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#AAG2018, part 1 of 2

Megan Betz

 Photo my own

Photo my own

While I only got to spend two days at #AAG2018, it was, I think, my favorite experience at the annual geography conference. I attended in Chicago when barely pregnant, attended via Skype while breastfeeding my daughter when it was in San Francisco, & attended for another quick few days when in Boston–where I was struck with a stomach bug & intense heartache while being away from my girl (in a hostel that made me realize bunk beds give me intense acrophobia or claustrophobia--a real lose-lose sleep situation). 

This year, I got in at the end of day Monday & took time to just go straight to enjoying the city. I got to bed early, grabbed a croissant on the walk to the conference, & settled into sessions to get myself in the brain space in the lead up to my own double session in the afternoon.

Session highlights
Thanks to the folks of the "Order, control and transgression in urban public spaces" session, which was a great kickoff that got me thinking about who is the public in public spaces. I also put Food Across Borders in my online shopping cart after hearing several authors & critics discuss the work, which prioritized narrative & cohesion over a clump of essays put into book form. I love hearing geographers increasingly take writing & narrativemode, tone seriously. I think this holds so much potential for our work.

I even got to sneak into a bit of "Honeybee geographies: Exploring new productions of nature, space, knowledge, and power." I want to highlight Rebecca Ellis from this session--her thinking on multispecies relations was fun, & it was great to share space with her again at "Radical care: a reading seminar" put on by Collard, Dempsey, & Pratt. This session did so much great work! First, the structure was novel & so welcome. We each did the readings & prepared to discuss. We used talking sticks that we kept moving, to include as many voices as possible in the conversation. We were honest about our motives & vulnerabilities, which doesn't typically get to happen for an audience in a conference session. I got great works to take forward & build into my own framing, making it more inclusive, reflexive, & honest. I would love to see more of this format used at conferences. We could all use a new influx of that rich energy from the seminar format.

My own session, co-organized with Jake Fleming, was "Doing vegetal geography: The place of plants in multispecies analysis" (sessions 12). Check out those links for now, but in a few days, I'll come back for a second post that dives into how this session helped me, how thankful I am for all those who attended and presented, & the works I'm looking forward to reading following up on that session. This was the most collaborative, honest session I've participated in, as we're all tussling with what it means to explore plant geographies & how this changes what we mean by action, power, or voice. More on this soon.

Tourism, place, & reading 
This was also the first AAGs where I made time to take in local culture beyond just a night of dinner & drinks with my department. I went straight from the airport to Bacchanal. (This totally confused my cab driver, as he was convinced we were going nowhere except down a "very bad road." But the experience was wonderful--picking out a cheese & prosciutto that they plated for me with jams, toasted bread & pickled treats. Plus an entire bottle of wine, live music, & incredible atmosphere. Recommend.)

We ended up at Rare Form on Tuesday night, listening to live music that was a cross between zydeco & American folk (yes, really)--so, thanks to that place for letting us get loud about women & people of color in the academy.

And of course, before heading out, I had to hit up Café du Monde to go & eat it with friends while watching the river and talking about how water makes cites & cities make waterways. I shared my recommendation: Gandy's Concrete & Clay. In exchange, my colleague, Mitchell Owens, recommended McPhee's "Atchafalaya," a read I'm really looking forward to.