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November 11th, 2018

It's almost a month now since I went to Brașov for the Children of the Night International Dracula Congress, but as I have also been away to Whitby and Warwick for the weekends since I got back, this is the first time I've had a quiet Sunday available for writing about it. This event was the successor to the World Dracula Congress which I attended in Dublin in 2016, and another is already planned back in Brașov again for 2020. It was smaller in scale than the Dublin Congress, with a core of about twenty of us giving papers, but also a pretty large additional audience of local students working on tourism degrees. The link here, fairly obviously, is that Dracula is such a huge tourist draw for Romania (whether they like it or not), with the conference timed to coincide with a local Dracula Film Festival, and those in the tourism industry in both Brașov and beyond are busy thinking hard about how best to present and capitalise on it. So the students came along to learn more about an unavoidably central figure for Romanian tourism, and I guess to experience the conventions of an academic conference.

Meanwhile, I found being part of a smallish core of academic presenters actually really enjoyable. After all, we all had a shared passion and a great excuse to talk about it almost non-stop for the whole conference, so we had all become very much firm friends by the end of the experience. Here we are in front of the conference venue:


We were a very international bunch, with a full ten nationalities represented across that line-up: Romanian, Russian, Polish, German, Dutch, Portuguese, British, American, Brazilian and Japanese. Classics conferences are of course generally international too, but with Classics conferences there is usually an clear majority of delegates from the country where the conference is taking place - so e.g. I went to a conference in Vienna a few years ago where the majority language was very definitely German. With this conference, no one language really had a distinct plurality amongst the core delegates, let alone a majority, and that meant that for the first time I really saw how English operates as an international language in these contexts. When a Polish-speaking delegate wanted to chat to Japanese-speaking delegate over coffee, they used English because that was their strongest shared channel of communication. Standing there with my Duolingo-level elementary grasp of Romanian and an awareness that I could have functioned perfectly well for the whole week without even that, it was eye-opening and humbling to see.

My own paperCollapse )

Other people's papersCollapse )

Bonus funCollapse )

Tours of Brașov, Bran and TârgovișteCollapse )

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New Who 11.6 Demons of the Punjab

Gosh, that was powerful. I mean, I would totally defer to anyone from an Indian or Pakistani background about the details of it, and whether it did justice to the time and the people depicted. But it had me absolutely gripped and entranced, and often close to tears. It was a really good example of how history in microcosm, told here through just two families, can feel so much more immediate than Great Men and Great Events.

Really interesting, too, to see how that was incorporated into the format of Doctor Who. Rosa gave us fairly traditional pseudo-history, in which the Doctor and her friends had to fight to protect history from being derailed by an alien threat, but the aliens in this episode turned out to be spoileryCollapse )

One final, minor note. Obviously this was Yaz's story above all, and I definitely felt I had come to know her and her family much better by the end of it. (Though I would love to know when we were supposed to understand the final scene between her and her grandmother as happening - on a quick trip back to her home time? Or after all her travels with the Doctor are over?) But for some reason for me this was also the episode where I finally felt I had really clicked with Ryan. I've found him a bit difficult to grasp so far, probably mainly because the life experience of a young black man is pretty far away from mine, but maybe also because he is quite quiet and laconic anyway. But there was something about the way he took this setting and story in his stride, so respectful of everyone around him and ready to do whatever was needed to help people and ease tensions, that just finally made me get him and really feel warm towards him. So, glad to meet you properly Ryan. Here's to all of Team TARDIS' further adventures.

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