Pith-Helmeted Anthropological Reporting

Scott Eric Kaufman of Acephalous is blogging the MLA. (I'm sure he's not the only one, he's just the only one I'm reading...)

As I understand it, the Modern Language Association meeting is pretty much the be-all end-all of humanities meetings. It's sort of fascinating to read about, coming off as sort of a cross between DAMOP and Worldcon (look, a Dealer's Room! People getting a little punchy!).

Of course, most of the things that make it fascinating to me are the areas where it diverges from my experience of professional meetings-- the cattle-call interviewing and the people reading pre-written papers (sometimes hilariously badly). Those are both "What are you thinking?!?" concepts to me-- while there are occasionally people doing interviews at physics meetings, there's no one meeting comprehensive enough to make it mandatory (and there's never likely to be one-- the Centennial Meeting in Atlanta in 1999 was a zoo), and there's a strong cultural bias against reading from a script for scientific talks.

It occurs to me that it would be sort of interesting to hear what humanities types think of the way scientific meetings are run. The few times it's come up at happy hours or whatever, people I know in English seem just as horrified at the idea of a meeting full of off-the-cuff presentations as I do at the prospect of spending a whole week listening to people read from a script, and I'm sure there are lots of other aspects of a typical DAMOP that would be baffling to someone trained in another discipline.

It'd be sort of interesting, in a we-need-to-fill-out-our-magazine sort of way, for somebody to send a scientist to the MLA, and an MLA type to a scientific meeting, and see what each of them has to say. At first glance, this might seem unfair to the humanist, but honestly, I get about as much out of Scott's panel descriptions as an English major would get from an invited talk at DAMOP... Of course, for all I know, this has already been done, and I just didn't see it-- I'd be shocked if I was the first person to think of it.

(I didn't take a laptop to last year's meeting, but if you're dying for a look inside a scientific meeting, there's some DAMOP-blogging at Lundblog. I may or may not attempt to do something similar this year.)

(This was originally posted at my steelypips blog, where there are some comments.)

More like this