Thursday, September 05, 2013

Academic Conference Themes

I am on the Executive Committee of the Southeastern Council of Latin American Studies (SECOLAS) and we are finalizing the details of the annual conference (March 27-29, 2014 in New Orleans). As always, this included a discussion about the theme of the conference. Every year I wonder why academic organizations bother.

As far as I know, they are pretty much ignored. Indeed, they are specifically crafted not to be too exclusive (why make some people feel left out?) so are so broad as to be close to meaningless. For LASA 2014 it is so long that my hunch is that it remains largely unread. I'm even a track chair for that conference and this was the first time I had read it.

From a practical perspective, everyone has their own line of research, and there seems to be no real reason to alter your conference paper to match the theme. This actually would be a bad idea because the theme is arbitrary and will not help you get your paper published eventually. It may do the opposite because your revisions become artificial.

So I am not sure why we keep doing it. Mostly we do because...everyone else does and so people somehow expect it.


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