Popular Culture Enthusiasts Will Converge on UMass Campus this Month

The Northeast Popular Culture Association (NEPCA) will hold its upcoming conference at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Professor Marty Norden of the Communication Department is this year’s program chair. He is working alongside recently retired UMass Amherst history professor Rob Weir, NEPCA’s longtime executive secretary and treasurer.

NEPCA is a regional affiliate of the Popular Culture Association. According to its website, it was founded in 1974 and is a community of scholars interested in advancing research and promoting interest in the disciplines of popular and/or American culture.

The conference is scheduled to run Friday, October 27 through Saturday, October 28 and will involve more than 200 participants from across the US and at least seven other countries. Panels will address various aspects of popular culture, including film, television, music, literature, and sports, and their intersections with such issues as race, ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation.

Historically, this conference has been held on smaller college campuses. This year, however, the organization is trying something different.

“There was a lot of interest in holding the conference here because of the high number of resident graduate students,” said Norden. “Graduate students are the lifeblood of any scholarly organization, and the NEPCA Executive Board’s decision to hold the conference here acknowledges that important point.”

Norden said almost half of the presenters at this year’s conference are graduate students.

Nearly 50 panel sessions will be held in the Campus Center, and among the presenters are Comm Associate Professor Emily West and doctoral students Mike Alvarez, Audrey Black, and Eren Odabasi. All told, about a dozen Comm professors and graduate students will take part.

What’s great about the conference, Norden believes, is that it will be a platform for scholars to present works in progress and get helpful feedback.

“I love being able to create opportunities for other people,” said Norden. “The NEPCA conference is just that: a two-day event where people can come together, trade ideas, and share their professional accomplishments.”

Along with the panels, there will be a plenary presentation on Friday evening by Comm Professor Sut Jhally, the founder and executive director of the Media Education Foundation. Professor Jhally will give a presentation on the history of MEF, which is celebrating the 25th anniversary of its founding this year.

Learn more about the conference schedule online.