American Anthropological Atrocity

The ersatz AAA meetings took place in Atlanta this past weekend, and if you’re curious how they went, I’ve posted the body of my letter to one of the Society for the Anthropology of Religion conference organizers (ha) below:

I thought I’d let you know how the “At the Crossroads of Magic and Science” session went on Friday. First of all, the conference (I don’t know whether or not you attended) was nightmarish and strange.
Most sessions were listed as being canceled, and when you reached a room where a session was still supposed to be taking place, most of the time there was just a projector, a screen, a table with a pitcher of ice water, chairs…but no human presence at all. Conventioneers were literally roaming the hallways in packs, peeking into doors, hoping that something was going on.

Because of this, and because I ran into a prof from Tulane who told me that she had just seen Tim Knowlton, I put up a makeshift sign announcing that our session would, in fact, be taking place. Tim arrived, and there were two people in the audience, but soon that was 8 people, and by the time I finished reading my paper, there were about 35 people in the room. Tim read his, and then I read Celia Rothenberg’s. We had only three out of seven papers (none of the ‘orphans’ that you mentioned would be transferred into the session were there), but they were well-received and there was a lot of discussion afterwards. So the session was well-attended and people seemed to enjoy it, but there wasn’t really a lot of competition… It would have been nice if we’d had a better idea of what to expect for the session in terms of participation, and other papers would have been welcome, but it turned out okay.

I heard that 600 people attended the whole convention, so we managed to attract 6% of the attendees. Pretty impressive. :-) (Sigh)

I sort of regret going, but I needed it for my tenure-track CV, one of the astronauts Glen and I want to interview seemed impressed by our inclusion in the conference, and it was the only way to get my $160 convention fee back from GVSU. And people did like it!