Thursday, November 21, 2013

The American Studies Association conference, 2013

Rachel, George, and me.  George and I didn't intentionally match.
I'm at the American Studies Association conference, so of course it's time for some blogging.  George Estreich, Rachel Adams, and I presented this morning.  We talked about prenatal testing, how the testing is marketed and understood, how we make sense of disability, and how we make sense of parenthood more broadly.  Then we chatted for the next hour or so over coffee--and then George and I went for lunch and kept talking.

Now I smell like hamburgers.  And, perhaps more importantly, George and I have some plans for possible co-written projects.  George is full of ideas!  As we sat down, he was like, "Okay, here are some things I've been thinking about."  And 45 minutes plus three pages of note-taking later, I said, "Yes!  I'm in!  Let's do it!"

Later in the afternoon I got to meet up with my dissertation director, Cecelia Tichi.  When my undergraduates are heading off to graduate school, I always tell them how important--crucial--it is that they have a mentor.  Then I tell them the story of Alison and Cecelia.  I took a class with her, and very early in the semester, I decided that she was IT.  The person who was going to mentor me. So I showed up at her office hours and basically informed her of this:  "Your class is my top priority.  I want to learn from you.  Anything you tell me to do, I'll do."  And I meant it, and did it.  And lo and behold, she selected me as her research assistant, her teaching assistant, her administrative assistant--I got to work with her in so many ways, and she focused on my writing and research intensely, with a level of dedication and a kind of feedback that got me Where I Am Today.

Plus, she's a scholar who writes about many different things, and I seem to be that way, too.  But perhaps she doesn't spend as much time as I do writing about Borgs and foam sperm and underwear.

We had wine, so I'm a tiny bit effusive right now.  But everything I'm saying here is true.


  1. Alison, you're funny on a little bit of wine! I liked this post. Congratulations on some upcoming co-writing with George - I know you'll enjoy that!

  2. You can be effusive and true! It is the best kind (and also like being young and bitter, but that is not you).

  3. How did your group and the audience address the point that none of the three presenters speaking on prenatal testing had diagnostic testing themselves?

    What questions surrounding this issues were raised, by whom? What were some of the thoughts shared?

    I'm also curious about comparing/contrasting company marketing and the offering (some say pushing) of tests by medical practitioners with women's self-directedness. How actively do women seek testing, at what point in pregnancy do they seek--and obtain them--and with what attitudes are these requests met?

    1. Rachel presented on the scientific research that challenges the genetics vs. culture divide. George presented on the marketing of NIPTs and brought in research about how popular the tests are, but he was doing a close reading of the documents themselves. And I presented on our cultural understanding of disability--and then I ended with the question of how we can have meaningful, honest conversations between women who've made different choices, because that matters to me. A lot.

      Nobody asked about our own prenatal testing. They did want to talk about happiness (a big research topic these days, apparently): how do we measure it? Why does our society link it so completely to the concept of work? I can't remember what the other questions were...maybe Rachel or George could weigh in here?