Learning that my abstract had been accepted for presentation at a major international academic conference was both an exhilarating and a terrifying moment! Exciting because it would give me the chance to air the results of a period of extended field research that I had been conducting into territorial conflict in Georgia, but daunting because this would be the first time I had ever presented any research to an academic audience (let alone anything that I was solely responsible for!) Additionally, as an Msc student I wasn’t sure that my paper would stand up to the high standard set by more experienced researchers.
I was especially nervous because, given that I was still in Georgia doing my research, my access to academic mentors was limited. The fact that I had resorted to googling ‘presenting a conference paper’ seemed to confirm my suspicions that I was not entirely prepared to take this step! However, I threw myself into writing, drawing together all of my primary interview materials to discuss the impact that the building of borders around disputed territories was having on threat perception in Georgia (presented at a panel chaired by Vladimir Kolossov, below).
Far from being a narrow circle of academics and practitioners the conference drew over 500 participants from all corners of the world and the geographic coverage of the case studies that were presented was impressive. I came away with a heightened knowledge of how my work is relevant to border scholars in Africa, Asia and the Americas as well as the feeling that I was part of a growing community of researchers interested in territory, borders and geopolitics as well as trade, migration and security.
As a first-time presenter and early-career researcher, I couldn’t have felt more welcomed into the field. As an additional bonus, any lingering reservations about my qualification to be there were quickly wiped out by the fact that my paper, along with those of Edward Boyle and Truong Khac Nguyen Minh (above), received a best student paper award and is now being prepared for publication by the Journal of Borderlands Studies. As far as introductions to the world of academic research go, this could not have been any better and I am greatly indebted to the Go Abroad Fund for having faith in my project and filling a funding gap that often stops young researchers from having these sorts of opportunities.
– Emily Knowles