Monday, March 6, 2017

A Tale of Two Conferences: Con Nooga and Central APA

Posing in front of a cool backdrop at Con Nooga!

In the last few weeks I've been lucky to attend two conferences that correspond to the two sides of this blog: Con Nooga here in Chattanooga, TN and the APA Central Division Meeting in Kansas City, MO.

I had a great time at both events, but they conspired to put me a bit behind in my usual responsibilities (like grading midterm papers).  So rather than an elaborate report, I thought I'd offer a few highlights from my experiences at each conference.

Con Nooga

  • Con Nooga is a multi-fandom convention here in Chattanooga, TN that covers science fiction, fantasy, horror, anime, and comics.  I also attended last year (see my report from Con Nooga 2016).
  • Con Nooga is larger and generally younger and more diverse than my other usual local con, Chattacon.  A lot of the younger attendees are huge anime fans.  Aside from a few things (like Ghost in the Shell), I'm not a huge anime person.  I don't know what the anime fans are dressed as or talking about half the time, but I love their energy and enthusiasm.
  • Con Nooga isn't primarily a literature focused con, but they have a great readers' track nonetheless.  I have to admit that this year I found Con Nooga's lineup of panels more interesting than Chattacon's.  I attended panels on N. K. Jemisin, horror authors, dystopias/utopias, science fiction horror, and Twin Peaks.
  • This year I managed to serve as a panelist.  The panel was called "Golden Age Science Fiction."  One of the questions I posed to my fellow panelists and the audience was: "Which of the Big Three (Asimov, Heinlein, and Clarke) do you like best?"  A few people said Heinlein.  I tried to make a case for Clarke (as I have on this blog).  Unfortunately one thing I forgot to do on the panel was advertise the blog!  I guess I was just too excited to talk about Asimov and friends.
  • One of the highlights of Con Nooga is the Star Trek versus Star Wars debate.  This year Star Trek won for the second year in a row, although apparently Star Wars has the edge over the ten-year history of the event.
  • The Con Nooga dealers' room is pretty great.  I got some books from Dave Schroeder, who has a humorous science fiction series about tech support for alien technology.  I met him at Chattacon in January, where I got his first book Xenotech Rising.  I enjoyed it (especially for the excellent puns), so I got the rest when he came to Con Nooga.
  • I also met a few other authors and fans from the area and had fun hanging out with my friend who was able to attend with me on Saturday.

Central APA

  • The APA (American Philosophical Association) has three division meetings every year: Eastern, Central, and Pacific.  I've been to each division's meetings over the years, but this was probably only my third time attending the Central.
  • Although I grew up only two states away in Minnesota, I had never been to Kansas City until I attended the 74th Worldcon there last August.  I had a great time in Kansas City for both conferences.  I had great barbecue both times.  This time I even tried Vegan barbecue made from jack fruit (it was a bit weird, but good).
  • At the Central APA, I took part in two panels organized by the APA Committee on Asian and Asian-American Philosophers and Philosophies (a committee on which I am currently serving).
  • The first panel was one that I had organized called "Incorporating Asian Philosophy into Pedagogy and Public Philosophy."  I was happy that several colleagues were able to accept my invitation to present on the panel: Julianne Chung, Anna Lannstrom, and Anand Vaidya with Prasanta Bandyopadhyay chairing.  My presentation was called "Popularizing Asian Philosophy: Why and How."  I argued that public philosophy ought to include Asian philosophy and gave a bunch of examples (including this blog!).
  • My second talk was for a panel on classical Indian epistemology along with Prasanta Bandyopadhyay, Anand Vaidya, Nilanjan Das, and Amit Chaturvedi.  My paper was called "Skepticism in Early Indian Philosophy," which made the claim that the types of skepticism found in later figures like Nāgārjuna, Jayarāśi, and Śrī Harṣa are prefigured in early Indian texts like the Ṛg Veda, Upaniṣads, and early Buddhist texts (a claim I plan to elaborate more in an upcoming book on the history of skepticism in classical India).
  • I also attended lots of other panels on topics including the contemporary relevance of Chinese philosophy, Pure Land Buddhism, rethinking the ways in which the discipline is organized around a largely mono-cultural canon, and an author-meets-critics panel for my colleague Doug Berger's book, Encounters of Mind: Luminosity and Personhood in Indian and Chinese Thought.
  • You don't get a lot of time for tourism at these things, but I did manage to sneak out a few times to wander around Kansas City on foot, by taxi/uber, and on the downtown streetcar.  And of course there was a lot of sampling of the products of the big local brewery, Boulevard.
  • As with most conventions of either the science fictional or philosophical variety, it was great to see old friends and make new contacts.  We may live in an age of digital citizenry, but as I've argued before, even for people like philosophers and science fiction fans who spend a lot of their lives reading and writing in solitude, it's still nice to hang out in person once in awhile.

So it's been an exciting (and somewhat exhausting) couple weeks for me.  I have a lot of work to catch up on this week and then I'm looking forward to spring break next week, which will afford me chances to keep catching up on work, to relax, and hopefully to do more blogging!

APA Panel: "Incorporating Asian Philosophy into Pedagogy and Public Philosophy"

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