asaclu: two ways to the top of the oak tree
i'm safely back from montreal-via-memphis. i wasn't going to post on the asa meetings, but the contrast between my professional meetings and my pubcrim meeting stirred about 10 almost-completely-unrelated thoughts.
1. i learned something from every asa session i attended, and came away especially impressed with a few new friends. sometimes i forget that we have some really brilliant people in the profession. we do.
2. montreal was lovely, though too expensive for students. on the whole, asa seems a little less student-friendly than my other professional associations (asc and law & society). there was plenty of food at the receptions, which helps a little, though the drink prices were absurd in the conference hotels.
3. i hung with some community college folks who had a way different take on the meetings and asa status hierarchies. monte bute of metro state sez "there is no profession so hypocritically insensitive to the social inequality within its own ranks, or so intellectually inept at recognizing how its own taken-for-granted practices create and perpetuate this academic caste system." ouch.
4. gloria steinem's talk was a lovefest, and it was great to hear someone so accomplished at the meetings. i'd quibble with her rosy characterization of "95 percent of human history," but it really ain't my area. i just liked the way she took her talk seriously by crafting something special for the sociologists, and the way she applauded the audience at the end. she was warm and gracious as well as sharp and incisive.
5. though my asa talks were well attended and i got some useful feedback, i was really excited and pushed in my memphis presentation on felon voting rights. there were 75-100 people who truly engaged the issue, a great many of whom could offer first-hand accounts of what it was like to try to vote with a felony conviction in tennessee. i signed about a dozen books for former felons and activists, which was kind of an ego trip.
6. i wish i could do more talks such as the one in memphis, but pubcrim ain't cheap. groups like the aclu can't offer honoraria or pay travel expenses for such meetings, so i can't afford too many trips.
7. i loved my stay at the holiday inn in memphis, which was sort of a shrine to kemmons wilson (inspirational quote: there are two ways to get to the top of the oak tree. one way is to sit on a acorn and wait; the other is to climb it). after my talk i visited beale street with some of the other speakers and saw sun studios and stax records, which hold great personal religious significance. in contrast, i was really, really happy to put the marriott chateau champlain in the rearview mirror.
8. at the meetings i claimed i could give the same talk to community groups that i'd give to professional sociologists. i did just that the next day and it worked pretty well. i had to tone down some of the jargon and explain what the methods did rather than how they did them, but otherwise the talks were very similar. judging from the fine questions i got at the end, the non-ph.d. audience seemed to apprehend the arguments just fine.
9. i was glad to hear my name a few times, but amazed at the new pronunciations: lots of uggumms, of course, but i heard novel stuff like oogens and ergen as well. maybe folks were trying to francify it in montreal. i'm now completely convinced that i've been mispronouncing my own name as you-gun all these years.
10. some fun-but-awkward conversations can happen when friends, students, and colleagues start swapping stories about working with you. while you're sitting right there. though it is all in good fun, such triangulation hardly seems fair.