The Duck of Minerva

The Duck Quacks at Twilight

Countdown to ISA: heal the world, make the ISA a better place

March 13, 2014

It’s that time of year again. IR freaks, geeks, superstars, and fans flock to the International Studies Association Annual Conference (except those wimps that avoid the cold Canadian destinations).
Over the next week I’m going to write a few short, fun posts as we countdown to the jet lag, red-eyed check in (red carpet arrival show), the boot camp style pre-ISA workshops (pre-show analysis), and our blogging reception on Thursday (the main event). The topic for today? 5 steps that would change your ISA world for the better…feel free to share your own healing steps!

1. Coffee. I’m serious, there are approximately 3000 academics and the coffee options are one jammed Starbucks, the stale tea-bag coffees in your room, or a snake line from 3 mysteriously placed coffee carafes throughout the hotel. Please ISA exec, I will pay $10 more in my fees if you provide coffee at all 8am panels. Doing so will also mean that people will actually attend the first panels ON TIME and stay awake. Everyone wins (except Starbucks). Oh, and please bring your reusable coffee cups people.
2. This one is going to be more controversial, but I’m going to just throw it out there: we need less panels. I don’t think the ISA needs to be exclusive or anything, but I think there is a conference ‘tail’ of about 20% of panels that are beyond non-cohesive, and/or end up with 3 presenters- or less- or no discussant at the last minute (we’ve all been on one). Cut the tail off. Are we really doing academics or grad students a favor by reassigning their paper to a panel that has nothing to do with their topic after the original panel dissolves (which happens all the time!)? Or by assigning a discussant a the last minute who has absolutely no expertise or knowledge of the majority of the topics on the panel?
3. We definitely need less roundtables. There is a time and a place for roundtables- discussing major concepts, developments in the field, a recent important publication; however, some roundtables I’ve been to end up being ‘what my friends and I have to say about topic x’. Is doesn’t always work.
4. One hotel. Points 2 and 3 would contribute to this. The conference is so huge and- let’s be honest- the second hotel is a real drag. No one wants to present at the second hotel, some people change their minds about going to a panel if they have to cross the street (seriously- you know it is true!!), and there are twice as many chances of confusing Ballroom 3 with Colonial Room 3.
5. More opportunities to buy cheap books. The final day half price/$5 book sale kills me. I’m forced with the choice of attending panels and meetings or buying a stack of books that will not fit into my suitcase and that I will not read before the next ISA- but that I WANT!!! Save me from this agony and open the book zone at 7am or have an evening shopping session….and can trolleys be provided?

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Megan MacKenzie is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Government and International Relations at the University of Sydney in Australia. Her main research interests include feminist international relations, gender and the military, the combat exclusion for women, the aftermaths of war and post-conflict resolution, and transitional justice. Her book Beyond the Band of Brothers: the US Military and the Myth that Women Can't Fight comes out with Cambridge University Press in July 2015.