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Catching up… the rentrée edition

November 20, 2013

It’s been a busy couple of months here at Alec central… wherever that might be these days!

After a summer punctuated with conference visits (Television for Women Conference, Warwick, The Radio Conference, Uni Bedfordshire, ICHSTM, Manchester) I experienced for the first time the great French tradition, the rentrée: getting back to work after the holidays.  People all over the world have holidays and then get back to work, of course (except in America, where holiday time is scarce), but just as a solid month of holidays here are more or less an institution, so is the process of getting back to work, remembering where you left off, seeing your colleagues again, exchanging stories from the holidays, and feeling slightly overwhelmed.  But there’s solidarity: it’s the rentrée, everybody understands.

It’s also like the entire nation gets to feel a bit the rhythm of the academic year, and the pleasure/dread/excitement of the new school year.

My rentrée was coloured by the arrival of the Sixth Tensions of Europe/Final ANR Resendem  conference “Democracy and Technology: Europe in Tension from the 19th to the 21st Century”  organized here in Paris by my colleagues, and showing particular synergies with our strand of the LABEX EHNE.

It was a busy conference, to say the least, but one of great rewards.  Besides the presentation of the LABEX in the grand Salle Richelieu of the Sorbonne, we also saw the presentation of the first volumes of the Making Europe book series, marking the fruition of many years work of my colleagues in our theme group at NIAS in Wassenaar.  These were presented to Androulla Vassiliou, European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth, who in her speech singled out Inventing Europe, the virtual exhibit I helped develop, (now led by my colleague Suzanne Lommers) as the future of education.  On top of that, the WREN initiative had a panel with papers on women’s formats in radio from the 1930s through the 1950s.

But for me the highlight of the conference – and perhaps the highlight of the year –  was the return of the greatest academic collaboration I have ever been part of: The Tensations – the hardest-working band in academia.  Formed in 2007 for the Tensions of Europe conference in Rotterdam, we managed to re-form and with three rehearsals, plus a LOT of enthusiasm and goodwill from the Tensions of Europe crowd, we had the unmitigated pleasure of rocking Paris.

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The mighty Tensations, rocking the medieval Refectoire des Cordeliers; l to r: Donna Mehos, me, Suzanne Lommers, Judith Schueler, Paul Edwards, plus Nil Disco in the mists behind Suzanne.  Not pictured, but very present: Andreas Fickers on drums and Frank Schipper on keyboard; (photo by Nick Boon)

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