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An Academic Pentathlon in Sydney: 10 Years After the Olympics
July 27, 2010 - 5:15pm

I am not going to dismiss it with “Oh. I don't know how it really happened.” I know exactly how it happened: how I ended up presenting 4 papers and acting as a panel discussant at two back-to-back conferences in Sydney within a span of 8 days this July.


Last September I proposed two papers, one to the Art and Peace Commission and another to the Security and Disarmament Commission of the biannual International Peace Research Association (IPRA) Conference to be held in Sydney in July 2010. In February I was notified that my papers were accepted. I had already written the paper for the Art and Peace Commission and the paper I proposed for the Security and Disarmament Commission would be one which I would build on a previously published paper. So with some new research and a rewrite on my second paper, I would be ready to fly to the Land Down Under and enjoy the conference.


However, my promising story took an unexpected turn in April.


First, I was asked by the convener of the International Human Rights Commission to present a paper on the Human Right to Music, as I had taught a course on Human Rights and was also doing research on Music and Peace. The convener was an academic friend whom I did not want to turn down. We had an e-mail discussion group on Music for Conflict Transformation and I would be able to use the month of May to lead a discussion on this topic and get feedback from group members which would facilitate my writing of the paper. In the meantime, I discovered that I was also assigned to be a discussant on one of the panels at IPRA.


Then I found out that the Global Meeting of the Transcend International: A Peace and Development Network was also going to be held in Sydney just before the IPRA meeting. As I was interested in Transcend’s work, I wrote to the organizers who kindly accepted me at their meeting. Knowing that all the Transcend participants would also be at IPRA, I decided to be an honest academic and to present a brand new paper for the Transcend Conference instead of presenting one of the papers I would be preparing for IPRA.


I was very confident that I would be successful in fulfilling my 5 tasks and I didn’t even panic when I was told that I had to write a similar but different version of the paper for the Art and Peace Commission because the paper was under the editing stage for a peer-reviewed journal. I was not wrong. I went to Sydney and presented my 4 papers and acted as a discussant earlier this month, although I had to shortcut some of the research due to lack of time.


Now that I am back, I realize that this was my way of joining the Olympics (albeit an academic version) in Sydney 10 years after the Games took place. I believe I did a pentathlon with 4 papers and a discussion and I performed well. However I also know that I did this as I needed to prove myself to myself, to overcompensate for an academic year with lack of intellectual stimulation and to get over a tough personal situation. All the while, I locked myself into the intellectual and emotional effort of academic over-performing at the cost of great fatigue and professional defragmentation (research topicwise).


I did it all and I even accomplished some of the networking inherent in conference travels. Even though I did not receive a gold medal in Sydney, I am glad to have taken some praise and good lessons back to Istanbul.


The next time I decide to participate in these games, I will try not to overcommit myself in too many tasks, but it is good to know that I have the capacity to do a pentathlon if and when need be.

Itir is an Assistant Professor of International Relations and lives in Istanbul, Turkey. She is a founding member of the editorial collective at University of Venus.


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