The Duck of Minerva

The Duck Quacks at Twilight

Some of What I Picked Up at ISA This Year

February 19, 2009

A series of short posts will follow with targeted reflections on what I learned at panels and dinners this past week, and how it ties into my take on world events. For now however, let me share a few random things I learned while attending this year’s International Studies Association Annual Meeting in Manhattan:

1) “Lead pencil shavings” is, according to some but not others, apparently a coveted flavor for modestly expensive Italian wine. Who would have thought.

2)…Edward James Olmos is licensed to perform marriages in the state of California; a triplicate chant of “so say we all” is apparently quite a good substitute for the traditional wedding march.

3) The View Restaurant on the roof of the Marriott Marquis is “the only revolving roof top restaurant in New York.” And the Marriott Marquis proudly advertises this on a big sign by the elevators.

4) I am now in the market for an IPhone. This became glaringly obvious to me when, while drinking with my former doctoral students in a wireless cold-spot (that is, pretty much the entire Marriott if you weren’t one of those independently wealthy IR scholars), I noticed on the television across the bar that two nuclear submarines had “collided”, and only by appealing to a nearby colleague’s IPhone could I determine whether or not to stay put or ditch the Dogfish Head and start immediately blogging. (My lack of posting during ISA should make it obvious what I decided. However, see Sam Leith’s sardonic take on the whole “nuclear submarine fender-bender.”)

5) I will not be acquiring many of the available IPhone applications. Any tool designed to convince me that I have a 27.9 percent chance of being killed by “wildlife” in the Harmony View pub in Times Square is… well.

6) The impact of Web 2.0 on the actual profession of IR is unmatched by the impact of Web 2.0 on our professional association’s logistical planning. For more, see Peter’s post. Perhaps I should reconsider the article I was about to start cooking up with Dan Drezner about how Blogger and Facebook are changing everything in the discipline. It starts to seem a little silly throwing that idea out at a professional conference where you can barely obtain a Powerpoint projector.

7) A number of graduate students I met this year are apparently of the view that if they critique an established scholar’s writing, they need to apologize in advance, at least as long as they expect to be able to carry on a civil conversation with that scholar (me) over a drink. Let me disillusion all of this: engagement is flattery in academia, and part of our job is to include in our work a few targets for the next generation. Besides, if we can’t knock glasses at the end of the day with our epistemological adversaries, what fun is it to be surrounded by 4,000 political scientists?

8) In case this post leads any one to think that all I did at ISA is drink alcohol and geek out over gadgets and science fiction shows, let me assure you I imbibed a fair amount of coffee as well, and just to prove it check out this quote by Po Bronson, fresh off a $6 Starbucks cup:

“Failure is hard but success is harder. If you’re successful @ the wrong thing, the combination of money, praise and opportunity can lock you in forever.”

As I looked around at grad students hob-nobbing and junior professors like myself lurching from panel to lunch to coffee to workshop peddling our modest proposals, I began to hope that we’re all trying to succeed at the right thing, and wondering how we would know.

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Charli Carpenter is a Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. She is the author of 'Innocent Women and Children': Gender, Norms and the Protection of Civilians (Ashgate, 2006), Forgetting Children Born of War: Setting the Human Rights
Agenda in Bosnia and Beyond (Columbia, 2010), and ‘Lost’ Causes: Agenda-Setting in Global Issue Networks and the Shaping of Human Security (Cornell, 2014). Her main research interests include national security ethics, the protection of civilians, the laws of war, global agenda-setting, gender and political violence, humanitarian affairs, the role of information technology in human security, and the gap between intentions and outcomes among advocates of human security.