UWICAH 2013 postgraduate conference
Last Saturday was the UWICAH 2013 postgraduate conference -- that's the Universities in Wales Classics and Ancient History (I think). Delegates were a mix of MA, MPhil and PhD students, supplemented by a few academics in post, mostly from the universities of Cardiff, Lampeter, Birmingham and Swansea. The latter played host to the event, using the lovely Singleton Abbey. This former manor house, and the origin of the Singleton campus, was a surprise to me, as I literally did not know that the campus had a building that wasn't of greying, ugly concrete. Also got to say the for provided was on the event side, apparently they'd been successful enough to afford the luxury cakes with the buffet lunch. They also made sure to accommodate us awkward vegetarians. Coffee though was instant.
At the gentle urging of the organisers to us postgraduate researchers, I agreed to give a paper. It was only a short one, 15 mins plus 5 or so for questions, but it was the first academic presentation I've given since my master's -- I've done plenty of team briefings, training and engagement sessions and so on, but a retail environment is a bit different and the interaction and power-relationship of audience and speaker is quite different. I structured it into thirds: definitions of genocide, some (tenuous and preliminary findings), and a possible model to explain the pattern in a geopolitical model. My basic intent was to introduce the idea of genocide as an analytical framework to think with and against in studies of the ancient past and challenge preconceptions of its definition. The latter had a mixed success, it inspired some engagement from delegates in the coffee breaks, but at least one questioner in the session had completely failed to take on board the difference between academic (i.e. actual) and popular definitions. I took the route of outlining the talk on index cards to ensure I stuck to the time allocation but while still ensuring that I was talking and not doing a monotone reading. Feedback from others in attendance was positive so it couldn't have been too bad, hopefully.
I should also say that my colleague here in Cardiff University Ulriika Vihervalli gave a talk on 'homosexuality' in late antique Egypt. She managed that rare skill: she got the audience laughing.
I suppose some topic lend themselves to that more than others.
It was fantastic to have the chance to immediately engage with my academic peers from across the region and beyond and I commend the hard work of the organisers for making this happen. The day was well organised and the beautiful setting of Swansea University's Singleton Abbey served to accentuate the good will and thankfulness evident in those who attended.