It is time again for the International Studies Association Annual Conference. With thousands of attendees, a phone book full of panels, and a slough of receptions, dinners, meetings, and opportunities, the whole thing can be a bit overwhelming as a grad student (and for everyone else too!). You've likely received advice on how to present your work in 10 seconds or less- but what about the rest of the conference? Here are a couple of key tips for surviving the four days and getting the most out of the experience.
Before we get to the real essentials (food, shelter, and clothing), let's start with networking:
In addition to all the obvious tips (always wear your name tag, ask your supervisor to invite you along to some key dinners/meetings, hang out in the common areas and just generally act like you are speed dating, but for a job and contacts rather than for a mate) here are some more unconventional tips for making an impression:
- Do get up and head down to the lobby if you have jet lag and can't sleep at 4am. There is always the potential that you'll be invited to join a tequila tasting/debate on the norm diffusion/poker game, or that you'll see your academic idol passed out in the lobby- who wants to miss that for reruns of 'What Not To Wear' in the hotel room?
- Do Google image all of your academic idols. If you end up behind Ole Waever in the Starbucks lineup you don't want to miss the chance to (quickly) introduce yourself and tell him you use his work in your thesis. Also, if Ole comes to your panel, and you don't recognize him, and he asks a difficult question about securitization (hey, it is possible!) you don't want to a) accuse him he doesn't know what he's talking about b) go into detail about what an idiot you think Ole Waever is c) ask him if he's related to Kevin Bacon because there is something familiar about him. On that note, Don't (ever) use the coffee lineup, receptions, or the bar as an opportunity to ask someone like Ole to explain what they mean by social security or to tell them what aspects of their theory you think they got wrong. You may be right, and you may be brilliant, but there is a fine line between making an impression and burning a bridge/looking like a total douche.
- Don't follow the advice "ask a question at every panel, but start by talking about your research first." People who tell you to do this want you to fail. Yes, you should ask questions if and only if you have a strong, relevant question- let's be honest, that won't be at every panel. And, yes you should always introduce yourself first. But no one wants the Q&A time hijacked by someone pitching their own research- save that for the bar or receptions.
Ok, on to the other essentials:
"This is what winning looks like"
I have to confess, I was late to watch "Zero Dark Thirty" (ODT). I read a handful of reviews and blogs about the movie, had arguments with friends about its message, and even wrote it off completely--all weeks before I bothered to watch it. I wasn't interested in watching another American war movie, nor was I keen to see the lengthy torture scenes I had read about in the reviews. I figured I already knew exactly what the content was (are there every any real surprises in American war movies? and, didn't we all know how this story ended anyway?) and that there was really nothing left to say. BUT, I think there is something left to say about the film.
First, let's all be honest: most of us walked away from this movie saying to ourselves "did I miss something?" What about the film deserved all the Oscar hype, debate, and acclaim? By most standards, this was a classic, boring American war movie. In this case, the lack of plot and acting skills are made up with using violent torture scenes rather than expensive battle scenes. There is no emotional journey, no big moral dilemma that the characters are going through (I'll get to torture soon), little plot twist (again, we all know how it ends after all), and no unique or interesting characters (don't get me started on Jessica Chastain--what exactly about her stone-faced performance warrants an Oscar? perhaps she deserves an award for for 'most consistent blank expression'). So what gives? Is this just another "King's Speech"? Meaning, is this just another big movie that people talk about and get behind, but no one actually can put their finger on what was remotely interesting about it (never mind what was destructive about it)?
So I'm calling it. Not only was this movie soul-less, boring and poorly made, everyone seemed to miss the message (and it is easy enough to do). The real question about ODT is not whether or not it is condoning torture.
Today it was announced that the combat ban for women will be fully removed within the US military. This reverses a long-standing policy that restricts women from serving below the brigade level in positions specified as front-line, ground combat. Given that the policy had been recently reviewed, the change may come as a surprise to some, however there are three main reasons why this policy had to be changed right now.
First, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has long been a supporter of gender integration within the forces and has publicly acknowledged the exclusion as contradicting operational practice and untenable. Panetta plans to step down from his post after only 18 months in the job, making the removal of the combat exclusion his legacy.
