Recently I had an amazing opportunity to travel all the way to Krakow, Poland, to present my research at Jagiellonian University’s annual conference “The Culture of Exclusion.” The theme of the conference was “The Politics of Exclusion,” which was perfect for the work I’ve been doing for my co-op in the department of Philosophy and Religion. My work explores the intersection of civil disobedience and mass incarceration. Although this was the second time I was able to share this research at a conference, it was the first time I had travelled so far internationally, which presented its own set of challenges and new experiences.
Krakow is a gorgeous and historic city, and my great-grandparents were actually from a small village just outside of its limits. It was a great chance to reconnect to my own roots, and exploring the area ended up being just as valuable as the conference itself. I got to see St. Mary’s Tower, Wawel Royal Castle, and Schindler’s Factory among many other sights. This was certainly a culture shock for me, since nothing in America is more than a couple hundred years old, whereas Krakow’s architecture dates back to the middle ages, including the oldest parts of Jagiellonian University.
The conference itself gave me the chance to learn about many new areas of philosophy and political theory that aren’t necessarily as popular and widespread throughout American higher education, such as political applications of the concept of resentment. In feedback and conversation with the other attendees, I was urged to turn my attention to more continental approaches to my research by drawing on theorists like Michel Foucault and Frantz Fanon. I had a bit of experience with this work from classes here at Northeastern, but I got to discuss it in much greater detail with the people I met at the conference. In fact, one of the best parts of the event was making friends with the other attendees, learning about each other’s respective cultures, and just talking about philosophy. When I try to talk to my friends back home about philosophy, they usually just get annoyed, so it was a refreshing change of pace to have some casual conversations with other philosophy students. At times I struggled to keep up with their level of knowledge and breadth of study, but I managed to understand most of what was being said
The journey was long, but the experience was more than worth it. I honestly didn’t know what to expect, how different Poland would be from home and in what ways. Everything was a discovery and an adventure, and I’m so glad the trip and the conference went the way it did.