Rotten Mellon

Well, I'm currently 0 for 3 on my fellowship applications. I got the rejection letter from the Andrew Mellon/ACLS fellowship this weekend. Granted, they got 900 applicants for about 60 fellowships. I can't say with any amount of honesty that I think my dissertation project is among the top 5% or so of all dissertation projects in the sciences, arts, and humanities. Learning about Roman migration is cool as shit, but it's not going to change the world.

So I'm back to plugging away at my manuscript for a chapter in an edited volume on Roman diaspora, to be published by the Journal of Roman Archaeology as a special volume some time next year (I think). I'm not quite sure how to spin this chapter, even though I'm nearly finished with it, because I'm trying to toe the line between being completely obtuse about the data I currently have and publishing all my strontium results. I have a pretty good idea what the strontium is telling me: migration to Rome was only about 5% in this population, and of the immigrants whose sex I could determine, all were male. The presence of kids (one as young as 8) indicates either the kids' families moved them to Rome or perhaps they were slaves sent to work in the fullery. Most of the immigrants have poorer-than-average skeletal and dental health, but I have no real metric to back that up other than my observations of the data set.

The real problem, though, is that I'm not sure I know my audience anymore. I read a fair amount of stuff on ancient Rome, but in the past few years, it's been focused on the more anthropological and statistical side of things: demography, migration, burial practices, any isotope or statistical analyses I can find in the ancient world. Sometimes I check out articles on fulleries, which might have a little about architecture or even art, but my interest in them quickly wanes. My skeletons are largely ahistorical, probably poor and lower class, which makes them incredibly interesting to me as an anthropologist. It means I can go all anthro-theory-licious as long as I contextualize them properly within Roman history. So I'm not sure quite what is expected of this chapter. If I add more snippets of history or information about aqueducts, the paper becomes unwieldy and panders to classicists. If I just run with migration theory at the expense of the context of the immigrants, on the other hand, my paper will only be read by the few other researchers who do what I do and not appeal to a broader demographic.

Maybe in a few years, after the diss, I'll have a better idea of how to mesh Roman archaeo, skeletal remains, and anthro theory. Right now, though, it's a lot easier to write a straightforward materials-methods-results-discussion paper for my first book chapter than attempt to guess what people want to hear.


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