The Month of Queer Conferencing

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Navigating Normativity UNC-Asheville Biennial Queer Studies Conference  April 2-4

This was my first time in Asheville and it was as picturesque as advertised.  I presented on Samuel Delany’s Through the Valley of the Nest of Spiders, and, appropriately enough, the title of my panel was “Navigating Normativity: Southern Style.”  After an informal poll at the beginning of my talk I was a bit surprised to find that none of the people in the room (save for one CUNY Grad Center colleague) had heard of Delany at all! Hopefully I provided a good introduction and created a few new Delany readers.

Overall the conference presenters were much younger than I expected, as my CUNY friend also observed. There were more first year graduate students and even undergraduate papers than I expected.  But that was also an opportunity to get a look at the future of the field.  It was encouraging to see a panel full of brave young women from a state school in SOUTH CAROLINA presenting papers on feminism, sexuality and pop culture. They reminded me of myself as an undergraduate when I got my first exposure to professional academic life by presenting at African-American history conferences.

LGBTQ Scholars of Color Conference April 9-10

Next up was the first LGBTQ Scholars of Color Conference organized by CLAGS and hosted at John Jay College.  The main thing I noticed about this conference is that it was overwhelmingly dominated by social sciences and public health.  That’s a good thing.  CLAGS was founded by historian Martin Duberman, and housed at the CUNY Graduate Center, and has been well-represented with queer theorists in literary and culture studies.  During my time at CLAGS I worked under the leadership of a political scientist who worked to add more social science programming. There was much talk at this conference about navigating the sometimes treacherous world of funding and foundations. This is important stuff because I know this kind of quantitative work influences public policy in a way that the humanities, as important as they are, cannot.  There’s a Storify of the #LGBTSOC tweets from the conference here: LINK

Queer Speculations: University of Maryland DC Queer Studies Conference April 17

What was lacking in the humanities at the CLAGS conference I more than made up for at University of Maryland DC Queer Studies Conference.  I presented at this conference in 2012 which was a 70th birthday celebration of Samuel R. Delany and his magnificent writing.  After a day of stimulating talks at this year’s conference I was glad that I decided to return.  I presented again on Through the Valley of the Nest of Spiders, which Delany had just published before the 2012 conference, and from which he gave a reading that evening.   This was another conference with a lot of digital engagement and Alexis Lothian put together this Storify of #DCQS15 tweets which gives a better overview of the talks than I can give here.

I’ve wanted to work on Through the Valley of the Nest of Spiders to build out from my 2013 review of the novel in the GC Advocate.  There’s so much that I didn’t get to in that review (the book is 804 pages long) and several things that I wanted to correct.  I also wanted to write about the digital reception of the novel in online magazines and blog reviews, including responses from Delany himself.  It’s a longer range project that is probably more of a tangent from my main research than I should be taking on right now, but it’s something I’ve been bugging myself to follow up on and get finished.  However, it IS related to the book since there are similarities to Delany’s academic novel The Mad Man, about which I’m writing a chapter.

And so, the month of queer conferencing is done, and I’m moving on to the next phase of research, which is more directly related to the book.  At the Northeast Modern Language Association conference in Toronto I’ll be presenting on Percival Everett’s academic fiction, and participating in a “Creative Criticism” session where I’ll be presenting an autobiographical section of the book, talking about my own “blackademic life” in relation to these works of black academic fiction that I’m writing about.

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