On my way back from the lovely Münster and thought I would share my experience of the European Society of Criminology conference. I had hoped to blog more during the conference but having overindulged slightly on the networking events, ( well the wine and ice cream receptions), time just seemed to get away from me.
The conference had a very different feel to it this year, partly due to the lack of British academic representation and partly to the papers being presented. The timing of the conference clashed with UK university teaching meaning my hopes of networking with colleagues old and new was very much limited, although I did bump into a few friendly faces. The sessions at papers at this years conference were somewhat different to what I expected. There definitely appeared to be a growth in quantitative research (although this may have just been at the sessions I attended) and less on more conceptual and theoretical arguments. Whilst I certainly do not object to quantitative criminology, I mean I undertake enough of it myself, there are only so many SPSS output slides one person can take during a 3 day conference. I would have liked to of seen more generic criminological presentations, challenging the bigger questions of rights, justice, victimisation and control, instead I found very narrowly focussed presentations without much context to the wider issues. I should stress I did sit through a handful of thought provoking talks and plenaries and I found Alison Liebling’s plenary to be particularly memorable. I am hoping the 2017 event will offer a more theoretically driven conference as opposed to a series of PhD literature reviews.
I wrote that I was anxious about attending the conference and I did find myself isolated at many times, wishing I was home again. I found it very difficult to network with what already appeared to be established friendship and working groups. I did have moments of busily staring at my phone and tablet but despite me offering a friendly smile at those who passed or sat beside me, I often found myself unable to make those connections. I do wonder if it’s just me who is really bad at networking despite years of conference attendance, I mean how can I be this bad at it? Don’t get me wrong I did have the opportunity to chat (and drink) with a couple of friendly faces, but being the only person from my department meant I didn’t have the safety net of colleagues to fall back on. I did attempt to start conversations with some well known names in criminology, one looked at me repulsed (obviously not the best choice of person to speak to) so I slowly stepped away, another just walked straight by me as though I wasn’t there (won’t be bothering with them again) but there was light, when a very pleasant professor offered to buy me coffee and chat about my current research. So it just goes to show that with a little perseverance, you can find your spot in a conference. When all is said and done, I did have a positive experience. I got to walk round the beautiful city of Münster, taking in the sights, admiring the cycle culture and trying out the local delicacies. I got a lot of me time to do a bit of scholarship planning and reflection, I drafted out a journal article while drinking coffee by the lake and reminded myself how lucky I was to have the job I have (especially whilst watching the desperation of final year PhD students trying to scope out their first post-doc post).
As I packed up this morning and got ready to head to the train station I felt proud of myself. I managed to leave my little one for 4 whole days and I survived (and I think they have too!), I gave a well received paper with some interesting follow up opportunities and I didn’t let the failed networking get to me too much. It really reinforced to me that as long as you are enjoying the field you work in and are content with your own progress, you don’t need to seek the approval of others. Ok, so I might not be winning conference awards or being invited to be a panel lead or keynote speaker, I might never get asked to to contribute to a book or special journal edition, but that’s really ok. Right now I am sitting at the airport excited to get home for family hugs, paw patrol and a decent cup of English tea (Germany really needs to invest in some PG Tips). I now look forward to the next conference and I’m sure the anxiety I experienced this time will be replaced with the certainty that I’m doing a good job, no matter what anyone else thinks.