The conference this weekend was interesting for multiple reasons.

The paper presentations varied enormously given the interdisciplinary focus of the whole. Fortunately, the conference proceedings were printed so if someone was reading slowly (or if a paper was not very interesting) you could read all of the others. In this way, I got to read or hear everything at the conference.

The most interesting papers and discussions for me were on North Carolina Slave festivals and on the globalization of evangelical Protestantism and its relationship to Wilsonianism.

My paper, on extraterritoriality in US foreign relations, did not trigger the sustained argument I was hoping it would, though the formal criticism was constructive. Those who know me know that I am always interested in arguing, but no avail in this instance. (Maybe I was just that persuasive?) My sharp colleague at Sogang has promised me some criticism back here at home, so I am looking forward to that.

In the US, in addition to all of the discussion and networking (and not uncommonly, let us say bluntly, arse kissing) going on, conferences are generally a means for the organization to make some money by charging high fees paid for by individual universities.

In Korea though things are done differently. Here, the organization pays for everything- food, drink, lodging, excursions. The mark of a good president is, in fact, how well the conference is run, how nice the accomodations are, and so. This is yet another sign, perhaps, of the regard professors are held in here.

The conference is sponsored by banks, corporations, by Fulbright, and by the U.S. Embassy. This is a big shift from the way things are done in the States.

I can't say if this corporate and government sponsorship has a chilling or distorting effect on scholarship, but I can say that this conference was overtly pro-U.S. The conference theme was "American Order: Crises and Changes." The emphasis of the conference was approval of American order, and ways to enhance it, no doubt about it.

This is not the general emphasis at most conferences I have been at in the US, to say the least.

This emphasis was especially interesting to ponder in a nation with a strong anti-globalization movement like Korea.

Given that everything was included, it is still notable how very good the food was. Often conference food is not especially good. This being Korea, the food was great. We were given bibimbap upon arrival. The big general dinner at the conference had about 25 dishes, including all manner of traditional Korean dishes and several trays of rolls, sushi, and sashimi. The lunch the next day was a traditional Korean meal of mushroom soup (the area was famous for mushrooms) with of course innumerable side dishes and a huge omelet with grilled squid and other seafood. This lunch meal was at long tables outside. Since were were in the mountains, and it was a flawless fall day, it was ideal.

Many of the attendees also went to a noriban at night, the Korean version of karaoke. This was my first experience in one, though I have been here for a couple of months. I sang "Panama" by Van Halen, which after attempting to sing, I would not recommend as a karaoke song for a number of reasons. My later version of the "Tennessee Waltz" did get much acclaim from the others however, so I hopefully redeemed myself a bit.

Comments

Crispin Seo said…
Is it because the electronic sound isn't so decent as imagined? Besides, Koreans especially middle aged people usually don't like heavymetal. I suggest next time you sing 'call me(Blondie)' or 'as tears go by' in falsetto.

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