Monday, August 13, 2012

Response to Reflections on EUPOP 2012

Following my previous two posts reflecting on my experiences at EUPOP 2012, the conference organiser, Pamela Church-Gibson (PCG), has kindly offered a clarification of the conference and EUPOP as an association. Pamela hopes that her coments will clarify some of the issues raised in my blog post and by commenters and also invtes any ideas for papers, panels and / or the future direction that the conference and the association might take. She can be contacted directly by email: p.church-gibson@fashion.arts.ac.uk.

Regarding the issue of a keynote / roundtable presentation:
  • The first EUPOP conference was formed as an international affiliate of the PCA / ACA  and was part sponsored by the PCA. Therefore as with POPCAANZ and the East Asian Popular Culture Association conferences, EUPOP2012 had to follow guidance from the PCA's President as to the dates, format etc.  The PCA apparently do not fund invited keynote speakers. It is planned that for the second conference in Finland 2013, there will be a keynote / roundtable as the  European conference becomes more autonomous.
  • PCG had hoped (and had requested) that the issue of 'what is European Popular culture' would be addressed in the plenary session on the first day.  The plans for the plenary were in part thwarted by Di Holmes being unable to attend at the last minute. Therefore it was not the 'roundtable' discussion and debate that she  hoped would take place and the session took a very different direction to the one that she had originally planned. 
  • In addition a second delegate who had been invited by PCG to explore issues of European identity and ethnicity in media industries in an 'un-keynote' address also had to unfortunately withdraw at a late stage due to mitigating circumstances.  Prof. Daniela Berghahn (Royal Holloway) was invited by PCG in order to deliver a paper which explicitly addressed issues of ethnicity and transnational migration in European popular culture.
  • Due to the very low number of delegates at the final session on the Friday, it was decided by PCG that the session should focus upon feedback and planning for future conferences, building collaborations etc.  Had there been more delegates in attendance PCG would have started the closing session with a reflection and discussion about the range (and thematic absences) of papers that were submitted.

With regard to the issue of EUPOP as an 'Association'
:  

The inaugural EUPOP conference was intended to 'kick start' the association by bringing together disparate interdisciplinary scholars working on not just 'popular romance' (as you mention in your blog), but all forms of popular culture in Europe. 
PCG is aware that the name 'European Popular Culture Association' implies a formal membership system, but at the moment it is not an association to be 'joined' as it is in its fledgling stages.  The aim is to build a strong connection to the European Journal of Popular Culture (Intellect) and the other Intellect journals - and therefore there is somewhat of a chicken and egg issue - to implement the plan of 'membership and a journal subscription' requires journal content to be ready and the conference was intended in part as a place for potential contributors to be sourced.

In addition, a key issue with forming an 'association' is how EUPOP / EPCA will work with the other European branches such as those in Scandinavia, France and Spain.  Decisions need to be made as to what extent EUPOP / the journal will be discreet and / or collaborate with other existing branches.  PCG will be meeting with other key representatives in late August in order to discuss next year's conference and the direction that the association might take in the future. 

The aim of the  inaugural conference  - as outlined in the original call for papers, was to promote
the study of popular culture from, in, and about Europe. Popular culture involves a wide range of activities, outcomes and audiences;  EPCA aims to examine and discuss these different activities as they relate both to Europe, and to Europeans across the globe, whether contemporary or historical.
As outlined in the CFP, PCG wanted to 'be guided by the submissions'  - making the call as open as possible, in order to let interested scholars shape the direction that would be taken.  She hopes that year on year the conference and the association will be both open and interdisciplinary and yet also respond to developments and absences that emerge. 

PCG was fascinated by the range of proposals that were submitted - for instance, she never expected a panel on post colonial postcards and was very glad to see that both the historical and contemporary were explored within papers across the conference.  She was inspired by the enormous energy and enthusiasm of young scholars embracing social media and blogging to come together, form panels and communicate before, at and beyond the conference and this is an aspect she wishes to fully embrace in the future.  She felt that really interesting ideas that were being explored across the conference and was also acutely aware of the (unexpected) 'whiteness' of the conference - whilst issues of nationality were explored there was not as much exploration of non Caucasian identities as she thought and hoped that there might be. Instead representational issues of gender, sexuality, class, transnationalism, regional and national identity were those more explicitly running throughout the papers.

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