Second, the Department of Defense is facing a lawsuit from several female soldiers and backed by the ACLU. The suit has raised significant publicity surrounding the issue of women in combat and the DoD would have had a difficult time defending claims that the policy is discriminatory and unconstitutional.
Third, growing evidence of women's contributions to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, including in ground combat, have become impossible to ignore. It is widely acknowledged that there are no 'front' lines in insurgency warfare. Moreover, women have contributed to offensive missions in recent wars, died in hostile fire, contributed in all-female teams during insurgency missions, and even been awarded for their valor in combat. The contradictions associated with having a combat exclusion in a military that provides combat pay for some women and honors their contributions to combat have just become to extreme.
Sure we know we don't stick to New Year resolutions (apparently only 8% of resolutions are fulfilled) but they're fun to make, right?
In addition to the top 5 New Year's resolutions that most people don't keep (losing weight, quitting smoking, going on a diet, stopping a bad habit, and getting more exercise) some of us make professional resolutions. So what do you think are the top 5 Academic New Year's resolutions you're likely to break? Here are my guesses/my unrealistic resolutions- feel free to weigh in with yours:
1. Write Every Day
This is like the resolution that never quits. I don't know a single academic that doesn't try to commit to this resolution- yet we all fall off the wagon from time to time. Just like when the September issue of Vogue comes out inspiring us to wear uncomfortable shoes more often (no, not you?), the New Year makes me recommit to a new, and often unreasonable word-count quota.
2. Say no more often
I sort of always thought academics were being ego-maniacs or liars when they said they needed to say no to things more often (like when some people brag that they just get too skinny when they're stressed- wow, still going with the Vogue references). However, the requests for journal/book/proposal reviews, supervision requests, reference letters etc all do add up. New rules: must be in my DIRECT line of expertise, I must remember the student's face and they must have visited my office at least once, and- thanks to Dan's recent encouraging post- no referring for journals that don't report their final decision to you.
3. Use dragon dictate more...yeah right
The world has payed attention to the gang-rape of a young woman (her name has not been made widely public) in Delhi and her struggle to survive over the last few weeks. The reports of the brutal incident on December 16th broke through the national news of India and set waves of reports through the rest of the world. The sheer violence, randomness, and horror of it seemed to fixate the globe.
Now, as we learn that this woman's struggle to survive after multiple surgeries, cardiac arrest, and evidence of brain damage has ended, there seems to be an attempt to shift this story back into familiar categories of domestic sexual violence and out of the political sphere. Reports on the death of this woman consistently re-report the hospital's claim that she 'died peacefully.' This may seem like a side note to the entire story, yet these words hold significant political value and raises some important questions, including:
Does the focus on her 'peaceful' death detract from the violent nature of her attack and her exhausting struggle for life over the last 2 weeks?
Here's your daily roundup of sex/gender links.
First, NPR has reported that sexual assaults have spiked at military academies (a 23% increase with continued evidence that victims are resisting litigation).
Yikes. A well-known anti-gay Ugandan (the land of the new and terrible anti-homosexuality bill) pastor used vegetables to graphically demonstrate his interpretation of gay sex (and why it is wrong). The video on Huff Post is like a car crash.
A new poll shows a "bare majority" support in the US for gun control, with a significant gender gap in the results: 62% of women support more restrictions compared to only 41% of men.
Most academics will admit to themselves and students that the majority of dissertations and books are written in a 6 month block of time (the remainder of the post focuses on a PhD process, but it can be easily applied to book writing). I'm talking here about the WRITING process- not the research, figuring out the question, organizing the chapters etc (no wizard can do all that in 6 months- at least not this wizard). But once you've done your (field) research, reading, thinking through the chapters, taking notes etc. it really should only take you 6 months to finish the thesis. For PhD students this is referred to as the end of the faffing about/procrastination/reading gawker and people.com daily/existential crisis about the structure of the thesis phase and the start of the "time to suck it up, close the office door, shut off the email, and just f#$@king write" phase.
So how can one get a complete draft of the thesis done in 6 months? Here is the 10-Step Process to Completion.
