A Hungry Girl Goes to a Conference
I. Think. This. Next. Panel. Sounds. Very. Interesting. said the charming Finnish queer girl. Something. To. Do. With. Facebook. And. Young. Girls’. Culture.Think. I’ll. Go. To. That.
I Wonder If They’re Giving Us Lunch I mused aloud. The Food Hall Is Closed. That. Must. Mean. They’re. Giving. Us. Lunch.
I was munching on a raisin bagel with cream cheese as I spoke.
Finnish Queer Girl sighed in her femmey impatient way, and politely excused herself.
I am always hungry at conferences.
This one, Console-ing Passions: Television, Audio,Video, New Media & Feminism, hosted this year (it recurs biennially) by University of California at Santa Barbara, was no exception.
I was hungry for theory. I’ve been a teaching machine all year. I was hungry for colleagues, for new ideas about television, for brilliant thoughts about convergence and its gendered implications, for queer theory, for race theory, for elegant argument.
I was hungry for conversation, and for intellectual community.
And, let’s face it, I was hungry for food. At conferences, we drift away from our bodies. We sit in windowless or shuttered rooms while the California (or Turkish, or B.C.) sun glows outside. We stuff ourselves with Danishes and white flour bagels and the fast food offerings of a food court. Much of the time, we don’t eat at all. When food is provided, we balance paper plates and a glass of wine and schmooze and gossip and posture uneasily, and barely taste it (I vaguely recall chicken sate and spring rolls, the second night of the conference). I do remember chatting about lost feminist media archives with lefty-feminist media icon Julia Lesage, and analyzing
porn and affect with the Scandinavians.
I heard about ethnographic research into British working class female audiences for reality TV. I listened to a paper about the merging of queer and Latino aesthetics in Ugly Betty. I discussed the epistemological dangers of blogging.I gave a paper on discourses of racialized, national, and gendered passing on The L Word. I dished about feminist media studies with colleagues from Finland, U.K., Canada, and all parts of the United States.
I saw cacti, and palm trees, and bouganvillea, and storks, and herons, and crashing surfer ocean waves.
Just before I left Santa Barbara, I had a fish fajita burrito and a cold Corona beer at a beach canteen across the street from my hotel. The fish was tender, sweet, and enrobed in fried onions, peppers, and a soft corn tortilla. My body felt worn out, my brain like a wrung-out washcloth. But somewhere in my overly performed self, I felt exhilarated.
I left sated. I left hungry for more.
I guess chatting at conferences while balancing a paper plate and a glass of wine is not that much different then discussing art at openings next to the brie wheel while sipping warm wine. Lovely post!