Thursday, February 08, 2007

Conference Frenzy

I rather thought that putting together one proposal for a conference panel this year would be enough to suit me, but evidently there is no rest for the wicked. Namely, it dawned on me that I could write a paper suitable for Big Conference X, which is so big that it puts out the call for papers a year and a half in advance (well, probably more than that, but the deadline is about that far in advance). Big Conference X is, roughly speaking, a history conference, and while I do know a fair number of historians, I did not see much likelihood of rounding up a crew suitable to the topic. I figured that I would have to take my chances and submit as a lowly individual paper.
I have, however, recently subscribed to a long list of academic listservs, which is in fact how I heard about said conference. As the deadline approached, I noted that people were posting descriptions of their papers and inquiring whether anyone was putting together a panel that might match.
I proceeded to do the same. I soon received an e-mail from someone who had a related paper.
Very good, I thought, this increases chances that mine will make its way onto a panel, as it has at least one companion.
Two days before the deadline, I received an e-mail about another related paper. Three papers is enough for a panel, but this conference wants a chair and a discussant as well. Paper no. 3 struck me as something that would pique the interest of a professor of my acquaintance (as, I hoped, would our other two), so I contacted her. She was indeed interested in joining forces with us.
Wow, I thought... this is much easier than my last attempt to put together a panel, where I started more than a month before the deadline. That one, however, had to be put together over the holidays, plus the online proposal mechanism was (dare I say it) rather primitive.
The past two days, then, have been something of a whirlwind of emails and adding to the online proposal form. But, of course, life could not be too simple. A look at the conference's last program indicates that every panel has to have separate chair and discussant. I have no idea why, as to me this seems like overkill. Art history panels are not generally done this way. But then, art history panels are generally not done at all like this; as a rule ideas for panels are proposed and then the general art-historical public has the opportunity to send paper proposals to whoever is organizing the panel of their dreams. The most exciting papers are chosen. At the conference, the chair/moderator introduces the panelists and then later asks the audience for questions. That's what I'm used to, just as I'm used to crafting a carefully argued and timed paper (something which, I gather, is seen as stuffy in some disciplines).
Well, we have something like 32 hours in which to rope in our final participant and submit the proposal. It is, of course, less, because submitting online at the last minute is asking for trouble, and also because I do not plan to be awake to submit at what would be something like 6am here (if the midnight is Eastern Time, which I suppose I should check).
The academic life is always filled with unexpected drama, although admittedly of its own curious sort.

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