5 Things We Need to Sacrifice in Classical Studies

I recently saw a Tweet that emphasized the true purpose of anti-racism work: repair, restoration, and sacrifice where necessary. 

The third element – sacrifice – particularly struck me, especially as I was trying to think of what this week’s blog post would be about. It put the ongoing debates about the vitality of the field of Classics into a new perspective.

Those who have argued for ‘burning it all down’ know what it would mean to make sacrifices for the betterment of the discipline; those who oppose and criticize the idea of reforming Classics are simply afraid of a little discomfort. They would rather see a discipline rife with problems continue to thrive than sacrifice some things in order to at least begin to solve those problems. 

This makes me think of Reni Eddo-Lodge’s concept of ‘fear of a black planet’ — the fear that by giving black people any power at all, the cultural hierarchy would be inverted and white people would be completely powerless and oppressed. (A similar concern was raised about the term ‘intersectionality‘. Do I sense a theme?)

What would the equivalent be for Classics? Fear of a BIPOC discipline?

I’d like to say that this is only characteristic of the old, white, tenured contingency of the discipline, but that just isn’t the case. We all need to make sacrifices, some much bigger than others, if we want to make progress in making Classics an anti-racist discipline.

Books that are staples in the field of Classical Studies
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Professional Development: Where to Start and Where to Look (Hidden Curriculum #5)

For those of you who are new here, the hidden curriculum includes a set of things we’re expected to know how to do, from attending a conference for the first time to applying for funding to going on the job market, without actually being taught them. This month I’m talking professional development and why it’s so important, especially for grad students.

The classroom at the BSA where I took my ceramic petrology class

Professional development and academics have always been at odds. 

Either you write your thesis or you take workshops and courses that make you a better job candidate. 

Either you spend your summer working on a field project or you participate in an internship that gives you first-hand experience in the field you want to work in. 

But you can never do both. Or so it seems.

The truth is that you can and should be able to do both. But there are structural constraints which make it difficult.

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BIPOC Features: Machal Gradoz

One of the things that I wanted to do with Notes From the Apotheke was to amplify the voices and contributions of BIPOC scholars in ancient studies, at all levels and from all backgrounds. BIPOC in the field are invited to reflect on what brought them to studying the ancient world, as well as offer their opinions on the future of the discipline and share any work they are especially proud of or excited about.

This month’s installment of the BIPOC feature series is written by my good friend and colleague Machal Gradoz!

Machal doing archaeological fieldwork
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Demystifying the Dissertation Chapter (Hidden Curriculum #4)

The hidden curriculum series is back! For those of you who are new here, the hidden curriculum includes a set of things we’re expected to know how to do, from attending a conference for the first time to applying for funding to going on the job market, without actually being taught them. Since I signed up for a Dissertation ECoach last term, I thought I’d share a few tips that I found most helpful from it.

Actually footage of me pretending to work on my dissertation

Dissertation ECoach – What is it?

The Dissertation ECoach is an interactive digital messaging tool that draws on dissertation writing strategies to affect graduate students’ writing practice. It was developed by several teaching and writing centers at the University of Michigan, and ran weekly for the duration of the Winter term (Jan-Apr). 

Through the ECoach portal, graduate students who are starting to write their dissertation receive personalized messages that influence a positive writing process. The personalized feedback that students receive helps them engage with more effective writing practices.

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3 Tips for More Anti-Racist Mentorship

This morning I participated in a plenary session for a workshop on anti-racist and decolonial curricula in archaeology hosted by the Columbia Center for Archaeology. In my talk, I framed the topic of anti-racist curricula in terms of mentorship, and the ways in which good mentorship could help alleviate the pressures placed on first-gen, marginalized, and underrepresented students in Classical Studies and archaeology by the hidden curriculum.

The Hidden Curriculum

The hidden curriculum is a set of skills or norms that individuals are expected to know, particularly in academia, without being formally taught them

On this blog, I have taken a particular interest in the hidden curriculum, and have made several blog posts illuminating different aspects of it.

Skills and norms which are part of the hidden curriculum include:

  • Preparing for fieldwork
  • Writing a dissertation (prospectus, chapter)
  • How and when to apply for funding
  • Writing conference abstracts and papers
  • What to wear and how to act when attending a conference
  • How to interview for a (usually academic) job

These range from seemingly simple skills to more complex ones. However, our assumptions about individuals’ knowledge of these skills and norms disproportionately harm students from marginalized backgrounds. These students feel they must put in twice the work to keep up with their peers.

Here are some ways that we can better support students throughout their academic careers.

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Why I’m Not Traveling Abroad This Summer

It should be unsurprising to anyone who knows me when I say that fieldwork plays a big role in my success as an academic. This is because I’m an archaeologist who specializes in ancient Greece. My fieldwork requires me to travel abroad for several weeks to months at a time each year, usually in the summer. 

I am very sad that I haven’t gone to Greece in nearly two years. The reluctance of some of my colleagues to cancel field projects and research trips in light of the ever-changing COVID situation has also been surprising.

I get it, I do. The last year was a total setback for many archaeological projects, including my own. My dissertation has taken a new path thanks to the fact that I couldn’t do fieldwork last summer, despite my best laid plans. 

But is getting that dissertation done or that excavation going more important than the lives of the people who live in your destination country?

The answer should be simple: no, it’s not.

The challenges to admitting this are many. It’s no secret that many programs and departments have grappled with how to deal with funding and time to degree for those of us whose research got derailed by the pandemic. 

