Also Not for the Squeamish (Or for Anybody, Apparently)– Feminist Alcohol and Drugs Scholarship

Earlier today, Points Contributing Editor Michelle McClellan used her experience in a near-empty room at a Women’s Studies conference to explore the difficulty of crossing disciplinary borders to do meaningful research on addiction.  This was a very mature thing for her to do.  Let me lower the tone of discussion a bit by drawing attention to her mention of the absurd ratio of panelists (4) to audience members (1) at her presentation.  I had a similar experience at the National Women’s Studies Association annual meeting in 2009

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Interdisciplinary Collaboration–Not for the Squeamish

It might sound like the beginning of a bad joke: one historian, two social workers, and a psychologist walk into a conference room…. but there we were, at the Michigan Women’s Studies Association conference last weekend, ready to launch an interdisciplinary discussion of issues related to addiction and gender.  (The conference, “Leading the Way: Feminism, Education, and Social Change,” was hosted by Grand Valley State University ).

Which brings us to the second joke:  If you deliver a conference presentation in an empty room, does it make a sound?  At first, my colleagues and I, all from the University of Michigan, were the only ones there.  Granted, this was the last session of the day, after a rousing keynote event that felt like the climax of the conference, so I hadn’t expected a packed room, but still!  After an awkward pause, we determined that we might as well offer our prepared remarks to one another.  A few minutes in, one brave soul arrived to serve as audience.  Even though she was outnumbered by the panelists at 4:1, the audience member asked several questions after each presentation.  Many of her queries sought information and clarification, while others challenged our basic assumptions.  I have no doubt that the necessity to articulate our ideas for her forced us to achieve greater clarity, in ways we might not have talking only to one another.  Among ourselves, we risked falling into a kind of academic shorthand that actually obscured more than it revealed, especially given our disciplinary differences.

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