By Kindred Winecoff
The annual meeting of the American Political Science Association was last week. Its scheduled time — the week before Labor Day every year — is terrible and should be changed, but given the centrality of this conference within the discipline it is almost required for advanced graduate students and new assistant professors to attend. The conference itself is frequently underwhelming. It is hot and crowded, and I always come away having learned less than I thought I should. That, coupled with my only-recent attempt to get back onto a normal human sleep schedule after a summer’s worth of research mania, left me tired and irritated.
So having the entire conference majorly disrupted for the second year out of three enhanced my irritability immensely. Two years ago, when I was entering the job market, the conference was canceled. You see, there are often hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico this time of year. Notwithstanding this fact the organizers scheduled the flagship conference of the premier political science association in New Orleans. Going to New Orleans during August makes little sense even in the best of times: it’s muggy and hot, the city tends to smell bad in such conditions, and yet folks feel compelled to dress for business at the meeting. We should never blame victims, I agree, but planning to accommodate about 10,000 political scientists in this environment was unwise. So no one was surprised when Hurricane Isaac made his way up the Gulf. The conference was canceled in full. At least I got a meme out of it. In the end, #APSA2012HungerGames was probably more fun than #APSA2012 would’ve been, and some enterprising folks gave their presentations online (#VirtualAPSA2012) so a quasi-conference happened anyway.
Last was as uneventful — in the sense that means “not tragic” and also “pretty dull” — as you would expect and APSA meeting to be, so we were due this year. And we got it. First came the bombshell that there would be panels scheduled for 7:30 a.m. on Saturday. I was put on one of them. This is ridiculous. The whole reason most of us become political scientists in the first place was so that we wouldn’t have to do this sort of thing.
No worries! All those panels would be canceled once the meeting was attacked by suspected arsonists. Wait… what’s that? Yes, someone attacked the damn political scientists. Who? Who knows! (My guess is someone associated with Tom Coburn.) Why? Why ask why? All that matters is that all social order broke down at the Washington Marriott Wardman and, while we got some more decent snark, for the second time in three years the main conference in our discipline was mangled. And next year is in San Francisco where, well, you know.
As part of that, for the second time in three years I didn’t get to give my damn presentation. So here’s what I would have talked about had my venue not been torched: