In an icy March, I attended the 2023 Convention of the International Studies Association (ISA) in beautiful Montreal. It was my third ISA convention, being the first totally online (see my blog post about it here), the second one in Nashville, Tennessee, which was a hybrid format (online and in-person), and this time around, it was only an in-person gathering.
Being my second in-person convention, it was a different experience from my participation in Nashville. I immensely enjoyed it, as I knew what to expect and learned about the convention’s culture.
For all new participants in international conventions, I have some advice: do not judge your experience by your first event. Being a newcomer is always challenging. Particularly in conventions like ISA because everybody seems to know each other, and you feel like an outsider the first time. It just takes a bit of time to learn the lingo of the convention and start appreciating it as the rest of the participants. From learning how to get free books at the exhibition hall to finding the much-sought “drink tickets,” once you know the convention´s ins and outs, the experience is much more enjoyable and rewarding.
Some of the crucial advantages of participating in such gatherings are easy to spot, such as
Other advantages are not as evident but are no less important. For example, I was able to learn not only about the academic achievement of the different sections’ awards but also about their life experiences and personal stories. In Montreal, I was fortunate to attend the awards ceremonies of three exemplary scholars: Eytan Gilboa (ICOMM section), Nicholas Cull (Diplomatic Studies section), and Amitav Acharya (Global IR section). Finding out about their careers, struggles, and generosity was amazing.
Presenting papers is always a challenge, but as one of the participants commented, it would be a lot harder for scholars to finish their papers without the deadlines imposed by the conventions. The conversations, recommendations, and even conflicting views improve the essays and your understanding of current trends. It also opens your mind to new perspectives and ideas that would be hard to do outside this venue, particularly for practitioners like me.
Attending conventions also allows you to meet people that otherwise would be hard to do. In Montreal, I cherish meeting in-person Juan Luis Manfredi, Vanessa Bravo, Tania Gómez Zapata, Ayca Arkilic, Juan Luis López-Aranguren, Cesar Villanueva Rivas, Christian Lequesne, Guadalupe Moreno Toscano, and Eduardo L. Tadeo Hernández. I even had the chance to speak briefly to Nicholas Cull, Jan Melissen, and Kadir Jun Ayhan. Thank you all for making Montreal a great experience.
Some people say that scholars live in a different world, but at least in IR, they all live the world today and are looking for ways to understand better how it works.
On an upsetting note, many participants from the Global South, even if they lived in the North, could not attend due to problems with getting a visa. Some got a negative response, and others got their visa approved a month after the event. ISA and the community at large need to address the multiple obstacles of attending a convention to meet the standards of inclusiveness and diversity fully.
On this occasion, on Twitter, I enjoyed the hotel carpet’s showcase and followed the most famous person at the convention, Prof Brent J Steele, with whom most participants took selfies. I also partook in the everlasting quest of where to get coffee quickly and cheaply.
So, whoever is considering participating in a convention, think long-term and do not judge your experience on the first one; it gets much better afterward. And I invite everybody to become part of a professional association as membership has its privileges.
Note: The blog post's title was adapted from a suggestion from Google´s Artificial Intelligence application Bard, which is the first time I used it.
DISCLAIMER: All views expressed on this blog are that of the author and do not represent the opinions of any other authority, agency, organization, employer or company.
Rodrigo Márquez Lartigue
Diplomat interested in the development of Consular and Public Diplomacies.