Phi Beta Cons

Hilarious and Obscure Academic Conferences? Send them here.

So, sometimes, when I need a good laugh, I will sit down and behold the winsome earnestness of Barack Obama’s “Yes We Can” speech; but when I’m feeling the need for something at which to laugh, not cynically, but just as a by-product of my amusement’s bubbling-forth, I will turn to…that’s right, announcements for Hilarious & Obscure Academic Conferences.

This week, it’s the annual symposium for the Cambridge University Centre for Gender Studies:

Gender history has been at the cutting edge of historical inquiry for the past 25 years, and this is an opportune moment to revisit some of the founding ideas of the discipline, and to ask how recent research has shaped and transformed the history of gender. … What might a transnational history of gender look like? What has been the impact of postcolonial thought and queer theory on the history of gender?

So, in other words, it’s the usual stuff that leaves one wishing that before challenging paternalizing forms of discourse, gender historians would challenge their use of such cliché and meaningless phrases as “cutting edge of historical inquiry.”
Then, further down the e-mail, where the panels are listed, there was this:

2-3.30 Sexualities
Harry Cocks, Nottingham Univeristy
Rebecca Flemming, University of Cambridge

Wow. I think that pretty much solidifies Gender Studies’ reputation as a self-effacing institution, no?
Anyways, should any of you, dear readers, have something as precious as that, send it this way to, because clearly it deserves to be shared.
Please also send the hilariously obscure: for instance, as a Montanan I was struck to find in London recently a lecture on “Bear Hunting Today: Sport, Nature, and Identity in Late Nineteenth-Century Montana.” It just goes to show people will pay academics to do anything.

Travis Kavulla is director of Energy and Environmental Policy at the R Street Institute. He is a former president of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners who held elected office as a Montana public service commissioner for eight years. Before that, he was an associate editor for National Review.


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