Ah, the SAA meetings! The largest archaeology conference held in the US. It’s the perfect time to meet up with old classmates and digging partners that have different foci or work in different regions than us. We get to sit around in the hotel bar talking with other archaeologists about our favorite topic (by which I mean archaeology… really). We get to play abstract roulette in an effort to find the most interesting and relevant papers and posters. What wonderful times!
Except… that one paper that’s most important to us (whether giving or hearing) is at 2100 on Thursday night. Or maybe it’s on Sunday morning, which means our flight home doesn’t arrive until some early Monday morning time. Or all of the sessions we’re interested in are all held simultaneously on Friday afternoon.
At the SAA meetings, I had a few conversations around the idea that the number of sessions was reaching a ridiculous level. Most of the complaints suggested that the problem was because the SAAs no longer restrict on the papers presented. As a result, the organization has become less about American Archaeology, as the name implies, but rather for American archaeologists and their cohort. The logical response is to restrict the paper submissions to those related to new world archaeology.
I’m not sure what other people do, but my paper-viewing strategy for the SAA meetings is more focused on methods, rather than direct subject matter. I find that papers from regions and time periods that I’m not familiar with give me ideas for the region and time periods that I am familiar with. Other sessions are distinctly a-geographical (for example, the blogging session).
What is the solution then? Do we restrict the topics by region? Do we only have a limited number of slots on a first come first serve basis, as if the submittal deadline isn’t early enough? Do we maintain the Sunday morning/Thursday evening schedule, but keep it from expanding further? Do we do nothing?
I don’t know what the solution is. Any idea that I’ve come up with will be restrictive and disliked by many. If any of you have a good idea, post it in the comments section. Better yet, let the SAA know.