Praesidium

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Brave New World Report

So, Brave New World. In many senses, it was – the first time I’d been to a conference without a plethora of Oxford colleagues to accompany me.

I went up to Manchester a day early, on the Tuesday, to allow for the journey. As such, I had to go out for a meal on my own – and in the end walked back up the curry mile to Tesco (about 20 mins), unaware there was another branch just 5 mins away to the south.

I stocked up on some bread, crisps and bananas to last me through the two days, but after eating my pasta and salad I met Ryan – an American student from Leuven – and then his colleague Sylvie. We were going to find a pub that served food and showed football. It turned out Glass (nearby, to the south) were only doing the latter, but we had a couple of rounds as we watched France beat Spain. Then we got Domino’s on the way home and shared it in our kitchen.

The conference wasn’t due to start until noon on the Wednesday, so having missed a breakfast we hadn’t been told about Ryan and I went to the local Tesco for some food, and entertained ourselves by reading over our papers until lunchtime. It was there we first started meeting the main batch of people – including Dean (who I knew from Nuffield seminars, and Warwick) and Kerstin (who I knew from the PSA conference). It was only advertised as a ‘light lunch’, i.e. sandwiches, but I could have had much more given the amount left.

Henry Shue kicked off proceedings with a paper on terrorism, taking an even more anti- line than his 1978 P&PA article. Then I was up, with Dean and one other student, in the first graduate panel. Thankfully it went quite well (I think), and I was particularly grateful to Tom (from UCL), as well as James, Kerstin and Alan Hamlin for questions.

The conference dinner was at a nearby Greek restaurant (Kosmos) that night. Having got there early, I ended up sat next to Kimberley, which was of course a pleasant evening – though I feel perhaps I should have done more to socialise with people I didn’t already know.

The chance came, of course, with Glass (again) afterwards, and then – via a dodgy off-licence (serving at 11:30) we went back to some kind of common room, where we stayed drinking and chatting – largely me, Dean and Ryan trying to convince Kerstin of the beauty of football – until 2am.

The next morning, I somehow managed to rise at 7:30, and therefore in time for breakfast, and make it to Kerstin’s talk at 9:30. I think she was worse for wear too, but managed to hide it well. Unfortunately Tom, who I’d wanted to see in the next session, had had to withdraw. Hopefully he’ll send me his paper. The final session looked less promising, but turned up perhaps my favourite paper of the conference, on animal rights.

Finally, Susna Mendus closed the formal event with a paper on Machiavelli, value pluralism and terrorism. Discussion moved on to a nearby pub, but Kimberley and I had to catch a train back to Oxford. My suitcase was by now even heavier than when I went, so it was some effort to lug it back to the station (from the bus stop), and we were both quite tired after everything, but we made the 19:24. The three hour train journey passed much more pleasantly with the addition of company – Kimberley was even able to point out the house she and Christophe had just bought in Banbury.

When I got back, I dragged my case back to college, mainly because I needed to print off an article (which turned out not to be online). Thankfully I found a shopping trolley abandoned outside college, so was able to use that to wheel my case to the bus stop, and then back home.

Maybe not a particularly productive conference, since I’d been in a three person panel I only got three questions on my 20 minute paper, but an enjoyable one that involved a nice blend of meeting new people and getting better acquainted with some I’d met before. I definitely hope to go back next year.

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