By Marie Gethins, PhD candidate with the School of English, Irish, and Communication. University of Limerick
“The Southwest Popular/American Culture Association (SWPACA) held its 40th anniversary conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico over 20-23 February. Spanning more than 70 areas, topics ranged from Animation Studies to Zombie Culture and everything in-between. With a mission to promote innovative and non-traditional academic movements in humanities and social sciences that celebrate diverse cultural heritages, SWPACA 2019 provided four days of animated panel discussions and insightful presentations. Choosing among the 526 sessions proved difficult and I suppressed the urge to nab another attendee’s Hermione Granger time-turner necklace.
“Much of ‘The Esoteric Gnostic Transmission of Philip K. Dick’ panel’s elevated debate ploughed deep philosophical ground, however the concept of ‘stacked time lines’ may be the solution to an issue in my novel. ‘An Analysis of the Function of Myth in Post-Colonial Oceanic Literature’ lead to a wider discussion of myth’s role in modern cultures, including Ireland. The ‘Disability in Film’ sessions also proved immensely useful. Several academic publishers presented at the conference and I found Intellect Books’ Amy Damutz particularly interesting. Intellect’s catalogue covers a broad range of media and arts subjects, taking an academic approach to popular culture and they are actively seeking submissions and proposals.
“I was gratified (and somewhat intimidated) that a Baum scholar and professor from the University of Texas made a point of welcoming me ahead of my paper on L. Frank Baum’s portrayal of disability and body image as influenced by World War I. She helped stimulate discussion after my presentation and we’ve started an email exchange on source material.
“Apart from academic immersion, SWPACA also offers the opportunity for socialising with game and movie nights, dinner crawls, and microbrewery tours. My advanced age proved an asset at the postgraduate student breakfast when I was the solitary attendee that could name the arch nemesis in Donkey Kong Land 2 (King K. Rool – FYI).
“SWPACA encompasses an immense variety of popular culture topics from an academic perspective offering the opportunity to expand your knowledge area and perhaps discover new avenues to explore.”
Follow Marie on Twitter @MarieGethins
Find out more about postgraduate research in the Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences here.