N & P: Annual Conference Edition

Friday, November 13, 2020

Things have been pretty busy up here at the Borderlands Lodge these past few weeks. I've been writing a lot. The semester is coming to an end, and many other projects are coming due. 

One of the scholarly organizations that I'm a part of [ASEEES] held the first half of its annual conference last weekend. It was a nice experience. Way back in January, I had organized a panel called "Communist Internationals: the Lives and Networks of Foreign Communists in the USSR." My talk was called "Grumpy Old Communists: The Ageing Rivalries of Turkish Communist Party Leaders in the Late Cold War East Bloc." The talk related to some of the elderly Turkish communists--especially the enigmatic "Marat"--who were still living in the USSR in the 1970s and 80s, and is based upon material from the epilogue of the book I'm writing on Nâzım Hikmet. Interestingly, there was a great turnout, despite the early hour--perhaps a consequence of the online format? I was also a discussant on another panel about the South Caucasus, which was likewise really fun.

İsmail Bilen (a.k.a. "Marat") and Zeki 
Baştımar were both featured in my talk
My first panel started at 6 am,     Mountain Time. Since the conference was virtual, we were recommended to meet up fifteen minutes ahead of time to make sure the Zooms would work. Because I live in an apartment building and felt uncomfortable about the prospect of delivering a 15-minute paper in my loud Zoom voice at that early hour, I opted to walk to my office on campus and do the first panel from there. 

I'd only been back a couple of times since March, each time very briefly. It was weird to be hanging out there, doing my panel, but also kind of a great experience. It reminded me of some of the things that I miss most these days: going to school and seeing my colleagues and students on campus. 

Anyway, the conference was a good experience, and I look forward to attending more of it this weekend--because when a conference is virtual, it turns out that you don't have to put it on four days in a row. All in all, the organization has been really impressive, all things considered. 

And in the rest of the world? Well, that's been a bit more hit or miss...