conversations.
What I’ve drawn from this experience is that, unfortunately, interdisciplinarity seems to converge only on the cultural front. Nevertheless, I am confident that there is a conference out there (and academics to people it) that acknowledges the power of culture while moving beyond identity to realms of, say, politics, law, and economics. I will hunt it down.