March 24, 2003

'Critical Moments' to feature more than 100 presenters

By Eric Rangus

On the weekend of March 28–30, more than 100 academics, artists, students and activists will congregate at Emory for “Critical Moments: Re-Membering Community & Self,” a conference that will explore the myriad ways people and communities react to crisis and change. The conference is being presented by the Graduate Institute of Liberal Arts (ILA).

“The idea came, in part, from 9/11 and how communities and individuals recovered from it,” said Molly McGehee, a doctoral student in American studies and member of the conference planning committee.

“In terms of theory, this is a huge topic that a number of people could incorporate into their art, their writing or their academic work, or make them participate in activism,” McGehee said.

A total of 32 panels are scheduled over the conference weekend. Several will be traditional paper presentations that focus on the core themes of the conference—remembrance, reconciliation, history, and the intersections of art, music, literature and memory. But others stretch the format a bit.

For instance, on Friday afternoon the BLACKOUT Arts Collective will perform “Lyrics on Lockdown,” a presentation on prison reform; and a panel made up exclusively of visitors from Clark Atlanta University will discuss the Million Man March and role of the media.

Friday night will feature an art showcase at the Apache Café, located at 64 3rd St. Not only will visual art be displayed, but there also will be poetry readings, spoken-word presentations and perhaps music and dance.

“I think this breaks the traditional model of an academic conference,” said McGehee. “Normally, you sit and listen to people make presentations; you don’t talk. I think this format will encourage more discussion and exchange.” The point, she said, is to stress the interdependence of the academy and the public.

Rather than highlight one speaker for the keynote, Critical Moments instead will feature a four-person panel. The four professors (Susan Glisson, Southern studies, University of Mississippi; Patricia Mohammed, gender and development studies, University of the West Indies; Layli Phillips, women’s studies, Georgia State University; and Chela Sandoval, Chicano studies, University of California-Santa Barbara) have been given four questions to consider. In place of a traditional lecture, the Critical Moments keynote will be a discussion group. A premium will be paid to audience involvement as well—attendees will have ample opportunity to ask questions.

Following the keynote panel, there will be a reception and book sale, featuring not only panelists’ books, but works from a majority of the conference presenters, as well.
In the past, the ILA’s graduate student committee produced conferences almost every year, but one hadn’t been put together since 2000. That’s when a core group of five ILA graduate students went to work on Critical Moments last spring.

Amira Jarmakani focused on fundraising, Katherine Skinner put together the website, Leigh Miller handled facilities, Donna Troka assembled the art showcase, and McGehee was in charge of publicity.

However, once the conference concludes, their work isn’t done. The weekend of April 4, the planning committee will travel to Baltimore to give a presentation about how Critical Moments was organized.

“There has been a longstanding tradition of public scholarship in the ILA,” said English Professor and ILA Director Walter Reed. “Creativity and scholarship are not always seen as closely related, but we think it’s important that public scholarship be a part of the academy so that academics are not separated.”

On-campus events will take place in Woodruff Library’s Jones Room and White Hall. All panels are free and open to the public, but registration is required. For more information visit