The James Bond movies aren't the first place most would look to learn about masculinity; it's an action movie, the special effects are always amazing, and most of us just leave the gender analysis at home...BUT just humor me for one scene. In my view the best part of an otherwise mediocre movie (sorry super-Bond fans!) is when Bond is confronted by the ultimate villain, Silver (played spectacularly by Javier Bardem). Silver is a unique antihero, he meditates, he often speaks in a high pitch voice, he giggles, in many ways he is- well- effeminate. In his intro scene he snuggles up to a handcuffed Bond, fondling his chest and stroking his leg, challenging him to recall if his training has taught him to deal with this type of advance. He teases Bond that "there's a first time for everything."
For an action movie, this type of homo-erotic interaction seems rare. The viewers are held in suspense wondering what to think of the villain and how the hero character will handle this apparent challenge to his masculinity. Of course, Bond rises to the occasion (unfortunately there is no hero-villain love scene, maybe we're just not there yet). Bond retorts back, "what makes you think this is my first time." In that moment, Silver is taken aback and the audience seems to relax. By keeping his cool and lobbing the advance back to the villain, Bond's masculinity seems to be not only reaffirmed, but in some ways enhanced. How did a male on male flirtation lead to masculine enhancement for the characters?
If you ever thought that emotion, mythology, and the uterus didn’t matter in foreign policy, reading debates about women in the military should change your mind. I expected some debate to ensue when Foreign Affairs agreed to publish an essay called Let Women Fight in their November/December issue (cough shamelessselfpromotion cough), but I was blown away by the comments posted on a preview of the article in the Daily Beast last week. Sure, many responses to op eds are easily brushed off as rants or individuals blowing off steam, but it is worth looking at a few themes within the responses to show 1) the role of emotion and story telling in people’s responses 2)how closely the combat exclusion is directly linked to mythologies of the nation and imaginaries of ‘real’ war heroes and 3) the fixation with evil and unpredictable wombs and periods (seriously).
Within the over 100 responses to the Beast post, there were the expected references to physical standards (addressed in the FA piece), the ‘why would women want to fight’ argument, the ‘public won’t be able to handle women in body bags’ position (even though we already do), the ‘men won’t be able to stop themselves from raping’ argument (which I can’t fully address here), and generalized rants about unjust wars. However, four less expected themes emerged: 1) Sports Analogies; 2) Linking Combat to Abortion; 3) The Great Shortage argument (that women serving will contribute to a population decline and thereby destroy the empire); 4)The Menstruation Fixation (my favorite).
What’s interesting about each of these themes is that they are never based on facts or research, but always rely on stories, assumptions, and fears about the nature of men and women. Let’s talk about each briefly
The Human Security Report Project (HSR) recently released their 2012 Report. The first chapter on wartime sexual violence makes sweeping conclusions and provocative claims about the nature and rates of sexual violence. The overarching message, and certainly the one picked up by the media is that wartime sexual violence is on the decline. Before taking a closer look at the 5 Myths about sexual violence that HSR seeks to dispel, it is important to put this report in a bit of context.
In case you aren't familiar with HSR, they have made a name out of making counter-factual hypotheses and offering provocative- if not always accurate- headlines. They revived the 'war is declining' headline in 2005- over a decade after most political scientists widely acknowledged that inter-state war was indeed declining (and being replaced with other forms of conflict and political violence). What's precious about HSR is that their depiction of successful peacekeeping, a global decline in violence, and impending peace in international relations ignores the increase in intra-state violence, political violence, and terrorist activities, as well as research pointing to conflict and violence as the primary influence behind global poverty and evidence that the annual percentage of civilian fatalities perpetrated by non-state actors is on clear, upward trend. Most concerning is that HSR have used the tenuous 'war decline' hypothesis as the foundation for numerous other tenuous claims, including that the number of child soldiers has decreased and, now, that sexual violence is decreasing.
In a recent article by Michal Ben-Josef Hirsch, Mohamed Sesay and myself, we explore broad-based claimed that transitional justice mechanisms are a necessary ingredient in
SURVEY: Ladies: Do you like having the option of wearing pants, do you enjoy taking time off after giving birth and do you like that
Do scandals- particularly the kind that receive international attention- inspire progressive gender policies? While there is no conclusive research on this question, there are indicators that