NU Gothic Studies Blog

October 25, 2017

What even is an IGA?

As I mentioned in the previous blog, I was nervous heading to the International Gothic Association’s 2017 conference in Cholula, Mexico. I didn’t know anyone there and I had never travelled outside of the country—not just by myself—ever. Add to that my horrible grasp of Spanish, not flying in 16 or so years, and this was a lot of “firsts” to check-off at once. My original plan for the conference was to barricade myself in my hotel room and only catch the “academic” events. (I’ll get to those “scare quotes” in a moment). Despite my shy intentions, I’m glad that my time at the IGA didn’t go as planned.

Before the IGA, I had been to conventions with academic talks—closer to Comic Con than MLA—and smaller, one day conferences, but the IGA was my first multi-day conference. I didn’t really know what to expect. I had a rough idea based on what I had seen at other conferences, but nothing corporeal. What I wound up encountering was something all together outstanding. Imagine, if you will, all of the friendliest, spookiest scholars gathered in one place for a week long Gothic party where one can make some real progress on their research. I wouldn’t trade that experience for all the crumbled abbeys in the world. (OK, maybe all, the crumbled abbeys. That’s quite the bargain.)

The IGA conference itself is really something else. From the perspective of someone who had his MA conferred on the bus ride from the airpot to the conference, it was kind of surreal to see a who’s who of Gothic scholarship. Not only was I able to meet up with scholars I had been citing throughout my MA, but I found out that they are some of the nicest people out there. In between panels, there were plenty of lunch and coffee breaks to meet up with colleagues and craft new friends. As an aside, don’t be afraid to approach a scholar and ask some questions! Now that I’ve been on the receiving end, I can say that any excuse to ramble on about my work is more than welcome. Now, to those scare quotes from earlier.

My original intention to only attend the academic events—the panels, lectures, exhibits—would have had me miss some of the best “academic” moments of the conference. I had an amazing conversation about the impact of Marxism in academia on the dance floor, got PhD advice over lunch, and talked shop with colleagues while exploring the streets of Mexico. On the same coin, I got to geek out about Clive Barker, Buffy, and my favorite spooky texts during the panels. There weren’t really “academic” moments and “non-academic” moments. The two were stitched together, as one. At the risk of presenting a truism-as-astounding, you really never know what you’ll miss.

If I could have done anything differently, it would be to have tacked on some more days to the end of my trip. I had booked my trip to Mexico so that I arrived just before the conference and left immediately after. Finances aside, I wasn’t able to explore much of Cholula or Mexico City. You may not be able to attend every amazing panel—I had to skip the talk on Necrophilia, a decision that still keeps me up at night—but you can stay an extra day or so and see the sights.

The IGA conference is now something I wouldn’t be caught dead missing. If you want to experience IGA 2017 second hand, you can search #IGAMexico2017 on Twitter or check out the Sheffield Gothic blog at: However, the best way to experience the IGA is first hand. If you want to present at IGA 2018, here is the call for papers: I went to my first IGA just after submitting my Master’s thesis and not knowing a solitary soul there. I left with a foot in the door for a PhD and a murder of new friends. If you’re in NU’s Gothic Studies program, hopefully this will stir your spirits and I’ll see you at the next IGA!

Ash Darrow

September 2, 2017

Getting to Know Your Friendly,

Neighborhood Gothic Scholars

What is the collective noun for Goths? Swarm? Pack? Cloud?

Getting to know other Gothic scholars isn’t as intimidating as your first time walking into Hot
Topic in the 90’s. Before starting my Master’s degree, I didn’t know a soul in the Gothic studies
community. I had decided, several years after getting my bachelor’s, to pursue my undying love for
the Gothic and Horror and, after some stumbling around online, I found National University’s Gothic
studies program. I was never a big social media user before becoming a grad student. I dusted off
an old Twitter account to keep up with @NUGothicStudies and it quickly became apparent that I
should be more engaged.

Networking with other scholars feels like half the battle in academia. One’s work might be
brilliant, but in a vacuum, it’s desperately hard to mobilize and that minimizes its value. The more
I get to know my fellow Gothic academics, the more opportunities have opened up for me. I’m going
to conferences, publishing articles, and presenting papers where I otherwise wouldn’t have. As it
turns out, the major Gothic studies hubs all have active Twitter accounts. (See the end of the blog
for a Gothic studies Twitter starter pack.) Following these organizations gives me a finger on the
pulse of Gothic studies. While these functions are professionally valuable, but there’s also a
personal side.

Appropriately enough for this field, I’m a fairly shy person. I’m much more at home in the
mouldering stacks of a forgotten library than the dance floor—though the IGA might have
significantly changed that. Through following Gothic studies organizations, I wound up getting to
know some of the scholars behind them. Having these rudimentary, digital relationships made taking
the leap into an IGA conference all the easier. As much as I went into my first IGA conference
without knowing anyone, I had been engaging with these scholars over Twitter since
I started my Master’s program. This made networking with Gothic scholars in meat-space all the

Before arriving at the IGA, I was terrified. I hadn’t flown in 15 years, had never been outside the
United States, and I had never met anyone from the IGA in person. I was ticking of “firsts” in
bulk. Despite that, engaging with the academic side of social media really helped this process
along. My original plan was to attend designated conference events and spend the rest of the time
holdup in my hotel, but reaching out over social media helped dig me out of my crypt. I spent most
of my time meeting new people and, generally, out of my hotel. Of course, my strategy was not
without its flaws. At a few points in the conference I was greeted as “Ash from Twitter” and,
embarrassingly enough, I had to greet someone by their Twitter handle. Faced with either having to
greet someone by their Twitter handle or spending the IGA in my hotel room, I’d chose the prior
every time.

This is the first in a three part blog series covering my experiences leading up to, attending, and
presenting at the International Gothic Association’s 2017 conference in Cholula, Mexico. Keep your
hands on the planchette for the next two blogs!

Ash Darrow

Here’s a quick starter pack for someone looking to find Gothic studies Twitter. Dig around through
their mentions, followers, and following sections to find more eerie, academic goodness.
@gothicmmu – Manchester Metropolitan University’s Centre for Gothic Studies
@IGAPostgrads – The twitter account for the International Gothic Association Postgraduates/ Grad
@GANZA_Official – The Gothic Association of New Zealand & Australia
@IrishGothic – The Irish Journal of Gothic and Horror Studies
@NUGothicStudies – National University’s MA Gothic Studies Specialization
@SheffieldGothic – Postgrad team at the Centre for the History of the Gothic
@TheReimagining – Reimagining the Gothic is a project organised by @SheffieldGothic
@OGOMProject – Open Graves, Open Minds Research Project, University of Hertfordshire
@GothicMUP – The Gothic Studies arm of Manchester University Press
@GothicBible – The Gothic Bible Project