Friday, January 13, 2017
January 13, 2017: Spring 2017 Previews: NeMLA Conference
[Next week, a new semester begins; so this week, I’ll preview five classes and other aspects of that semester, this time through the lens of teaching and working in the age of Trump. Leading up to a special weekend post on book talks and plans!]
On one thing I know we’ll talk about in Baltimore in March, and one I very much hope we will.
I’ve been writing about the 2017 Northeast Modern Language Association (NeMLA) conference in Baltimore since just after my 2016 conference in Hartford ended, and looking forward to it for even longer than that. The current NeMLA President, my friend Hilda Chacón; our NeMLA Executive Director, my friend Carine Mardorossian; the current 1st Vice President, my friend Maria DiFrancesco; and the whole NeMLA Board have helped put together an extremely impressive schedule (not yet released, but watch this space!) of panels, special sessions and events, and local opportunities, and as usual I’m very excited to attend the conference from start to finish (which I’ve really only done for NeMLA conferences for many years now, and which I’m genuinely excited to do—something, as any academic can tell you, that certainly isn’t always the case with conferences).
Working with our collaborating colleagues and departments at Johns Hopkins University, and using her own scholarly and personal expertise and experiences as guides, Hilda has come up with a conference theme that couldn’t be more timely and vital: “Translingual and Transcultural Competence: Toward a Multilingual Future in the Global Era.” (She also invited me to contribute a short essay on that theme for an upcoming issue of NeMLA’s journal Modern Language Studies; again, watch this space!) I think it’s fair to say that both multilingualism and globalism are likely to be threatened concepts in Trump’s America (other than when it comes to, y’know, Russia), although indeed both have been under siege for some time from many American voices and communities (during the 2008 presidential campaign Mitt Romney critiqued Barack Obama for suggesting that Americans should learn multiple languages, noting, “Barack Obama looks to Europe for many of his ideas; John McCain wants America to stay America”). Talking about them at academic conferences won’t be nearly enough to resist and challenge those threats, of course—but talking can undoubtedly help us strategize about ways to support languages and multicultural and global initiatives, in education, politics, and society overall.
Academics themselves are also likely to face new threats in the age of Trump, perhaps overall but certainly in two specific categories: those who work at public institutions (as I do); and, especially, those in contingent and adjunct faculty positions. During my time on the NeMLA Board, and culminating in the planning for my own 2016 conference, I’ve worked with NeMLA’s CAITY Caucus (and especially its former President Emily Lauer) to organize a number of sessions and conversations about, and ways to support, adjunct and contingent faculty members and related efforts and issues. I mean that the 2016 conference represented an individual culmination of those efforts of mine, but not at all that our collective conversations should or will end with those 2016 sessions. Quite the opposite, I think it’ll be vitally important for the 2017 conference—and indeed for every academic gathering in the age of Trump—to engage directly with the issues facing these most vulnerable of our colleagues and communities, and to talk together about both how we as an organization (and as individuals) can support them and how we can work to make clear to all Americans the need for such shared support and solidarity.
Special post this weekend,
PS. What do you think? Spring plans you’d highlight or share?