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Anxious gatekeeping

Analogous to nervous cluelessness is something we might call “anxious gatekeeping.”   This is desire to police the borders of poetry, or of...

Wednesday, February 23, 2011


Conferences, in my field, lack prestige. Pretty much anyone who sends in an abstract can give a paper at many of these, even some graduate students who might not be wholly ready to present in a professional context. Conferences are great for networking, but you don't want to have a dozen conference papers with only two articles to show for your efforts. Not every conference paper needs to be an article, but you need to have close to a 1/1 ratio of papers to articles.

I don't think you need to give every single article you publish as a paper either. Don't let conferences be the engine driving your scholarship.

Because some conferences accept just about anyone, the audience has to suffer through many horribly bad papers. I couldn't believe my ears when I went to my first conference as a Graduate student. We had a segregated ession with four graduate students, and all the papers were excellent. Nobody attended, except the participants ourselves and the session moderator, a pompous, condescending asshole faculty member from the Institution hosting the event. He told us how we had a long way to go before we were mature scholars. The next day, when I went to a non-graduate student session, i was shocked to see two papers with pedestrian thematic criticism, of the type you might expect of a high-school student, or bare plot summaries. I was so naive that I assumed mature scholars would have nuanced, subtle approaches to literature.


If your field values conferences, then those will have more prestige. In linguistics, for example, papers are selected through a rigorous process. You need to know what the value of a conference is for your particular field.

1 comment:

Clarissa said...

I was shocked to see my colleagues in German lit go through numerous rejections of the abstracts they submitted for conferences. Apparently, in Germanic Studies there are many conferences where it is next to impossible to get accepted.