Madina Bizhanova, MAERES 2018, reflects on her experience attending ASEEES for the first time.
Last week I attended the 48th annual convention of the Association for Slavic, East European & Eurasian Studies (ASEEES) that took place in Marriott Wardman Park, Washington’s largest hotel, on November 17-20.
As a student of Eurasian studies, I was looking forward to gain insight into the scholarly society of ASEEES, publisher of the Slavic Review, one of the leading journals in the field. A first-time attendee, I was first struck by a truly grand scale of the convention. Every two hours about 50 panels were taking place simultaneously and the variety of options was almost overwhelming.
Despite ASEEES’ regional focus, the convention took place under the theme of “Global Conversations”, which seems to be an attempt to emphasize the significance of Eurasia as for academicians so for the policymakers. The panels I attended seemed to contribute to this effort, one of them directly addressing the question “How Area Studies Scholars Can Go Global, or Not”, others debating the prospects of the US-Russian relations in the context of the upcoming change in the US leadership. Even the panel on history, “Crossing and Creating Borders in the Postwar USSR”, emphasized the limits of borders in containing political, social, and cultural movements.
Most of the panel discussions evolved like any academic essay. First, the moderator introduces the research question to the audience and explains its importance. Then each panel member summarizes his or her paper and the final speaker evaluates each paper on its own merits and then in terms of its contribution to the panel question. However, unlike in usual essay-writing, panel discussion provides you with an opportunity to ask the authors a few questions before drawing your overall conclusions. It was exciting to see how academic scholarship was advancing forward before your own eyes in a matter of a few hours.
The convention was not only an academic event. Like any major gatherings of professionals of one field, the convention provided the attendees with networking opportunities. Some of the ‘special events’ included roundtables on careers of the Eurasian Studies graduates, such as “Lessons Learned: Initiatives on Careers beyond the Professoriate” chaired by the director of my program, Benjamin Loring, and “Careers in Think Tanks and Policy Institutes”, chaired by a prominent author on Central Asia, Anna Grzymala-Busse, from Stanford University. These careers panels were followed by Eurasian program receptions, such as my own at Georgetown University, which brought together graduates of these programs with current students, allowing the latter to find out various career paths they could opt to follow.