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Thursday, November 20, 2014

ISSS-ISAC Austin 2014

Last weekend, I traveled to Austin, TX, for the annual joint meeting of the International Security Studies Section of the International Studies Association and the International Security and Arms Control Section of the American Political Science Association. Luckily, the groups had not previously shortened the name to ISIS. It is still known as the ISSS-ISAC meeting.

The event opens with a keynote speaker and a reception. These sessions occurred on Friday night, but during some past meetings they have occurred on Thursday with the conference ending Saturday at noon. The opening evening is followed by a full day of panels, concluding with another guest speaker and a dinner in the evening. Indeed, all the meals during this long day are provided as part of the registration fee. The final day ends at noon, but breakfast is also provided. This year, the panels were on Saturday-Sunday.

Because the conference is brief and relatively small, attendees seem to feel obliged to remain at the event and attend panels or network with other participants. Dining together probably also contributes to the social environment. The meetings definitely provide a nice opportunity to catch up with colleagues who share an interest in security politics and meet graduate students and junior faculty from around the country. Next year's conference is in Springfield, MA, and will be hosted by Jon Western of Mount Holyoke and Duck of Minerva.

On Saturday afternoon, I participated in a panel on “Images of Terrorism and Counter Terrorism” and delivered my paper, "The Dark Knight and the National Security State." This is a significantly revised version of a paper I delivered in August at a humanities conference in Scotland. Yes, I delivered yet another academic paper on Batman and the war on terrorism.

This latest version of the paper considers the conversation around a popular film like The Dark Knight as a potential public sphere, conceivably igniting important discussions about otherwise unchallenged national security issues and assumptions. I have long been interested in public deliberation and thus some of the paper might seem familiar based on my past blogging. I discuss the well-known problems about public debate on security issues, particularly during conditions of crisis (high threat and "state of emergency"): secrecy, executive branch dominance, lack of participation, etc. Even the mass media is stymied by these factors, which means that the coverage in the media is framed around war and security (the Copenhagen's "securitization" literature is relevant here). The media also "indexes" their reports to executive branch sources.

Comments on this paper would be welcome.

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