Several people (including many blog-less friends not linked here) have asked me about the Crossroads in Cultural Studies conference in Kingston, Jamaica that wrapped up early last week. And I would be hard-pressed to do better than Melissa Gregg’s summary of the event . . . except, perhaps, to simply say to all those people who wanted to know how it went: You should’ve been there.
I know, of course, that there are lots of good reasons why people don’t make it to conferences. Not enough time. Not enough money. Competing obligations. The simple need/desire to be a homebody for a while, especially when conferences fall during the gap between semesters. So I don’t really blame my curious but absent friends for not making it to Jamaica. Still: You should’ve been there.
I have been struck by the multiple requests for reports — not just friendly “how was the conference?” queries, but an explicit desire for extended details (who was there? who gave good papers? what’s new and hot in the field? etc.) — from friends who would have fit in perfectly, who would’ve enjoyed themselves immensely, and (most tellingly) who have been to enough conferences themselves to know that even the most thorough “report” is no substitute for being there. The feel of a conference often matters as much as (and probably more than) the actual content of the presented papers, or the roster of attendees, or a rundown of who said what to whom at the hotel bar on the final night. So I’m not going to try and provide a detailed accounting of the who and the what of the event, ’cause even if I were to feel the muse and be graced with the most eloquent way to capture five days worth of conversations, I still couldn’t do the event justice. You should’ve been there.
One of the things I most appreciate about the Crossroads conferences — or at least the past two renditions — is the degree to which they take their international-ness very seriously. To be sure, they’re not some perfectly ideal space of worldly cosmopolitanism: the official language of the conference is still English, and the global South remains under-represented. At the same time, Crossroads isn’t the sort of “international” conference where most of the usual suspects from the US, Canada, and northern Europe simply gather in a big chain hotel in some different corner of the world for a long weekend and have the same basic conversations with each other that they could/would have had at a conference back home. For me, Crossroads somehow manages to simultaneously feel both smaller and larger than those sorts of conferences. It’s smaller, insofar as Crossroads has a much more tight-knit, communal feel to it than a Hilton/Sheraton/Hyatt-style conference. While it’s still a fairly large gathering, I’ve come away from the past two versions feeling like I’ve shared an experience with several hundred people — and that doesn’t happen at most other conferences I attend. And it’s larger, insofar as the people you’re sharing that experience with represent a much broader slice of the world than is the norm for “international” conferences.
We do it all again in 2010. In Hong Kong.
You should be there.
You can find a brief explanation of “Rerun Sunday” here.
The post above originally appeared on 19 Jul 2008.
Small update: Obviously, you’ve missed your chance to make it to the Crossroads conference in Hong Kong in 2010. And the one in Paris in 2012. And also the one in Tampere in 2014. But you can still make it to Sydney in 2016. When there are more details to share about what (by then) will be the ACS’ second journey south of the equator, I’ll post them here.