There was a time when to go to an academic conference was an exciting thing for me. A nexus of ideas and irony-laden in-conversations, revelling wallowing in a sea of self-contentedness and sure in the knowledge that this next session of papers would help me to transform my world. I think my first conference was in 1995, the SAI in Belfast. I got drunk, looked at some murals and went home. That same year I went to a conference in Berlin organised by the journal Theory, Culture and Society. It was so dull. I got drunk, looked at some wall and went home. The best bits of conferences are the bits in between the paper sessions: the time when people shuffle out of airless rooms nodding to each other “yea, that was good”, get drunk and go home.
Since the mid-1990s, I have been going to fewer and fewer of them, principally because they were not relevant to my job. This year I went to two in one week: the second one in Cork being the better, once I had let go of the notion that this conference will contain a paper that will transform my world.
Last week, this came into my inbox and I bookmarked it. I thought, sure, this is an opportunity to rekindle some of that enthusiasm. Session 8 or 9 looks like something I should be interested. After all,
the modern world is witnessing a rise of various forms of post-traditional spirituality and ‘re-enchantment’. This session calls for papers that address the relationship between modernity and religion.
Yes! That’s the session for me. I want to address the relationship between modernity and religion; I can chart the rise of “various forms” of post-traditional spirituality. Looking at it again now, I’m thinking: meh! If I have to drum up that enthusiasm, it probably isn’t worth worrying about the deadline. Then again….