DEN Conference - 2024

Fostering a Strong Sense of Community and Connection

The week before the DEN conference, I submitted my dissertation, finally pressing submit on a project that had been ongoing for close to two years. It felt momentous yet simultaneously anticlimactic. This labour of love quickly sent off from the confines of the Marylebone library on a random Sunday in April. This feeling of dissatisfaction fuelled the intentionality I explored when developing my presentation. Not only did I want my presentation to feel more like a discussion, but because of the sensitive nature of the topic, I wanted to treat it with the respect it deserved. I wanted to convey the importance and necessity of academic and social exploration of wartime sexual violence but also highlight ongoing conflicts and raise awareness. The previous year, I had struggled with my confidence going into the presentation, and I found myself needing help with my words, meaning this year, I wanted to be able to confidently and succinctly share my findings from the 10,000 words.

The DEN conference provides students with the opportunity to present their findings on a wide variety of topics. My presentation focused on gender and violence, while other presentations covered topics such as economic endeavours and world development within Rwanda. Each year, new intellectuals find themselves in a room together, where not only is their academia encouraged, but you are able to expand your understanding on topics you may not know much about or even be queried on your topic in a new war, presenting you with new angles to explore. This sets DEN conferences above others, in the sense that it really becomes a beautiful sess pool of ideas and information. This was exemplified when I was able to chair the first group of presentations, where I was able to witness the audience engage with the topics whilst doing the same simultaneously, watching the expansion of minds and eyes as the presenters spoke.

I’ve now been fortunate enough to attend two conferences hosted by the DEN, both in 2023 and 2024, presenting and chairing both. It has been a great privilege and has allowed me to witness changes and developments along the way. I would say that this year was the best one yet, where not only were the presenters from a diverse background around the world, with individuals from the United States, Uzbekistan, Thailand, Vietnam, the United Kingdom and beyond. The role of culture and difference remains a primary tenant of DEN conferences in the most intentional and influential way I have ever experienced. Not only is the body of presenters diverse, but the attendees, cuisine, and environment make it much more special. Farhang has done a stupendous job creating this sense of community amongst individuals who have little to no connection to each other, whereby, at the end of the day, groups mix and share their stories around the dinner table, fostering a unique setting of curiosity and academia at the forefront of our understandings of our peers.

There will never be a day when I am not eternally grateful for the opportunities that DEN and Farhang have presented me with, and I will cherish all the people I met and the content I’ve learned forever and ever.

Madeline Briscoe

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