” alt=”” width=”420″ height=”280″>I am a Classics Ph.D. who recently attended the 2019 Annual Meeting of the Society for Classical Studies (SCS—formerly the American Philological Association), a yearly conference that provides papers on classical subjects and interviews for academic positions. I now regret doing so since some remarks I made at the conference led to me being branded a “racist” and the loss of my editing job with the Association of Ancient Historians.
I don’t usually attend because of the expense—I’m an independent scholar and cannot rely on universities for reimbursement. But it seemed like a good idea to go since the weather is always nice in San Diego. A bonus was the USS Midway, now a floating museum. The Midway, a World War II-era aircraft carrier that served as the command center for the bombing of Bagdad during the Gulf War, is well worth visiting.
On January 5 I decided to attend panel #45, a “Sesquicentennial Workshop”—it was the 150th anniversary of the SCS—titled “The Future of Classics.” It was described in the meeting program as “an open and free-form large-room discussion of what we think the trajectories of our field, broadly defined, will and/or should be, not just in the immediate future but for the next 150 years.” Based on the description (“discussion” is mentioned three times), the panel seemed like an opportunity to raise some questions and obtain some answers about what was happening in the field.
Although I am a Classics Ph.D. and a former professor, it has been some time since I taught. But I have noticed a decline in the number of Classics courses being offered at universities, a shift in teaching focus, and, at least this past fall, a concentration on archaeology positions in the academic job market rather than for Classics generalists. I thought that I might contribute to the discussion, and that by asking questions I might learn what was going on and what others thought about the direction of the field. I knew nothing about the people who’d been invited to speak.
A typical session at the SCS Annual Meeting involves six speakers giving papers, with a few minutes for one or two questions after each one, and usually lasts two-and-three-quarter hours. Papers are normally submitted through the Program Committee and classed by topic. However, this particular panel/workshop was atypical: the invited speakers, who only spoke for four or five minutes apiece, did not give true papers or have paper titles listed in the program, and therefore did not go through the Program Committee. Nor were they sponsored by any affiliated group as far as I know. Although Stephen Hinds (University of Washington) was listed as the organizer of the workshop, he did not chair the panel, keep order, call on members of the audience, or time the speakers. In short, it was an odd affair that seemed not to follow the (admittedly Byzantine) rules for SCS Meetings. The SCS Director, Helen Cullyer, was also present in the audience and gave a few anodyne remarks of welcome, but sat quietly throughout the subsequent uproar.