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
“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
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
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 www.emory.edu/COLLEGE/ILA/events/criticalmoments/index.html.