Monday, May 5, 2008

A “publication” gone bad (or, don’t trust the media)

I recently organized an advanced seminar at the Amerind Foundation in Dragoon, AZ, on approaches to comparative analysis for ancient complex societies. The session was productive, and an edited volume is now in preparation. As part of our discussion, the participants wrote a joint statement that explained in a succinct format why comparative analysis is essential for archaeology. We spent quite a bit of time on this to make sure that it said what we wanted and that everyone could agree on the content. Our goal was to use this statement to publicize not only our session, but the comparative approach in general. It was done in part to counter the particularist and anti-comparative approaches associated with postmodernism. The statement included the names of all of the participants.

I sent the statement around to several anthropological and scientific news venues. The newsletter, Anthropology News, agreed to publish the statement, but they wanted to turn it into a “Letter to the editor.” I thought this was a bit odd, but agreed (since that was a condition of their acceptance of the document). The newsletter editors edited the statement down (something they said was necessary). When they removed the names of the participants from the start of the document, I assumed that they would add the names at the end as signatures for the letter. Well, that did not happen, and so a carefully-crafted group-authored statement became a shorter single-author letter to the editor.

Needless to say, I am quite upset at this turn of events. I am partly to blame for not double-checking that the other names would indeed be added to the letter as I had wanted. I have a long list of complaints about the AAA, including intellectual, professional, and bureaucratic issues, so I guess my list has just gotten a little longer.

If you are curious about our statement, I’ve posted it on my web site.

The signers are:

Robert D. Drennan (University of Pittsburgh)
Timothy Earle (Northwestern University)
Gary M. Feinman (Field Museum of Natural History)
Roland Fletcher (University of Sydney)
Michael J. Kolb (Northern Illinois University)
Peter Peregrine (Lawrence University)
Christian E. Peterson (University of Pittsburgh)
Carla Sinopoli (University of Michigan)
Michael E. Smith (Arizona State University)
Monica L. Smith (UCLA)
Barbara L. Stark (Arizona State University)
Miriam T. Stark (University of Hawai’i)

Our book, currently under review at a publisher, is tentatively titled, The Comparative Archaeology of Complex Societies (Michael E. Smith, editor)

1 comment:

Devon Ellington said...

Your statement seems perfectly logical. I always thought that was the point of archaeological and anthropological study.

Sorry the newsletter let you down like that -- bad editing is always a disappointment, not to mention changing the meaning without permission.

Hope the book lands a contract soon -- it sounds fascinating.