Conferencing in Atlanta, GA

Peter Duncan, Criminology, Social Work and Social Policy, University of Manchester (2020 Cohort)

A few weeks ago I attended the American Society of Criminology Conference in Atlanta, GA. This was an exciting opportunity for me to present my research into illicit tax minimisation in UK football (or – as I edited my presentation to read – ‘soccer’) to a predominantly US-based audience, in the homeland of white-collar crime research.

Unlike when I travelled with five other PhD students and numerous academic colleagues to Málaga for the European Society of Criminology Conference in September, this time I was travelling with just two other members of The University of Manchester’s Department of Criminology: my supervisor Professor Nicholas Lord and Dr David Buil-Gil. This meant I had to push myself to meet others; an endeavour which is sometimes outside my comfort zone but was ultimately beneficial as I successfully ‘networked’ with a range of scholars in my research area. I feel I have now sown the seeds of productive working relationships both with up-and-coming and more experienced and established colleagues.

Despite always being a nerve-wracking experience, my panel presentation went well (though the attendance might have been affected by the eye-wateringly early start of 8am). I prefer to get presentations out of the way early on so I can enjoy the rest of the day! It’s always comforting when people you present to smile and nod enthusiastically, especially when compared to the alternative ‘puzzled frown’. I had a bit of both…

Conferences in the USA are not like conferences in the UK. If you’re thinking ‘gargantuan corporate hotels’ instead of ‘labyrinthine university departments’, then you’re about there. I’m glad I didn’t show up on Day 1 in shorts, as I did in Málaga (on Days 2 and 3 too), as I would have been even more out of place in the US than I was in Spain; see below a picture of the Atlanta Marriott Marquis’ atrium:

In my conference downtime I had a chance to explore Atlanta’s downtown a bit, which wasn’t quite as exotic as it might sound. I did however get to go to my first NBA game: Atlanta Hawks vs Boston Celtics. It was US sports flamboyance at its most quintessential: flashing lights, cheerleaders, t-shirt cannons, $15 cans of beer (glad that wasn’t my round), and a half-time performance from trap artist Jeezy. Unfortunately, the game was not close; the Hawks could not match the Celtic’s accuracy from outside the D.

Other than the NBA, I sampled the regions local craft beer; a dangerous activity to undertake recklessly – as I realised the next morning – when I found out the pints I had been ordering were 7.5%… Another night brought Southern BBQ fare and Prohibition-era cocktails and cigars in a speakeasy accessed through a red phone booth (if you know the right number to call!). Sadly, I didn’t have time to go the Georgia Aquarium – apparently the biggest in the world with a football (‘soccer’) pitch-sized tank containing (amongst other things) two juvenile whale sharks. One to visit next time, perhaps.

Sadly now my NWSSDTP conference budget is blown… unless, that is, I get some reimbursement for writing this blog? I hope so, because a friend has just showed me the venue for next year’s European Society of Criminology Conference in Florence… Sorry Peter we wish we could !!

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