Reflections on the 2010 PSA Conference in Edinburgh

By Dan Kenealy

Four days. Over 1000 delegates. 300 panels. Something like 1200 individual papers. That was the UK Political Studies Association 60th Anniversary Conference, held in Edinburgh from March 29 to April 1, 2010. The conference was convened by our Head of School, Professor Charlie Jeffery. The University of Edinburgh provided tremendous input, organizing the conference locally. Charlie and Lindsay Adams, our Business Manager at the Institute of Governance, put together a great conference in the prestigious surroundings of some of Edinburgh’s finest conference venues including the Royal College of Physicians and the Royal Society of Edinburgh. It certainly was different from sterile lecture halls or cramped meeting rooms but there may have been a slightly ‘echoey’ feel in any sparsely attended panels.

As luck would have it the conference took place in a week sandwiched between two weeks of spring weather. Edinburgh is a truly beautiful city when the sun shines and it was unfortunate that our visiting academics were treated to three and a half days of rain, wind and even sleet. But some things you can’t control.

The highlights of the conference included two keynote lectures. Professor Colin Hay spoke on the demise of the Anglo-liberal growth model. Professor Stephen Holmes spoke on emergency powers and crisis government. The PSA Annual Dinner featured an after dinner lecture by Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond who was his usual engaging self and, surprisingly given the timing, not as political as he might have been.

Our very own Politics & IR subject group was well represented. The ongoing MERCURY Project on multilateralism in the European Union featured in two panels showcasing the work of Professor John Peterson amongst others. Dr Dominic Johnson convened a panel on his ongoing research into Darwin and International Relations. Dr Wilfried Swenden led a panel on comparative regionalism. And it wasn’t just our academic faculty, our postgraduate community were actively involved in the conference with Ellen Stewart, Louise Maythorne and Charlotte Rommerskirchen amongst others presenting their research. A team of postgraduates from the School of Social & Political Science were also instrumental in making the conference work. They braved the weather, the maze of venues, entire days spent on their feet, audio-visual troubleshooting, and the occasional cranky academic but they really made the conference work.

The conference was a team effort and the PSA team in Newcastle were terrific colleagues throughout the week. There was a sense of relief on the Thursday when it was all over, seemingly without any major problems, but it was a reward experience throughout. That being said I for one look forward to attending the PSA Conference in 2011 as nothing more than a cranky academic.