As I work on my last (of way too many) presentations for ISA 2014, I can’t help but remember my first two ISAs. The first was in Portland, Oregon in 2003 – I went to the conference to see what it was like, without applying to present. The second was in Montreal in 2004 – my first international conference presentation. In Portland, I went to dozens of panels. I listened to them, engaged and interested, and asked questions that provoked discussions and helped me make network connections that jump-started and have lasted throughout my career. In Montreal, I wrote and fully memorized a fifteen-minute presentation (which I gave standing, choreographed with expressions and movements) on a paper on feminist methodologies that I never even ended up trying to publish. I was on a panel with a number of storied names in the field, who I watched with awe, and felt flattered just to know. As I remember those two ISA conferences, I remember them as full of energy – intellectual inspiration, social connections, excitement at meeting people whose work I admired, and a sense that something really interesting was happening, and I was getting to watch.
I contrast that with my experience at ISA 2011 in Montreal again. While I was in the same hotel with the same bustle and probably more intellectual energy, I greeted that conference with something different than the excitement that I had seven years earlier. There were a lot of critiques of my ‘disinterested’ behavior at ISA 2011 – a radical change for a lot of reasons. First, of course, people knew who I was in order to wonder about my level of interest. Second, I suppose, I knew enough people that those criticisms got back to me. But other than that, and more important than that – it was true, I was behaving in a disinterested way. I single out ISA 2011 because it changed my thinking about ISAs, and taught me a lesson that I figure might be worth sharing as we approach another ISA.