The Big Finale: In Review

By KATHERINE IRENE MILLIKEN on May 14, 2013

And so it passed, that on the twelfth day after her final exam, the last of the interns did finally venture upon this quest, her virtual swan song in that fine fraternity, Ye Olde Centre of Global Ftudyes.

And then she did cease to speak in the third person or attempt to use ye olde-ish language, because it was cheesy.  And weird.

We at the Center ended the semester in a veritable whirlwind of activity: we publicized; we stuffed nametags, we stuffed folders, we stuffed bags, we stuffed delicious bags of cookies into bags; we woke up at the crack of 6 (ish) a.m. and hustled to the Nittany Lion Inn, driven by an unshakeable sense of duty and the promise of a free breakfast.  And did a bunch of other stuff like coursework and finals and running afterschool clubs.  We threw caution and grammar to the wind. STOP ME YOU CAN’T.

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Power, Geographies of? On Bring it.

The “Geographies of Power” conference took place at the Nittany Lion Inn, from Friday, April 26 to Saturday, April 27.  It drew speakers and attendants from across the country and the globe–a fairly intimidating guest list for us to face at the registration table, before our social skills have fully kicked in around noon.  Luckily, though, it went off without a hitch! –Other than that dinner Saturday night when a University of Alberta professor jokes about taking my Indian food.  We don’t joke about such things around here.

I sat in for a number of the sessions throughout the conference, including keynote addresses by John Esposito and Wendy Brown, and several panel discussions.  Both were interesting, although Brown’s discussion of neoliberalism as an economic, social, and political force found a little more traction, given my personal interests.  I will admit that her vocabulary was often beyond my comprehension at that late point in the day, to the point that I felt like I needed a translator at times; but I will maintain that I “got the gist of it.”  Another point in the conference that I found particularly interesting was Panel 4’s presentations on Saturday morning, which focused on cultural representations of the ‘War on Terror’ and other issues in the post- 9/11 era.  For instance, Dr. Moustafa Bayoumi’s paper focused on the representation and involvement of the CIA in entertainment, using the television series, 24, and the recent film, Zero Dark Thirty, as contrasting examples–the former, from the time of the Bush administration following the 9/11 attacks, encouraging the bending and breaking of rules in the name of freedom, and the latter from the time of the Obama administration, following a general realignment to emphasizing order and procedure as the democratic antithesis to the chaos and destruction of terrorism.  Dr. Nikhil Singh’s presentation on “The Globalization of Settlers” was also particularly interesting to me for its suggestion that the settler mentality that we see in the historical interactions between the European settlers and Native Americans in the modern United States, was transferred and grafted onto other colonized peoples throughout the world.

Working behind the scenes at the conference was an intriguing experience in itself.  As I said before, we survived the morning rush without much incident.  I also argued with a maladjusted rented camera who just didn’t like the lighting; I wrestled a loud door at the back of the room in a misguided attempt NOT to distract from the speaker; we all bit our nails as Dr. Brown stepped off a plane, into a car, and up to the podium (CURSE YOU, AIR TRAFFIC!); and, of course, we ate delicious food, and lots of it.

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We made lots of new friends.

The “Geographies of Power” conference was one monster of a conclusion to my time at CGS–your typical final project, on steroids.  And, I repeat, with better food.  I have learned a lot, and one of the most important developments really shone through at this conference.  I have become a lot more comfortable in these professional and academic environments.  Do I still need a dictionary to decipher some of what I heard?  For sure; but I can definitely point you toward the dining room without feeling inferior!

Okay, bad example.  To put it a little more coherently, I feel like I can competently interact with not only my co-workers, but also other professionals and academics.  Overhearing comments like “I need to go last, I have no idea what I’m saying!” and watching panel members joking at each other’s expense was particularly reassuring in deciding that these were, in fact, approachable humans.  It is discoveries like this groundbreaking gem that I will take with me to my future work experiences and–hold on to your hats–abroad.  CIEE Chile, here I come (Look for even scarier blog posts when I am released to wreak havoc on the wider internet)!

And so, sliding this final post in under the wire, I pass along my final thanks to the entire staff of the Center for Global Studies!  Now on to new adventures…

 In the nick of time, one more Indiana Jones reference, for the road.

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