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"Taylor Swift: The Conference Era" Hundreds attend Taylor Swift academic conference at IU

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Posted at 8:00 PM, Nov 03, 2023
and last updated 2023-11-03 20:13:02-04

INDIANAPOLIS — In less than a year from now, a superstar singer and songwriter will perform for three nights at a sold out Lucas Oil Stadium.

Tens of thousands of screaming fans will be belting out her lyrics and singing along with Taylor Swift. She's a legend and a phenomenon around the world— and now the subject of an academic conference that kicked off today in Bloomington.

No matter the size of the venue, when the name Taylor Swift appears on it, the words **sold out** are usually there too.

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It's no different for the historic Buskirk-Chumley theater in Bloomington -- the site of the world's first academic conference focused on all things Taylor Swift.

"Kind of been just like an older sister to me, almost show me through life," said Swiftie Ava Orschell.

Ava Orschell is just one of roughly 1000 Swifties attending the two-day event hosted by IU.

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"I think it's a great discussion to have because she has such an impact on our society," Orschell said.

According to Indiana University, the conference will take a critical look at Taylor's impact on literature, pop culture, the economy, urban planning, politics, history, feminism and families.

"Taylor swift: The Conference Era" is the brainchild of Natalia Almanza, a member of IU's Arts and Humanities council.

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"I have always been a Taylor Swift fan. I'm 25. I remember the first time I heard a Taylor Swift song and I was just so captivated by this artist," Almanza said.

Almanza merged academia and pop culture, as she invited voices from educational institutions from around the world and more than 20 scholars who were already researching Swift.

They dive into the ways she is breaking barriers, making historic contributions, influencing voters, and selling out stadiums around the globe.

"I didn't know how many scholars were actively working in and around this field and how many were so hungry to talk about it in this format," Almanza said. "So that has just been amazing to see and so exciting."

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Beyond speeches, the conference features an array of memorabilia, including posters, life-size Taylor cutouts and tote bags.

The organizers paid attention to every detail. There's even drink specials available named after some Taylor Swift songs: Cruel Summer, Red, and one of Taylor's favorites, a vodka and diet coke.

"I'm just fascinated and a little bit obsessive about trying to figure out what is it about her," said conference speaker Addie Mahmassani.

Mahmassani is here from California. The San Jose State University instructor made the long journey to Indiana to speak about Taylor's influence on the feminist movement.

"I think that's what keeps us all hooked. The push and pull. The glitter and then the sort of dustiness of the folk movement that she's got in her aesthetics. So, that's where I'm at," Mahmassani said.

And of course, the common bond here among the hundreds of attendees is the music, proving that perhaps the real love story is between Taylor and her fans across all of her eras.

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The workshops continue this evening until 10 p.m. and includes a screening of a piece directed by Taylor Swift, called "All Too Well."

The event wraps up Sunday with the Taylor Swift artist market from noon to 4 at the Cook Center for Public Arts and Humanities.