Affirmation: BAAS

This time last week, I was taking in the delights of Wiltshire as I made the journey via South London to Exeter for the British Association of American Studies (BAAS) annual conference. It was quite a trek, and I was naturally fretting about the kind of reception that my paper would get in front of an audience of my peers. Really, I knew what I could expect, and had little reason to worry. This is because I had already delivered a paper at the previous year’s conference. At that time I was still working a full-time job and my holidays were being eaten up by PhD applications, funding proposals, and trips to the British Library. I didn’t mind it; it was a welcome release. Though I loved my job, my passion has always been further study, and it was such a great opportunity to be able to meet the people working in my field before I had even embarked on my academic journey. More than anything, it helped to reaffirm why I had decided to make that leap into the unknown and leave behind the corporate world in which I felt so at ease and in control.

Since starting my PhD in October, I have had to relearn my attitudes towards everything, and accept that control is something that is peculiarly elusive in the doctoral world. That’s okay though, because I have realised that I like to live a little on the edge, and I’m excited about the prospective uncertainty that I will face in my career, because the people that have touched my life over the past year have helped me to see that the possibilities are endless. The life of a researcher can be quite isolating, and I can see why it would be easy for a lot of people in my shoes to become reclusive, but I have always thrived in a communal environment, and am always seeking out opportunities to attend seminars, conferences and meet up with like-minded friends who I can bounce my ideas off of. BAAS, for me, is the culmination of all of this. With such a thriving community of Americanists, it is hard not to find someone with whom you share some kind of intellectual overlap. When I arrived at the second panel of the morning last Friday to deliver my paper, I was amazed and overwhelmed by the number of people who had come along to listen, and engage with the arguments being presented (last year, I had an audience of about 9, which included the other two panelists and the chair). It was thrilling, and truly enlivening, and I met some wonderful people who were able to offer me some great advice off the back of it.

A week before the BAAS conference, I went out with my mum, and we spoke about the recent work that I had been doing in the archives. I was happy to see her taking an interest in my work, and she gave me some important things to take away and consider. It also reminded me why communication is so vital to research; when my research, in particular, considers how phantoms of the unconscious have been channeled throughout history, there is no way that I can conceive of exorcising these phantoms without bearing them out publicly. What we bring to light must be shared with the world – and not just the familiar world, but the world in its entirety.


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