What Time Is It? It’s Time For The American Studies Association Meeting!

October 21, 2011, 11:45 am

Cowabunga, Buffalo Bob!

Of course, ASA means something different as you age: it used to mean “Par-tay!!!” Now it mostly means jiggling a lot of appointments around the panel I am on so that I can do everything I need to do for my publishing life in fewer than two days.  The restrictions on partying are fine since I no longer drink much and the closer I get to the Big Sleep, the more I need to practice on a nightly basis.  My current conferencing style also means I am no longer using intellectual work to facilitate conference going, but just the opposite. Shrewder minds than mine understood this back in graduate school and they have the careers to prove it. In any case, there is only so much you can do over the interwebz and by conference call in the academic publishing biz :  some stuff still requires the good old face to face, as Bertie Wooster might have put it.

Of course, Bertie would have come to ASA armed with brilliant waist coats and the latest formal wear. Wardrobe has more or less fallen off the map for me as a concern (some would argue it never was a concern.)  I was thinking about this little life change last night as I was digging through the clean laundry pile in search of  my newest black tee shirts, throwing them into a small bag with my skinny black jeans and the various chargers I need for my electronic devices.  I never was one to obsess about what to wear to conferences (although Lord knows I give advice about it), but now the choices have been pared down dramatically.  One of my more observant students asked recently, with typical politeness, “Professor, do you own any clothes that are in a color?” The answer is yes, but I am unlikely to ever wear them in a professional setting.  The reasons for this are:

  • Black clothes always match my footwear, which consists of black boots, black loafers and sneakers.
  • My best jacket is black, and I have more or less abandoned suit-wearing, which makes it necessary to wrestle a large bag or a suit hanger onto an overhead rack.  People like Richard White and Andrew Ross are almost never seen in a suit either, so why should I risk death to wear one?  I ask you.
  • Black clothes always match each other. Duh.
  • Black clothes do not show dirt easily, and therefore you can take fewer of them and more computer $hit, unread periodicals, and ungraded midterm exams.
  • It makes me instantly recognizable.  See me coming and you think, “That has either got to be Tenured Radical or Johnny Cash.”  If you are at ASA, you think, “Hey, Johnny Cash is dead, so it must be Tenured Radical!”

This year’s meeting is in Baltimore. My only regret (other than how lovely it would be to remain chez Radical) is that ASA isn’t in Philadelphia (tradeoff for cheesesteaks?  crabcakes);  and that I was kept too late at work yesterday to pick up my new black-framed rimless glasses.  Yours truly will be in “Hilton Baltimore Peale C” between 12:00 and 1:45 on Saturday, chairing and commenting on a roundtable called “Contesting Publics and Privates in the Neoliberal University.”  Sounds fun, yah? If you read yesterday’s post, or any others in the past five years, you will know that I have plenty to say about the neoliberal university.  But happily, the center of attention will not be me:  the panel features a wonderful group of scholars, including the fabulous Roy Perez, who is one of the many visiting professors who have taught Latino Studies at Zenith in the face of the institution’s peculiar inability to hire anyone permanent to do this urgent job.

I can also be seen slipping out of the lobby this evening with Moose and Goose of Roxie’s World. Combined with the kind invitation from Roy and his crew, this is the other reason I am attending ASA.  Although Moose and I have done a little project together, we have actually never met.  My only regret is that I don’t think little Ruby will be there:  my sense is that she doesn’t do conferences, unless they are in France, where she is not barred from restaurants.

So here’s hoping I’ll see all of you there.  I always like it when readers say hello, so don’t be shy.

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