Wednesday, June 11, 2008

A Long Day's Journey Into Minneapolis: A Pre-Berkshire Conference Review

Why am I always going to Minneapolis? We are talking five times in the last twelve months, all for different reasons. And why is my travel karma so bad that I am once again hanging out in an airport, delayed for three hours, and wrecking my afternoon plans for a bonus trip to the archives? Is it because of Minneapolis, or is it because the United States is, in general, so screwed up that we have become the Soviet Union of the twenty-first century? Or is it just Northwest Airlines? If it is NWA, then at least they had the grace to apologize: I am in possession of twenty dollars worth of free food coupons, a coupon for an in-flight drink of my choice, a coupon for $25.00 off my next trip on Northwest (fat chance -- oops! I'm going to Minneapolis again in July!); and a coupon for $1,000 free airmiles.

So good on you, Northwest. When was the last time any of us got a coupon from George W. Bush, much less an apology for the illegal war in Iraq and an economy that is in a Humpty-Dumpty type situation? I didn't even get the stinking $600 tax rebate because, as a college professor, I'm too rich! Well, yay. I'm working on too thin this morning. With my first NWA coupon I purchased a fruit cup instead of the more tempting, and perhaps near-lethal in its fat and sugar content, Cinnabon.

In any case, I am on my way to the Fourteenth Berkshire Conference on the History of Women, where there is much fun to be had (here's the right link, Historiann: the WiFi connection is so feeble here in the airport that I can barely save, much less surf the net, but I figure I owe it to you because you guys put together such a great program.) Part of the fun will be be my roundtable: look for Tenured Radical to be appearing with Leslie Harris, Barbara Balliet, Jocelyn Olcott and Donna Gabaccia. It's Saturday at 4:00, and we will be discussing the current state of feminist theory and the practice of history. If you don't want to come see me, come see them. But Tenured Radical readers are commanded to introduce themselves at any and all opportunities, particularly if they are pseudonymous bloggers who wish to reveal themselves in the strictest confidence.

Never been to the Berks before? Here are answers to a few commonly asked questions:

Is the Berkshire Conference run by a small group of people who constitute "The Little Berks," and who hold meetings every year in cute little inns?


Is this group exclusive?

No. Consider yourself invited to the fall meeting if you are a member. Become a member if you are not. One or both of these acts will get you appointed to either the book prize or the article prize committee if you aren't paying attention. I swear. After that, your rise in the organization will be swift.

What happens if I come to the spring meeting of the Little Berks and find a trillium?

Traditionally, the rest of us buy you a bourbon.

Did Professor Kathi Kern really get a Ph.D. from NYU?

No, she did not; because of family circumstances, she was forced to attend the University of Pennsylvania. However, at a moment in time when the New York University mafia was rising in the organization, it adopted her as a provisional NYU alum, intellectual companion and fashion advisor. She is in part responsible for who we are today, and so she became a made woman after the appropriate rituals were completed.

What are these rituals?

If I told you, I would have to kill you.

Did a certain Tenured Radical once jump into the swimming pool fully-clothed after a particularly boisterous Saurday night Berkshire Conference dinner?

No, I removed my cowboy boots first. However, seconds before hitting the water, I realized that I had failed to remove my glasses, which I was unable to find at the bottom of the pool because -- I can't see without my glasses! Fortunately, a colleague from Rutgers was able to point to them with the pool net while laughing uncontrollably, and I was able to retrieve them after several dives.

Is there a tri-annual get-together for Estelle Freedman's graduate students at the Berkshire Conference?

Yes, usually at the Saturday night dinner, although since I am not one of them, I can't say for sure where it is for 2008. If I can get hold of one of the group pictures this year, I will publish it (with their permission, of course.) It is perhaps one of the most concrete evidence of the success of women in history, and the history of women, that there is. So send me one at tenured*dot*radical*at* gmail*dot*com, and it will go up next week.

Is this the only conference with a dance?

Yes, we think so. Can you imagine all those guys at the Society for the History of American Foreign Relations dancing with each other? I thought not, although it would certainly change the public perception of the historical profession if they did.

Now I'm off to get a sandwich with one of my other coupons......see you there! Eventually.


Sapience said...

It's not the only conference with a dance--the International Congress on Medieval Studies at Kalamazoo has a dance every year.

Susan said...

The Shakespeare Association of America also always has a dance.

TR, you're absolutely right about the book or article prize. Hey, you might even end up chairing them. I'm sorry I missed the night you jumped in the pool, though.

I'll just add one more thing about the Berks, if anyone is going. You can get the papers for the Sunday sessions on the web. So read them, and go. THey are terrific!

ortho said...

TR, good luck getting to Minneapolis. I hope you have a great time.

I look forward to reading your Conference blogposts.

Anonymous said...

The Latin American Studies Assocaition also traditionally has a dance...

Anonymous said...

The Conference on College Composition and Communication (CCCC's) also has one.

Although, seeing pretty drunk "Famous Person" wriggling around and pulling her shirt up a bit too far to some techno-80s music was enough to send me screaming into the night and never go back. :D

Sisyphus said...

Have fun at the conference!

And BTW, you didn't say why you keep going to Minneapolis --- I thought you were going to make some cool connection with progressive history there...

Plain(s)feminist said...

Don't all conferences have dances? The American Studies Association and the National Women's Studies Association conferences do - and so does Sociologists for Women in Society.

green mountain girl in dixie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
green mountain girl in dixie said...

Whoops... I accidentally deleted. Anyway, TR, I was telling you that we took the Students of Estelle (SOE) photo, minus one attendee who had to race to the airport. We'll send you the photo soon, but right now it's in a dgital camera flying over the Atlantic on its way to Jo-burg, SA.

Which brings me to some points of information: we discovered some interesting things at the SOE dinner. Ironically, after Estelle's successful fight for tenure at Stanford, there was a drop off in feminist student enrollment in the History Department (or at least in students who worked directly under Estelle). Also, starting in the late 90s, she began advising a sigificant number of feminist historians and historians of women and gender who work in fields outside of the US. There are many active theories as to why this was/is the case.