DGES PhD student, Ryan Katz-Rosene, attends the AAG for the first time

AAG First-Timer Finds Conference Surprisingly Rejuvenating

By Ryan Katz-Rosene,
DGES PhD Student

You know an academic conference is ‘big’ when the program is published as a book spanning 434 pages! Such was the case for this year’s Annual Meeting of the Association of American Geographers, held towards the end of February in New York City. Sometimes academic conferences – especially the big ones – can be jading. I feel this way when there is no sense of ‘collegiality’ – when the turnout at each session is small and scholars seem to be there solely to put another line on their resumes. Yet my first time at AAG was not so. In fact, I found the whole thing to be surprisingly rejuvenating, and even energizing!

It’s possible that the ‘rejuvenating’ aspect had to do with the secondary purposes of my trip to New York (a long-overdue visit to my brother, and a little sightseeing in one of the most exciting cities of the world).  However, the time I spent at the AAG was energizing too. One of the benefits of having such a large conference is that you can meet a number of other scholars who share your interests and approaches. I had submitted my paper to a panel organized around the common theme of ‘Energy and the Crises of Capitalism’, and there were enough submissions to put on three back-to-back sessions. Here I met a number of interesting folks; not only fellow presenters, but people in the audience who came up to chat afterwards. It was a good networking opportunity to say the least.

But the highlight, for me, was a theoretical session organized around the theme of “Apocalypse, the radical left and the post-political condition”. Featuring speakers like Erik Swyngedouw (Manchester), Geoff Mann (Simon Fraser), Kathleen McAfee (San Fransisco State), and James McCarthy (Pennsylvania), among others, the room was understandably packed (think fire hazard packed). This roundtable was different from the others in the way the speakers presented on their intellectual musings about the general topic at hand, rather than detailing existing research projects. Aside from the dismal theme of the session, it was good to hear fresh perspectives on the socio-ecological predicament we face today (and good to put some faces and voices to the texts I’ve read over the years).

As I came back from the AAG I found myself thinking of future research topics and conjuring up ideas for a symposium I’d like to put on at Carleton featuring critical political economies of energy and environment. If you haven’t been to the AAG yet, and you have an opportunity to go next year (it’s in Los Angeles, April, 2013), I’d say give it a shot.

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