I have been away from cyberspace for several days participating in the Duke conference I mentioned earlier -- the annual two-day affair put on by the Political Theory Working group, an interdisciplinary assemblage of faculty and graduate students interested in political theory in the broadest acceptation. This year's conference theme was "Community and Emergent Order in Non-State Spaces." It will give you some idea of the breadth of topics included if I tell you that the first speaker, Paul Cantor, started us off with a discourse on zombies and aliens in contemporary TV. David Friedman followed with a talk on "Vinge, Heimlein, the Sagas, and Me: Stateless and Semi-Stateless Societies in Fiction and Semi-Fiction" which featured a rousing extended blow-by-blow summary of his first novel, Harald. The next morning, Kim Stanley Robinson treated us to a fascinating description of the two months he spent in Antarctica, a non-state space if there ever is one, followed by the most conventional of the talks, Steven Vincent's elegant discourse on nineteenth century French radical thought.
What, you might ask, could I possibly add to this array? Good question, one that I have been pestering myself with ever since I was invited. As the oldest person there, I allowed myself the out of reminiscing and talking to the young people about how to be political until they are as old as I am, and generally telling funny stories [at least I hope they were funny.]
It was a blast, withal, and nicely arranged and managed by Rebecca Evans, a graduate student, but once again I was made aware how really out of touch I am with popular culture. I mean, I don't get the whole undead thing.
It was all made a bit weird by the fact that while we were meeting, every law enforcement official north of the Mason-Dixon line was hunting for the second Boston Marathon bomber.
I really must get out more.