Monday, February 15, 2010

SWTX PCA/ACA 2010 - Albuquerque

I’ve just returned from the Southwest/Texas Popular Culture and American Culture Association’s 31st annual meeting in Albuquerque, New Mexico. This conference, like the other PCA/ACA conferences I’ve attended, had an amazing range of topics you’d never think would get the full academic treatment. There must have been 20 different sessions on the Twilight phenomenon, for example. The entire Whedon-verse (Buffy, Angel, Firefly, Serenity, Dollhouse) was analyzed every which way, along with every other pop culture or American culture/history topic you can imagine, such as advertising, material culture, film criticism & theory, indigenous studies, The Grateful Dead, Harry Potter, food & culture, all types of sci-fi and fantasy, gender issues, etc…
I was speaking at a session of the American Culture section on the evolution of the Arm & Hammer emblem, part of my ongoing labor graphics project. The other presenters in my group were all really good. The speakers included Andrew Harrington (The House That Cultural Capitol Built: The Saga of the New York Yankee Stadium), Ellen Dornan from the New Mexico Humanities Council (Atlas of Historic New Mexico Maps: Cultural Identity Through Cartography, an on-line interactive project) and Michael Nagle (U of Conn), who was stranded in Connecticut by the stormy weather, but presented long-distance by phone and e-mail (That Magnificent Land of Sunshine, Health, and Wealth: How Early Twentieth Century US Companies Sold Cuba’s Isle of Pines). Thanks the the chair Kelli Shapiro (Brown U) for coordinating (and inviting me!).
This conference had a really active comics and animation section. I heard a good group of papers in the Batman section, particularly Symbol and Color in The Dark Knight Returns: Visual Depictions of Relationality Between Batman and Robin by Andrew Bahlmann (U of N, Las Vegas) and Forever Batman: Neil Gaiman, Identity, and the Compensations of Eternal Recurrence by Brandon Kempner (New Mexico Highlands University). I also enjoyed Serial Pleasure: The Original Flash Gordon by Patrick Enright (Northeastern State U) and No Future Shock Here: The Jetsons, Happy Tech and the Patriarchy by Brian Cowlishaw (also NSU). Other highlights (to me, anyway) were Cinematic Cross-Cultural Collaboration: Alec Morgan and Australian Aboriginal Communities by Davinia Thornley (U of Otago, New Zealand) and Atlantis on our Minds: Through the Stargate and Under the Sea to Find a Lost World by Beth Petitjean (Villanova). There were also mumblers who read their papers like it was their first book report, and others that were so pretentious and full of themselves that I just wanted to slap them.
I’m guessing that about a quarter of the people who planned to come to the conference that live on the east coast couldn’t make it, due either to the blizzards that hit the east coast or the freak storms that hit the southeast (from Dallas to Atlanta and Florida). It was still a good turnout though, and the people who were there were all enthused about the material and actively participated in discussion.
The Hyatt at Albuquerque Civic Center, where the conference was based, was very nice and grateful to have the business. They bent over backward to help. The hotel was just a couple blocks from the restaurant row called Central Avenue, which is actually Route 66. Generally, I found everyone I met in Albuquerque to be warm and chatty. I also made it to some of the museums in ALBQ and in Santa Fe, but I will post about that separately.
Photo on left by Kim Munson, 2010. Cell snap of mountains looking out the window of my room at the Hyatt over the Albuquerque Court House.

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