Popular Culture Enthusiasts Converged on UMass Campus

The Northeast Popular Culture Association (NEPCA) held its conference at the University of Massachusetts Amherst on October 27 - 28, 2017.

Professor Marty Norden of the Department of Communication, was this year’s program chair. About 180 professors, graduate students, and independent scholars from around the world participated in the conference, which was supported in part by the Department of Communication, the College of Social & Behavioral Sciences, the College of Humanities & Fine Arts, the Graduate School, and the Interdisciplinary Studies Institute. Panels addressed numerous sub-areas of popular culture, including film, television, digital media, music, literature, and sports, and their intersections with such issues as race, ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation.

A highlight of the conference was a plenary presentation by Communication Professor Sut Jhally, the founder and executive director of the Media Education Foundation. Conference participants filled the Communication Hub in the Integrative Learning Center to attend Jhally’s illustrated talk on the history of MEF, which recently celebrated its 25th anniversary.

Several attendees posted blog entries praising the conference. “Participating in the NEPCA conference was a spectacular experience,” wrote Laura Brown, a Boston University graduate student. “Not only was I was able to receive feedback and suggestions on how I can further expand my work, but I had the opportunity to sit and observe some fascinating panels.” She also wrote that “the NEPCA conference was a welcoming and encouraging space that made it easy and comfortable for me, just a master’s student, to engage in intellectually stimulating conversation with assistant professors, PhD candidates, emeritus faculty, and everyone in between.”

Brown’s fellow BU grad student, the singularly named Nadum, echoed her perspectives. “It was a wonderful opportunity to present my work at the conference and receive feedback from other scholars and professionals in the field,” he wrote, adding that “I was absolutely thrilled to be able to attend the NEPCA 2017 annual conference and even more honored to present my research.”

At the conclusion of the conference, the NEPCA executive board unanimously elected Norden president of the organization. His one-year term began immediately after the conference and extends through the next NEPCA gathering, to be held at Worcester State University in October 2018.