Saturday, 30 January 2016

I said it, and I meant it

So I deleted my account.

I've been perturbed by for some time now. I couldn't quite put my finger on what I disliked about the site- but I think it was probably a nagging question of why embrace a series of unforced performance metrics when your life is already filled by the damn things? Sure, it's fun to see how many views a paper gets, and how many your profile gets (wow, someone in Argentina looked at my profile etc) but do you really need to know this? How much is vanity, and how much is career obsession? Are either of those two things healthy?

I still did it though. The old (and deep) fear of your career suffering as a result of not playing the game won out.

But the recent revelations that staff have been contacting scholars and asking them to consider paying for their papers to be promoted by senior staff has revealed a lot about the site, in my eyes at least.

And, in common with lots of other scholars, I'm no longer happy to affiliate with the site. So, I've pulled my profile down.

If you want to read my work, go for it! If you want to get in touch, please do. I'd love to hear from anyone about collaboration or feedback or anything. I just don't want to have those conversations through a medium that seeks to profit from a desperate desire for career progression, and that is willing to swap endorsements for cash.

Monday, 18 January 2016

Grand Challenges Part II: This time, it's personal

Yes, I'll be back, Clonmacnoise.
So, as promised, here is the second half of my little chunk of the wonderful Doug's Archaeology 2016 blogging carnival.

First, some news: I have resigned from my job at Andante Travels- yes, the dream job designing wonderful archaeological holidays. In so many ways it was perfect, supportive company, great colleagues, opening up the past to the general public. But I couldn't make it work with a 10 month old and a 90 minute commute. So, that's that.

What happens now?* Well, I'm delighted to say I've been offered a Moore Institute Visiting Fellowship at National University of Ireland, Galway. I'll be there from late March to mid-April, made possible by my parents and husband taking time out to look after Silvia. I'm excited about it, and about the work I'll be doing, as well as the people I'll be working with. Any suggestions for cool things to do in Galway with a toddler much appreciated.

I hope the weather in Galway is this good again, or husband will suffer with a cooped up Silvia!
Apart from that, 2016 is looking like a blur of writing and childcare, with some conferences and talks thrown in. Sometimes the two go together well, sometimes they don't. So that's one challenge: finish the book (halfway through the second draft people!), get half done articles out of my brain and onto some poor reviewer's desk, and keep a demanding young lady happy.

Her challenge is to walk under the Boccanera Plaques, not crawl. FYI, the Etruscan gallery of the British Museum is an excellent place for your baby- the case arrangements are a perfect crawling speedway.

The day-to-day of this is not a problem, keeping the balls in the air- you just do it. She wouldn't sleep last night, so instead of doing my usual 8-11 writing stint, it was 10-1. Then she woke at 3. And 5. Not great, but fine. I'm awake and alert. Just.

Coming to the point at last, my own grand challenge is to carve out a meaningful space for this new woman-in-archaeology-but-also-in-motherhood self. It would be wonderful to be able to link this with a formal position, but if the applications gods are unkind, I need to find a way to be ok with that. To write, to think, to be an archaeologist. Inside or outside the academy**. And I need to fit that with my family.

Doddle, right?


Disclaimer: I AM INCREDIBLY AWARE OF HOW PRIVILEGED I AM TO BE ABLE TO TAKE THIS TIME AND HAVE THIS SPACE TO THINK AT ALL. Just saying. Also, it's a neat little feminist juxtaposition that embracing total dependence on my husband (and the vast majority of housework/childcare) allows me to think and work, albeit not for pay. Hmmm.

*Well, my first commitment that I'm so pleased to be doing is at the Institute of Classical Studies in London on the 9th February. Come along for some Derrida, some Corpus Vasorum Antiquorum, and to hear the results of that survey I've been plugging on Twitter. What's not to like?

**Another post needed here on the new independent scholar, I think. With the current over-production of PhDs, we could be a veritable army.

Thursday, 7 January 2016

Blogging Carnival : Grand Challenges

Ominously, this appears when you google image search Etruscan challenge. Ouch. It's Charun, Etruscan death demon, supervising the death of a bound captive. Cheerful stuff.

