A Geek’s Guide to the 2016 PCA/ACA Conference

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 MediaThe Mary Sueand 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.

Octavia's Brood, a collection of science fiction to inform social justice, https://anarchiststudies.files.wordpress.com/2015/01/1535560_10153522062499278_4812233767583453598_n.jpg

Octavia’s Brood, a collection of science fiction to inform social justice, https://anarchiststudies.files.wordpress.com/2015/01/1535560_10153522062499278_4812233767583453598_n.jpg

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.



About Emma Louise Backe

PhD student in Medical Anthropology at the George Washington University and independent consultant, focusing on the intersections of international development, global health, reproductive health justice, gender-based violence, and the politics of care. Social justice sailor scout working on behalf of survivors of sexual violence, gender equity, and comprehensive sexual and reproductive health among vulnerable populations.

There are 3 comments

  1. Keziah Wallis

    Sounds like an awesome conference. My “freedom” project for once I hand in my thesis is to do some fun ethnography/auto-ethnography on female D&D players. I started out in popular culture and migrated to religion but I find myself missing the opportunity to geek-out under the guise of academic scholarship.


  2. brtrain

    I’m looking forward to this conference too. It was Nick’s post waybackwhen last June that made me aware of the conference and that I could present something at it, and now he is on my very panel!
    Seattle Art Museum (University at 1st Avenue) has some good exhibits including one on Duchamp, and the Frye Art Museum (Terry at Cherry) has an exhibit of Soviet propaganda posters 1918-29. My kind of thing.
    You should go to Left Bank Books, Pike at 1st Avenue, just across the street from the entrance to the Pike Place Market; good books on politics and culture at good prices. Also the Elliot Bay Book Company, Pike at 10th Ave. Heck, just go up and down Pike Street all week; the hotel is at Pike and 6th Avenue.

    Liked by 2 people

Join the conversation! Share your thoughts!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s