By Emma Louise Backe
This week, Nick Mizer and I will be headed out to Seattle, Washington to attend the annual PCA/ACA Conference. Popular culture itself is a slippery term, one that cuts across multiple disciplines and theoretical orientations. Literary, Film, Media, Sociological, Queer, Historical, American and Anthropological scholars gather to discuss forthcoming research and dedicate scholarship to how popular culture both reflects and informs society writ large. Nick has been a “fan” of PCA for some time, but this will be my first time both attending and presenting at the conference.
Due to the interdisciplinary nature of the conference, panels are organized by topic rather than academic department. Broader topics like “Internet Culture” and “Fan Culture and Theory” include presentations like “Fandom As Protest Space,” “Feminist Geek Culture,” and “Death and the Digital Narrative,” while other topics are far more specific, such as Stephen King, Tolkien Studies and the vampire in literature, television and film. PCA is also a space to complicate the mobility and globalized nature of popular culture, with panels on Brazilian popular culture, Eastern European Studies, German Literature and Media and Latin American Studies. I will be presenting at a horror panel on Wednesday, March 23rd on the feminist, transgressive potentiality of “mother monster” and Nick will be chairing Game Studies panels with Matthew Wysocki throughout the week.
While Public Anthropologists and blogs like Savage Minds and Pop Anth have applied ethnographic methods and theory to pop culture, pressing anthropology to remain pertinent a broader readership, pop culture is not a typical topic of inquiry for anthropologists, nor does it invoke the same academic respect as more “traditional” ethnography. Yet, like Bitch Media, The Mary Sue, and so many other blogs dedicated to smart, sly analysis of pop culture, I believe that popular culture can be used as an agent of change or a mechanism to maintain the status quo. Analyzing popular culture helps us to better understand contemporary ideologies, biases and belief systems, in addition to providing a platform for more diverse representation and social justice issues. There are political dimensions to popular culture that need to be recognized and fan investment in pop culture has led to increased accountability and awareness among both consumers and producers. That being said, I’m pretty stoked to be in a space where pop culture is taken seriously and I can professionally “geek out” with other fans under the guise of scholarship.
This will also be my first time in Seattle. Apart from being the “birth place of grunge” and the setting for some of my favorite podcasts, Seattle is supposed to be a dream destination for anyone who loves coffee and books as much as I do. I plan to go to the Seattle Public Library; the EMP Museum, which combines pop culture, music, sci fi, fantasy and horror; the Burke Museum and the Fremont Troll. There’s also a mystery book shop, comic book store Fantagraphics, and the opportunity of catching 10 Cloverfield Lane at Cinerama.
Do you have recommendations about where we should go? Want to meet up in Seattle? Tweet Emma at @emmalouisebacke and/or Nick at @nickmizer. We hope to see you there!
The 2016 Pop Culture Association Conference will take place March 22-25 in Seattle, Washington. The conference is hosted by the Pop Culture Association and the American Culture Association. Conference attendees can download the PCA/ACA 2016 National Conference App to navigate panels and plan for presentations.