I’ve been hearing rumblings from different friends and colleagues lately about an erosion in history conference etiquette specifically focused on the performance and attitude of speakers on conference programs. The complaints usually fall into two categories: first, participants aren’t sending their papers to panel chairs commenters with sufficient lead time, and/or they’re sending 40- or 50-page article or chapter-length discussions rather than 10-12 pages that can be read adequately in 20 minutes or fewer. Second, panelists and roundtable speakers–and some Chairs and commenters too–aren’t crafting their papers or comments to fit within their allotted times, and are taking time away from fellow panelists and/or the time allotted for audience discussion.
One colleague mentioned that ze is shocked to see this behavior not just among eminent senior scholars–who were traditionally (if still resentfully) permitted more leeway than junior and/or more obscure scholars, but among very junior scholars and even among graduate student presenters. Ze wonders, “Is anyone training graduate students in professional conference etiquette any more?” But, to be clear: the erosion of etiquette is not something my friends and colleagues or I are blaming on graduate students–this is an observation about the overall decline in conference etiquette by people at all levels of the historical profession.
I’ve always thought that one needed to respect deadlines (or at least communicate to your fellow panelists if you must miss a deadline) and time restraints in deference to one’s audience. (NOTE: I’m not claiming a perfect record here myself. But, I don’t think I’ve ever been egregiously late! At least I’ve never been publicly scolded by the commenter at the conference with the totally reasonable remark that “Professor Historiann’s paper didn’t get to me until very late, so I don’t have prepared remarks on her paper.” Commenters have the right to refuse commenting on very late papers.) If an audience has assembled to hear what I and some other scholars have to say, we owe it to them 1) to complete our remarks in a timely fashion, and 2) to permit them plenty of time, after sitting politely for an hour and a half, to add their thoughts or ask us questions. Continue reading
Lynn Lubamersky, an Associate Professor of History at Boise State University, makes a pretty good case for using Skype instead of flying faculty and grad students around North America to (usually) northern cities in early January:
[S]ome history departments like mine have tried Skype to do initial screening interviews, and I think that it is a much more humane and effective method of seeing who is best for the job. At first, I thought that using Skype was useful because it is free, but that we should return to the AHA when the economy improves. But now I feel that interviewing via Skype is a better way to find the best job candidates.
Why? Because job-seekers are not required to travel across the country and the world to pay for the opportunity to be interviewed, and they have more control over the presentation of self. Instead of all the candidates appearing relatively the same in a sterile environment, the job candidates interview in their own offices or even kitchens, taking the opportunity to position themselves to best advantage.
I’m with her entirely–using Skype saves everyone’s time, money, and carbon emissions to boot. And I think the arguments about the greater economic justice for using Skype make it an absolute slam-dunk. I’ve been on search committees that wanted to inteview people at the American Historical Association’s annual convention, but because of a candidate’s recent surgery, recent or impending childbirth, or perhaps because of plain ol’ poverty, some prospects were unable to meet with us there.
But with respect to Lubamersky’s last point about the charm of seeing people in their home or work environments–I’m a little whingy about considering that at all when considering someone for a job: Continue reading
Good morning, friends. Although I didn’t make it to the Fifteenth Berkshire Conference on the History of Women, my faithful reporter Classy Claude did. (Does this guy get around, or what? Some of you may remember Claude’s other reports of recent AHA and OAH meetings.)
I’m back! In light of Historiann’s absence from the Berks – and needless to say, she was missed by many – her faithful conference reporter Classy Claude is happy to offer readers a snapshot of one conference-goer’s experience. Obviously a conference is different for different people, depending on sessions attended and so forth, but I will recount some highlights.
This Berks quite literally got off to start with a bang. There was a crazy thunderous storm on Thursday afternoon (hail in some places!) as the first sessions were getting underway, as many attendees were taking advantage of tours through local historical sites, and as Classy Claude was doing a little work at the Sophia Smith Collection at nearby Smith College. All of these opportunities had been coordinated with, or organized by, the conference planners. Thus, one real highlight of the conference was the opportunity to take advantage of these nearby historic sites and local archives.
