Virtual Midwest Slavic Conference Engages with New Audiences
The 2021 Midwest Slavic Conference was held virtually April 15 – 17. The conference opened on Thursday, April 15 with an evening keynote address by Dr. Yvonne Howell (University of Richmond) that explored how Russians perceive and define happiness through stories and anecdotes in Alex Dubas’ book Moments of Happiness (Momenty schast’ia). An English translation by Dr. Howell of the book is soon to be published. A plenary panel on the morning of April 16 continued with the theme of happiness and how it is defined and perceived by Russians and Albanians using different disciplinary perspectives. First, Dr. Hannah Chapman (Miami University) analyzed the effect of Putin’s annual call-in show “Direct Line” on political popularity and satisfaction with the government. Second, Dr. Smoki Musaraj (Ohio University) discussed the changing aesthetics of concrete in Albanian architecture and culture. Third, Dr. Karen Petrone (University of Kentucky) theorized about the use of panoramas depicting World War Two in Russia to harken back to a patriotic past and create a sense of nostalgia.
Following the keynote and plenary, on Friday afternoon, four one-hour disciplinary discussion sessions were held for history, linguistics, social science, and culture/literature/film presentations. 60 participants submitted pre-recorded lectures or conference papers that were made available in advance of the conference for attendees to read and watch prior to the Friday discussion sessions. These individual presentations spanned an exciting gamut of topics, from translation and word choice in Russian and English news articles, to kinship and relationships in the Balkans, to Russian hunting publications. The conference also ran a blog prior to and during the conference to give participants the option of discussing and sharing ideas through writing. Then on Saturday, April 17, six panel sessions with 23 different papers were held throughout the day, with topics covering history and materiality, travel and gender, Russian politics, Slavic cinema, translating and using the Russian language in the sciences, and Slavic culture.
In addition to the presentations, a Midwest Slavic Association meeting took place Friday evening. The primary agenda item for the meeting was the election of new officers. In the fall of 2020, the Midwest Slavic Association passed its first set of governing bylaws, which outlined a new officer role for the association, that of vice-president. Dr. Tim Pogacar, Bowling Green State University, and Dr. James McGavran, Kenyon College, were unanimously voted into the officer roles of president and vice-president respectively with terms to start on June 1, 2021. The Midwest Slavic Association would like to extend a huge thanks to Dr. Brian Baer, Kent State University, for serving as president of the association for many years!
Additionally, Alicia Baca, CSEEES outreach coordinator, organized two events for students on Friday and Saturday evening to offer some more informal, social events. A student roundtable allowed student attendees from across the United States to share their research interests and motivation strategies while a student mixer on Saturday evening gave students an opportunity to meet each other virtually and talk about various topics as a fun end to the conference.
Overall, the conference was a great success, with 83 presentations, and with over 150 participants and attendees. Most excitingly, due to the virtual format of the conference, the 2021 Midwest Slavic Conference included an impressive diversity in participants from across the world. 23 international participants were part of the conference this year, making this conference one the largest in terms of the number of participants from Western Europe, Eastern Europe, and Eurasia in recent years.