Thanks to Victoria Lamont and Kevin McGuirk, faculty in Waterloo’s Department of English Language and Literature, for organizing and hosting “Total Money Makeover: Culture and the Economization of Everything,” an incredible interdisciplinary conference. Generously supported by SSHRC, and sponsored by the Canadian Association for American Studies, the conference featured amazing speakers, papers, panels, and one exhibition.
Plenary speaker Jim Stanford of Canadian Auto Workers was a popular favorite, as attested to by the fact that the audience was still repeating his jokes 18 hours later. The second plenary speaker, Randy Martin, of the Tisch School of the Arts, managed to tie together economics and dance together in truly unanticipated but much appreciated ways—including some physical demonstration of his thesis. I, for one, never expected to hear Martha Graham and derivatives placed in conversation.
Graduate students working under Dr. Beth Coleman organized and mounted an exhibition in conjunction with the conference titled “Invisible Cities: Located Knowledge and Digital Design.” The reception afterwards drew the conference attendees to the Communitech Hub, where we interacted with exhibitors and participants. Those graduate students who came to the panel organized just for them about career paths received amazing advice from faculty ranging from an academic VP (Bruce Tucker), to the president-elect of ACCUTE (Jason Haslam), to a recent book prize winner (Stephen Schryer), to Waterloo’s own Aimée Morrison, co-founder and contributor to the popular hookandeye blog.
I saw so many fantastic papers I can’t even begin to list them. Peter Robert Brown (Mount Allison) woke us all up at 8am with musical supplements to his paper on the LA Punk music industry and the ethics of production in the 1970s; Art Redding (York University) gave a paper on Prohibition Culture with a surprise reveal at the end (hint: Al Capone), and there were papers on Depression-era scrip (Sarah Elvins, Manitoba) as well as the 19thC shinplasters of African American author William Wells Brown (Ross Bullen, Mount Allison). Recently defended PhDs Ashna Bhagwanani and Craig Love (both Waterloo) presented on 19thC depictions of female criminals and Emily Dickinson, respectively. As always, graduate students from a host of institutions and programs gave solid papers: Chris Vanderwees of Carleton wins for giving his paper, and also filling in for another panelist at the last minute. Two active CAAS members co-presented papers written with their students, Bruce Tucker (Windsor) and Nat Hurley (Alberta). I really wanted to see the paper by Nat and Brianna Wells on operatic versions of Moby Dick, but was on at the same time. So, unfortunately, was the hotel’s fire alarm, but everyone was so friendly through it all, it hardly mannered that a few papers had unexpected intermissions in the parking lot.
Again, thanks to Victoria and Kevin, who I would like to believe are napping somewhere right now. And if anyone reading this makes it to Banff in 2014 for the American Circuits, American Secrets conference please do buy them a drink—they are very deserving.
Excuse the bad photo quality. The President of CAAS–me–is just too busy taking note of what people are doing to think about composition.–JLH