The conference was located on the UMass-Amherst campus, primarily in the Campus Center, which itself houses a hotel (where many of us stayed, though rumor has it that rooms booked up quickly) and was connected via various passageways to the Student Union and a parking garage. Because the weather was rainy on a couple days (Saturday also), this had the effect of making sessions not in the central complex more sparsely attended. I found this to be so in a session I chaired and one I attended about young women and premarital pregnancy (which included Historiann’s blogging pal, Knitting Clio). Continue reading
And don’t expect me to liveblog it–I’ve got too much to do meeting up with old friends and making new ones in the meat world this weekend. It looks like central Massachusetts is going to be a stinkbox today–with drier and cooler weather on the way for the weekend. Yay! Tenured Radical has a nice preview of what’s going on, and I’m sure she’ll have lots to report about the weekend after it’s (mostly) all said and done.
For those of you who will be joining us at the Berks: watch for the cowgirl boots, and say “hi” if you feel like it! Continue reading
I’m off to a conference this week, and I’ve been thinking about some of the wacky papers I’ve given over the years. I’ve always looked at conferences as opportunities to test out new ideas, and the best times I’ve had at conferences have been times when I’ve delivered a paper that offers a fresh–some would say dubious–new interpretation or argument. After all, most conference papers are 10 pages long and should take no more than 20 minutes of the audience’s time–it’s not like we’re going to be able to clobber them with a truly convincing pile of evidence, so why not focus more on the specific interventions we’re making?
I once gave a conferece paper titled “Fields of Screams,” after an Itchy and Scratchy cartoon on an old episode of The Simpsons. It was about borderlands warfare and masculinity, and although I discarded the specific argument in that paper it helped me work out some ideas about space and gender. Recently, I’ve been having fun shocking people with Judith Bennett’s “lesbian-like” interpretive frame for understanding eighteenth-century Ursulines. I’m not sure where this idea is going, but it’s fascinating to see some people react so strongly and so negatively to the use of the word “lesbian” to talk about the eighteenth century! Continue reading
Howdy, folks! I made it to Austin, Texas last night for an intense conference here over the next two days, Centering Families in the Atlantic World co-sponsored by the Omohundro Institute and the Institute for Historical Studies here at the University of Texas. And then Thursday afternoon, I’ll be talking about this here blog at the Symposium on Gender, History, and Sexuality in a talk called “Cowgirl Up,” in which I’ll address some important eternal questions of the academic feminist blogosphere, such as Continue reading
I’ve been in Charleston, South Carolina for the past few days at the Society for French Historical Studies conference sponsored by the Citadel and the College of Charleston. The weather here has been sunny, pleasant, and in the mid-60s during the afternoon, so it’s a lovely break from winter for many folks. (Since it’s also sunny and in the 60s back in the Denver area this weekend, I’m less impressed, but we have far fewer palmetto trees and not much of a harbor, actually.) It’s still warm and sunny here–and I’m blogging right now from Terminal A of the Charleston airport because my 2 p.m. flight to Atlanta was cancelled! I’m booked on a 6:15 p.m. flight to Atlanta, but my flight to Denver won’t leave until 10 p.m. EST, so it’s going to be a long stay in airportlandia for me. Lucky for you that I’ve got a suitcase full of opinions to share with you, and lucky for me I haven’t checked my bag!
SFHS President Joelle Neulander and her Program Committee did a great job of showing the conferees the town and sponsoring institutions. There was a fascinating (if depressing) roundtable up at the Citadel Friday afternoon on “The Present and Future of French History and the Humanities.” The Citadel, with its boxy and generously crenellated architecture, was a fitting place for this conversation because we all feel besieged as a profession. The panel members were affiliated with various institutions in the U.S. and England and featured both mid-career and nearly-retired scholars, and they all had interesting insights about what they’ve observed locally and over the past twenty to forty years in French studies. Many of the older scholars reminded us that there never was an imagined Golden Age for the Humanities in the U.S., and that they’ve seen other crises come and go. Other panelists and audience members were more alarmed.
The star witness on the panel was Brett Bowles, a French professor at SUNY Albany and therefore an eyewitness to the “deactivation” of his department along with the Italian, Russian, Greek and Roman Studies, and Theater majors. He was understandably quite gimlet-eyed on the future of French studies and the humanities because as he reported, 20 full-time tenure-track and tenured scholars are facing the end of their employment at SUNY Albany in another 16 months. Bowles urged everyone in the audience to be proactive and aware of what’s going on in their universities and to make alliances across disciplinary boundaries. He encouraged larger humanities departments like English and History to stand up for the smaller majors because he warned that “this is where we’re all headed. We’re headed to the end of tenure.” Continue reading