Thursday, April 30, 2009

I Haven’t Given Away my American Antiquity...Yet

I read Mark Warner’s article “Why I Gave away my American Antiquity” in the last SAA Archaeological Record with interwoven recognition and sadness. Warner tells us that he gave away his accumulated run of American Antiquity because it had become irrelevant to his research, scholarship, and teaching…. “as a historical archaeologist, I don’t find American Antiquity all that relevant to me as a professional. Simply put, there are other journals that I use more frequently, that I find more interesting to read, and that are more useful for me to teach from” (2009:6). He also documents the decline of historical archaeology articles in the journal.

I’m not a historical archaeologist, but I nevertheless share his feelings with some dismay. I’m trained as a Mesoamericanist, but I have broad interests which include parts of North America. Unfortunately, I, too, find American Antiquity increasingly irrelevant to my research and teaching, and I’m glad that someone has spoken up about it. My disquiet began in the mid-1990s when Latin American Antiquity started up. At the time, I was sharing an office with a dyed-in-the-wool North Americanist at a CRM firm. We were talking about the new journal. I was delighted by it, and to my surprise so was he, but for a very different reason: “I’m thrilled,” he said, “because American Antiquity won’t be full of all that Latin American stuff.” I don’t think that the original intent of Latin American Antiquity was to make American Antiquity into a regional North American journal, but that seems to have been the result. Volume 73 Number 3 of American Antiquity, from July 2008, is a good example of this trend. Almost all the articles and reports in that issue were on North American topics that seem to me, subjectively, to be of limited broader interest. Unfortunately, as American Antiquity becomes more parochial, it becomes less interesting and less relevant. This is a loss for the archaeological community in general and for the SAA in particular.

I haven’t given away my American Antiquity yet, but mainly because I’m a pack rat. Packratism is, in my experience, a congenital disease among archaeologists. Throwing stuff away is contrary to our nature. Think about what we do for a living: we go to extraordinary lengths to dig up other peoples’ very old garbage, and then we keep it forever in museums and repositories. The very idea of throwing away something new is nary inconceivable. So, my run of AA is safe for the foreseeable future, but I remain concerned about the direction the journal is taking.

Reference cited

Warner, Mark (2009). Why I Gave away my American Antiquity. SAA Archaeological Record Vol. 9, No. 2 (March), pp. 6-7.

No comments:

Post a Comment