Report from the AHA, Day 2

Posted: January 8, 2011 in Uncategorized
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Yes, it’s Day 3, and I’m just reporting on Day 2.  It happens.  I was up very late last night, and no, alcohol was not involved.  Met a friend that I hadn’t seen in a good long while, and we wound up talking about a lot of things.  Mostly the job market, how bad it is, how long one should stick it out in the hopes of getting that elusive permanent position.  There’s been a lot of that going around, and not all from grad students, either.  There’s apparently a category called “ECPs”–Early Career Professionals–mainly recent grads, and we’re all in the same boat.  I’ll get into that in a few minutes…

Well, I’ve certainly seen more than enough of the Harvard Room in the Marriott; both sessions I went to on Friday were there, as was the Graduate and ECP Open Forum, and the graduate reception was across the hall.  Good papers, I have to say.  They were all on medieval Iberia, and there were a lot of heavy-weights present, led by the legendary Dr. Joseph O’Callaghan.  As I said to Jim Ryan, Treasurer of the crusades society (SSCLE) who I ran into there, I figure if I attend enough medieval Iberia sessions, I might some day be able to talk competently about the topic!!!  It’s enough of a separate world that you have to study Iberia in order to discuss Iberia in a scholarly setting.  And, naming no names, I’ve heard the occasional medieval Iberia scholar ask VERRRRY long-winded questions at Kalamazoo (it was no one present at these Friday sessions, needless to say.).   But these were great.  Great presentations by James J. Todesca, the venerable Bernard F. Reilly (who apparently fell and bumped his head pretty badly near the Marriott Starbucks–I saw an ambulance later while walking across the skybridge, and then saw him being helped by EMS folks.  Hope he’s ok…).  And a great presentation by the ever-lively and rambunctious James Powers, of Holy Cross.  I’ll save the details for later…

Then, more of the Harvard Room in the afternoon.  Sidebar here: I had to choose, again, between two excellent medieval sessions.  #81, Violence and Sovereignty in Europe, 1300-1800, looked great, particularly a paper by Carol Lansing entitled “Denouncing Noble Violence in Fourttenth-Century Florence.”  On further reflection, my friend Peter will probably kill me for not going to this one, as it’s directly in his dissertation field.  Anyway, the point is, this lumping of similar sessions in the same time slots is really, REALLY annoying, and is one of my biggest complaints concerning the AHA so far.  It’s not just medieval sessions; a lot of the graduate and ECP sessions did the same thing.  The program committee really needs to work on this issue for next year…

Ahem, cough cough, anyway, moving on…The afternoon session was another of the American Academy of Research Historians of Medieval Spain, with excellent papers by two young scholars, Miguel Dolan Gomez and Janna C. Wasilewski, and a paper by Dr. O’Callaghan surveying the Spanish crusades between c. 1270 and 1492—great stuff, and from my perspective, excellent context for English involvement in Spain and in crusading during the fourteenth century.    A good session, definitely.

Well, after that, I decided to go to the Open Forum for Graduates and ECPs; I didn’t quite know what to expect.  They seem like good folks, the committee, and they seem to be doing good work, in trying to make questions and issues visible and to effect solutions  on issues that matter to those of us freaking out about making a living…However.  I have to say that many of the issues brought up were either pointless (i.e., have no solution), or issues that I rather feel should not be solved for you.  To take an example, there were a couple complaints that there was no general catalog listing all academic journals by field, as well as percentages showing selectivity and the chances of getting published.  The committee pointed out that many journals wouldn’t give that information, but to me that’s kinda beside the point.  I see this as basic scholarly training and research that you really need to do for yourself.  Not to be harsh, but really, take an interest in your profession and start compiling a list of the journals in which the articles you find from JSTOR and ProQuest appear!  It’s not that hard.  Regarding the “pointless” discussions, I am quite skeptical that institutions would report on themselves, or that rejected candidates would report on institutions, regarding hiring practices, so that the AHA can keep tabs on whether institutions follow professional guidelines.  Utterly ridiculous, impractical, and so laden with conflicts of interest as to be immediately moot, I would have thought.  Besides, one person’s bad experience might be canceled out by another’s good experience—as can readily be seen over at the Academic Wiki pages, where such a forum already exists.   On the other hand, suggestions to allow professors to get a discount for bringing grad students, in addition to undergrads, were sensible, as were requests to stagger or repeat professional development sessions.  Apologies if this comes across as a bit harsh, but I’m just being honest, if not particularly suave.

So, that was the professional aspect of the day.  Socially, things were quite fun.  I had lunch with my former roommate of three years, and his wife, and one of my first-year colleagues who was up for the day.  Jon has had a few interviews, which is always a great thing!  Later in the evening, I met up with another friend who also had a few interviews, and who I haven’t seen in a good while; we stayed up late talking the profession, as I mentioned at the start.  Good times, though depressing topics.  And in the afternoon I met up with my friend Tanya and other H-Grad editors, and some Washington U folks.  Also good times.  I managed to get a couple major minor projects done as well, so I’ve been able to sit back and enjoy the rest of the conference—as I will discuss in my next post!



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