November 18, 2010

Bloggin' the AAAs

To my oh-so-numerous fans of my Bones reviews, I am sorry to say that I won't be able to post anything until Sunday, as I'm currently at the American Anthropological Association meetings in New Orleans. This city is awesome, I'm eating very, very well, and having a great time (in spite of the decided lack of internet at the hotel and the conference). I will leave you instead with some things to think about when you present a conference paper:

  1. Black text on a blue background is never a good idea.
  2. Read your paper aloud for someone else so that you don't say ridiculous tautological things like, "Schemas are schematic."
  3. If you are an archaeologist, tell me where your site is. "Portugal" or "Mesoamerica" only get half-credit.
  4. If you are an archaeologist, tell me when your site is. "Old Kingdom" or "Epigravettian" give me only a vague notion of the millennium in which your talk is set.
  5. 28 slides (each with 5-10 images) for a 15-minute talk is at least 14 too many.
  6. Words or terms that come up repeatedly in your talk and with which most people in your audience will not be familiar should be spelled out on at least one slide - bonus points if you also define the word. ("Hama goblets" said several times quickly sounds like an incantation a la Beetlejuice.)
  7. Don't try to joke with, act familiar with, or attempt to elicit lots of participation from your audience. It's a professional conference, not Whose Line Is It Anyway?
  8. Reading a paper is fine (with me, anyway), but write it to be understood aurally rather than understood visually (complex sentences, ridiculous wording need to be stripped).
I've heard some interesting talks, and I've heard some really bad talks. I started recording which talks were read and which were presented, because I had a theory that the older, more established professors presented talks while the grad students read talks. (And my hypothesis was based on the idea that the rules of archaeology today have changed - to get grant funding, we have to also be anthropologists, which means discussing Bourdieu or Mauss or transnationalism or phenomenology, etc., and that's hard to do without reading a paper.) But it's been about equal in my very unscientific study: about half of the "presenters" are grad students and half are professors, and it's the same with the "readers."

My paper today was well-received, which was nice. I only presented the geographical homelands of immigrants to Rome, which I discussed with reference to the known locations of immigrant-producing areas in the Empire. But it's always good when fellow anthropologists don't think I'm "just a classical archaeologist" (as unfortunately there are still anthropologists who think classical archaeology is not real archaeology), and even better when they think that my research is necessary and important.

More to come on the AAAs as I find better internet. And then back to regularly-scheduled Bones reviews when I get around to it.


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