Conference Craze

One of the best things about Swarthmore is that it is a school with a lot of money. And they use that money to support students in a variety of ways, including getting them to academic conferences. In case you didn’t know, the Dean’s office has up to $400 per year per student for anyone who wants to go to a conference. You can tap into this funding every year! And this isn’t the only way to get conference attendance funded, either. For example, as a member of the scientific Sigma Xi society I can apply to receive funds if I am presenting at a scientific conference, and Swarthmore pays my membership dues as long as I am a student. I’ve taken advantage of this every year. Freshman year, I went to Duke’s Apprentice Doctor Fall Break Intensive; Sophomore year, with the club Multi, I attended Cornell’s Blend Conference hosted by their equivalent club (for individuals identifying as multiracial). This year, I attended the 2017 Critical Mixed Race Studies (CMRS) Conference at USC.

The conference had 400+ attendees! Here, Alyssa Newman presents to a packed room on “Desiring the Standard Light Skin: Black Multiracial Boys, Masculinity, and Exotification”

Primarily designed for graduate students and academics, but open to the community, the CMRS conference was a powerhouse bringing together people from many disciplines and across the country (and world!) working on the multiracial experience. It was a landmark year as the conference transitioned from a biennial to an annual event, and celebrated the 50th anniversary of Loving v. Virginia (the Supreme Court case that outlawed miscegenation laws). All the pioneers of the field were in attendance. Not to mention, this was my first time on the West Coast!!!

Maria P. P. Root, instrumental in establishing the field of multiracial studies with her book Racially Mixed People in America receives a Lifetime Achievement Award. To her left are Paul Spickard and G. Reginald Daniel, two other prominent academics.

The campus was absolutely stunning, and it was nice to get away in the middle of February to California!

This is one of the libraries at USC. Enough said, certainly not McCabe…
Certainly a different school from Swarthmore which has no football team

In an impressive curation of events I was busy the entire three days, with an average of four sessions to choose from for a given time segment. Among the most interesting talks I attended were “Theorizing the Foundations of Critical Mixed Race Studies” in which panelists, well known in the field, discussed the growth of multiracial studies out of ethic and critical race theory, a study on hair as a racializing factor, a graduate project looking at transnational adoption through museum exhibits, and a documentary speaking to life as a colored person in post-Mandela South Africa. But I found time to meet some friends (shoutout to the club from the University of Wisconsin-Madison!) and do other L.A. things.

I was told getting the fries “animal style” was a must

As a transnational, transracial adoptee myself, I was personally invested in this conference. As a leader for Swarthmore’s club Multi, and in anticipation of planning an undergraduate conference at Swarthmore in 2018, I was academically invested in this conference. It was a west coast whirlwind that I’m still trying to unpack as I process new matters from the movies Lion and Get Out. But what an incredible opportunity, and how amazing that Swarthmore made it all happen!

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