Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Big Idea: Hosting an Academic Conference

US universities long ago abandoned serious research in the humanities and social sciences and now only hire politically correct hacks. So I am taking it upon myself to make up some of the slack. It is true I have no institutional organizations. I am just one man with no money living in the desert. Nevertheless, I believe that I could organize a successful one day conference.

Arivaca has a great community center. It is part of the Pima County system. Barton Santello rented it earlier this year to host a film exposition. About 65 people attended the event. I do not anticipate quite so many people attending my conference. But, the conference will be open to the public, so anybody who can make it to Arivaca would be welcome to hear the presenters talk and ask them questions. I am going to keep the number of papers limited to a dozen so that we can get through them all in a day and have plenty of time for questions and discussions. I am also factoring in time for two coffee breaks and a sandwich lunch for the participants.

The topic of the conference would be international borders and migration in comparative perspective. Arivaca is right in the middle of one of the largest migration routes across an international border anywhere in the world. I am going to arrange for the conference presenters to go see the border crossing point at Sasabe. Just over the Mexican side of the border at Sasabe is one of the largest staging points for illegal immigrants into the US. Hence Arivaca far from being in the middle of nowhere is in the middle of one of the largest movements of humanity in modern times.

I am also going to try and get a representative from the Border Patrol to address the conference. I am not sure if they would be willing to do this, but I think it would be a good opportunity for them in terms of community outreach and public relations. A fifteen or twenty minute presentation with ten to fifteen minutes for questions by a member of the Border Patrol would really add to the event. It would put a human face on one aspect of the current migration situation on the border. The tendency for academics to reduce human problems to mere abstractions is a very real one and one I want to avoid at all costs.

In addition to papers on migration from Mexico and other Spanish speaking countries in the Americas to the US, I would like to have experts speak on migration from Central Asia and the Caucasus to Russia and migration from North Africa to the European Union. I am seeking proposals from historians, sociologists, geographers, political scientists, economists and anthropologists. I have been to a couple of workshops and conferences dealing with borders and migration in Eurasia that definitely added to the sum of the world's published knowledge. I think by expanding the comparative framework that I can generate even more understanding of these historical trends.

Unfortunately, I will not be able to provide any financial assistance to any of the presenters. I will also have to charge a registration fee to cover the cost of renting the community center and providing lunch and coffee. I will definitely try and keep this fee under $100 a person. I am going to probably start organizing the conference in earnest in September of this year. Right now I am aiming for a fall 2007 date for the actual event. If anybody has any interest please let me know. You can e-mail me or leave a comment here.


Chris O'Byrne said...

Awesome idea, I'll be there!
(I also sent you an email.)

J. Otto Pohl said...

Chris I got your e-mail. I assume you want to attend the conference as part of the audience. I did not see any proposal for a paper on migration and borders. My family also thinks the conference ideas is great. Now if I can only find some presenters.

Chris O'Byrne said...

I wish I had more experience with the issue. Now if we were talking avian migration...