As one of the few undergraduates at the Feminist Geography conference, I experienced it from an unusual perspective. I was exposed to innumerable intellectual ideas and to the functionality of academia in general, but here I want to describe my reaction to the general aura of the conference.  I felt honored to be included in the exchange of ideas and was awed by camaraderie of the various professors and researchers. In particular, I was struck by the grace and the thoughtfulness with which participants supported each other and exchanged ideas. This was most apparent in “questions and comments” time after each presentation. After each presentation, I noticed, there were several moments of silence as the audience allowed the presenters’ message to settle in. Even when it was technically time for lunch, the audience paused in this way to reflect. After my own presentation with Dr. Elizabeth Olson, this silence alone felt immensely validating, because it meant that our audience was taking the time to reflect and respond to a project we had worked hard on all semester. It showed that they, too, saw our topic as thought-provoking and worthy of attention. Furthermore, when the audience offered comments and questions, they usually weren’t just a series of unrelated points. Rather, each commentator built off the each others’ ideas and nodded along to each other. It was in these moments, first of quiet contemplating and then of sharing, that the true potential of academia was embodied. A public sphere was created, an uninterrupted, supportive space for the exchange of ideas. As Emmanual Kant once said, this public exchange of knowledge is the purest form of freedom. While acknowledging the privilege that created the conditions for me to participate in the Fem Geog conference, I am immensely grateful for how it showed me first hand the strength with which people share, support and validate one another. This in itself was freeing and enlightening. 
 
Emma

 

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