So, in the past I've taken part in the fab Doug Rocks-Macqueen's Archaeology Blogging Carnival, and I'll be doing it this year too. Two posts on this year's theme are coming right up.

And what a theme it is. Grand Challenges of Archaeology. The question is, what are the Grand Challenges of YOUR archaeology?

Well, to me MY archaeology is my own personal archaeological journey (vomit vomit x-factor language) and Etruscan archaeology (my preciousssssss, in best Gollum voice).

So this post is about the Grand Challenges of Etruscan archaeology, or rather, THE Grand Challenge as I see it.

And (drumroll please), I think the challenge of Etruscan archaeology is....

The production of new archaeological narratives for Etruscan people's lives. 

We really, desperately, need to come up with and share new interpretations of the Etruscan past. Time and again, in the past few years, we have seen remarkable developments in Etruscan archaeology. New discoveries of tombs barely damaged or even untouched by tomb robbers, new data coming out untainted by antiquarian excavation techniques. We also have incredible scientific advances: an intricate and carefully controlled study of Etruscan DNA which, for the first time, has some real answers of where these people came from and who they were. At the Milan Expo, Etruscan scholars shared their work through new digital technologies, bringing the Etruscans to a wider audience through 3D reconstructions.

Yet some very familiar stories are still kicking around, in and among (and in spite of) these new discoveries, methods and opportunities. The idea of the Etruscans as mysterious and unknowable, a frustrating mirage which obscures these wonderful leaps forward. The idea of princely tombs, linked to monarchial systems of government I've critiqued here before, a conception of Etruscan life which is more akin to a child's tale of princes and princesses than it is to a real evaluation of these people's life stories. These are old ideas with a venerable heritage- we can understand where they came from and why they are compelling. They continue to capture the imagination.

In my opinion though, these ideas are no longer an acceptable option for the Etruscological community, and to me it is wrong for us to continue to parrot them to the general public. It is almost ten years since Vedia Izzet (the person responsible for letting me loose on the unsuspecting Etruscans) wrote her seminal text critiquing these interpretative tropes. In that decade, little has changed. Her words remain as cogent now as they were on the day they were written. Perhaps, in the year before the ten year anniversary of its publication, the stories we tell as Etruscan archaeologists might change- we can look again at our data, new and old. We can experiment with ideas from anthropology and philsophy. We can think ourselves a new version of the Etruscan past, using objects and ideas. In this way, we might just be able to catch up with the excavations, the genetics, the technology. That is our grand challenge.

** There are signs that the challenge is being accepted- I'm very excited about a new journal in Italian archaeology, Ex Novo. It's open access and explicitly theoretical- a brave new voice. I have high hopes.**

Saturday, 2 January 2016

Back and bad... and bibliographies

Well, that was a nice break.

Christmas with a small child suddenly has purpose again. Magic, and a little smile on a little face, and trying not to let her pull the Christmas tree over. Watching her scoff down Turkey and her eyes light up at the first taste of chocolate pudding (and last for a while- she's back on fruit for pudding).

Also, and more importantly, Christmas equals husband off work which means lots of time for writing/editing.

And the resulting discovery has been fascinating. Turns out, I couldn't write for toffee in the final stages of pregnancy. I read all the chapters in one day, and was really not happy with the first couple. Then, boom! Chapter three, and back on form.Well, as close to form as I get (insert crippling British sense of self worth here).

How fascinating- I'm not sure why? Maybe the hormones. Maybe the poor sleep. Maybe the worry of impending life change and you know, the whole labour thing. And the whole having responsibility for a tiny human thing.

Yet, once the tiny human was here and napping, my brain suddenly worked again, or at least, so it seems. I'm editing well into chapter 4, and it really isn't as bad as I had feared when I started.

But what the writing gods give, they also take away. Because I'm only now realising how dire the footnote organisation situation is. In a popular archaeology book, what's the best way to reference? Obviously, Harvard is out. Footnotes at the bottom of each page are impractical. The only answer seems to be a series of end-notes, divided by chapter. That's what my favourite authors do. But then the bibliographic information is so divorced from what I'm using it to argue that it feels clandestine, naughty. I guess it's still there. A reader can find it. I suspect my editors will have the final call.

So, any thoughts? On writing-while-pregnant, or on bibliographic behaviour?