Six days and five nights in Mexico City, very little in the way of the usual tourist activities.
But that doesn't mean that it wasn't an "experience" of the highest order. The atmosphere of the city alone was spectacular, and in fact, it's safe to say that the IAMCR conference
represented way better "red carpet" treatment than anything I could have ever enjoyed by my lonesome. Think a conference venue at
Tlatelolco (Plaza of the Three Cultures) proper, evening receptions at the José Cuevas Museum in the Historic Center, and custom hand-embroidered conference bags--and those were just the strictly non-academic perks!
While unfortunately many planned attendees were unable to make appearances, four days worth of presentations and plenaries in both Spanish and English, many of them excellent, nevertheless kept me busy. Of course, I couldn't possibly report on everything I took in. However, standouts included Rasmus Kleis Nielsen's paper on Internet tools in political campaigns, Natalie Fenton's paper on the press arms of NGOs, and Margaret Gallagher's speech on the place of women in human rights discourse. I'd like to think that I did a good job talking about manga and anime in the US market as well, but unfortunately the counter-programming--first day, first session--was formidable, and my session was not well-attended. Little consolation came from the rumor that the various Sections and Working Groups were front-loading their best content. (FYI: That would explain my competition, not me.) On the other hand, my duties as chair of the Comic Art Working Group's two sessions were, shall we say, minimal.
Better even still than the papers proper were the many opportunities to socialize. The UNAM students working as conference staff were unfailingly cheerful, and the crowd was thrillingly international; I met scholars from Australia, Ireland, Singapore, Finland, Austria, Uganda, and more. Also, there were many well-traveled, very international grad students: A Brazilian studying in Spain, a Taiwanese studying in London, a Mexican studying at the Sorbonne in France, an American planning to begin a PhD program in South Korea, a Japanese woman with a spot-on Aussie accent studying in Melbourne, etc. And of course, there were a handful of people who hailed from familiar locales: Rasmus (mentioned above) is doing his PhD at Columbia, and Juan Piñon of NYU's Media, Culture, and Communication Department was the only one besides myself to represent the "purple empire." (They turned out to be the only two people I'd known previously at the conference, and it was nice to have at least two familiar faces around.) Several people affiliated with Temple and UPenn in Philadelphia were in attendance, not to mention a veritable horde of PhD students from USC Annenberg.
Other random (often whimsical) highlights included:
-Meeting a student from USC Annenberg who took one look at my name tag and exclaimed, "You're the one we lost!" Apparently, rumor was going around about my withdrawal, but not everyone had been plugged into the grapevine, and only the aforementioned one actually seemed to have retained any sense of my name. (The man must have a steel-trap mind. It was a bit frightening.)
-Watching a little slip of a Mexican girl and an Australian professor (who probably ought to have known better) try to drink each other under the table at the first reception.
-Meeting two Irish professors from Dublin. The first happened to sit next to me on the bus ride back to the Historic Center, and after the usual call-and-response of "What's your name?/What's your affiliation?"/"Who's your supervisor going to be?" responded to the answer of the last question, "As in John B.
Thompson?!" For just a bit of the juicer gossip re: my experiences with PhD recruitment season, they both provided me with some excellent perspectives and advice about what is to come in my *ahem* academic career.
-Two delicious dinners that I would never have dared enjoy without company. Let's just say that I owe a particular Temple University prof a big one.
-Oh, and the mariachi band. Not once, but twice.