Some places, such as at Michigan, have found ways to support students needing extra time to finish, which lessens the burden on students scrambling to secure support elsewhere. However, I know this isn’t the case everywhere.

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UPDATE: New posts coming in May!

I know I’ve been M.I.A. this month, but I just wanted to pop in and let anyone who’s still checking in periodically know that regular posts will return beginning in May.

I decided to take the month of April to really focus my energy on tying up loose ends (end of term, various talks I had to give and papers and abstracts that needed to be written and revised…) in the hopes that I could give more of my energy to this blog in the summer. So keep an eye out for new posts beginning next week!

And for those of you who are still deep in the throes of the end of the academic term — you’re almost there! You can do it! Summer is right around the corner.

N

BIPOC Features: Vanessa Stovall

One of the things that I wanted to do with Notes From the Apotheke was to amplify the voices and contributions of BIPOC scholars in ancient studies, at all levels and from all backgrounds. BIPOC in the field are invited to reflect on what brought them to studying the ancient world, as well as offer their opinions on the future of the discipline and share any work they are especially proud of or excited about.

For this month’s installment of the BIPOC Feature series, I am thoroughly excited to present Notes in a Classical Canon or, a (Re)petition to the Field, by Vanessa Stovall.

Vanessa Stovall at Euterpe Ancient Music School in Summer 2019 in Tarquinia
Photo included with permission of the author.
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Writing Personal Statements (Hidden Curriculum Series #3)

The hidden curriculum includes a set of things we’re expected to know how to do, from attending a conference for the first time to applying for funding to going on the job market, without actually being taught them. In keeping with the applications theme, this new addition to the series is on the personal statement. 

Thanks to everyone on Instagram who helped with the decision!

A note on the personal statement

This post is about writing personal statements for funding applications, not grad school applications. I realize that there also exist “statements of purpose,” which are sometimes asked for in addition to a personal statement.

https://www.greedge.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/1-1.png
Image credit: GREedge (greedge.com)

In the case of funding applications, “personal statement” and “statement of purpose” are often used interchangeably. 

Take for example these two funding opportunities from my university:

#1: The statement of purpose must be single-spaced, 12pt font, and three pages maximum including any bibliography, citations, project timetable, graphics, etc. These should be written in language for non-specialists, should describe the proposed research project and discuss its rationale, objectives, design, timetable, feasibility, and methodology, as well as the projected benefits of this trip. If the applicant will be working with an established research project, a description of the organization and the activities in which he/she will be engaged must be included. Applicants should also discuss any language skills needed to conduct the proposed research.

#2: Students’ personal statement…should address the importance of the student’s work in the beginning two or three sentences. The statement should include the theoretical framework of the dissertation, its specific aims, methodologies (how the student is conducting the research), originality, and the significance and contribution of the project to the field…The statement should be written with an interdisciplinary faculty review panel in mind; i.e., reviewers will NOT necessarily be familiar with the technical vocabulary of a specific field.

The purposes of the funding opportunities are slightly different. One specifically supports international research and the other supports work on the dissertation (writing and/or research) more broadly, with an eye toward completion. 

However, the requirements for the statements are roughly the same. 

If you’re unsure of what to include in a statement, funding institutions usually spell out what sort of information they’re looking for in a personal statement/statement of purpose.

Continue reading “Writing Personal Statements (Hidden Curriculum Series #3)”

Ways to Support the AAPI Community

This morning on Instagram I shared a message of solidarity with the AAPI community on this day and all days, and I condemned the increasing instances of violence that they have had to endure since the pandemic began. In particular, my heart goes out to all of my AAPI friends and colleagues in light of the racist, misogynistic, and sexist murder of 6 Asian women in Atlanta

Since sharing this post, I have come across innumerable resources, mutual aid funds, and action points that I thought might be worth collecting in a single place. 

As in the case of anti-Black racism, raising awareness shouldn’t be the only thing that you do in response to anti-Asian violence fueled not only by racism, but also by misogyny and sexism. It’s only the first step. Our friends and colleagues need us to stand with them and show up for them. 

Here are some ways you can do this.

Resources to share with your AAPI friends and colleagues:

Mental Wellness Resources for AAPI (Asian American Journalists Association)

A collection of mental health resources, ways to donate and volunteer, organizations to support, petitions to sign, books to read, and more:

Resources for unlearning your anti-Asian biases and prejudices:

Check out the amazing work that the Asian and Asian-American Classical Caucus of the Society for Classical Studies is doing (and consider donating!)

Black and Asian-American Feminist Solidarities: A Reading List

Resources and general information about the ongoing anti-Asian hate crimes (from May 2020)

Up-to-date (as of 3/16/2021) reports on anti-AAPI hate (from Stop AAPI Hate)

List of things you can do (in addition to donating) to support the AAPI community (from Stop AAPI Hate)

Bystander Intervention Training to Stop Anti-Asian/American and Xenophobic Harassment (Free) (Hollaback! & AAJC) 

Mutual aid funds, organizations, and businesses to donate to:

Where to Donate to Help Asian Communities (currently includes 60+ ways to do so)

Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Atlanta (also includes ways to volunteer and get involved in protecting AAPI voting rights in Georgia)

Support Georgia’s Asian American Community (donations go towards helping the victims and their families impacted by the violent acts that occurred on March 16, 2021; AAAJ-Atlanta)

Red Canary Song (a grassroots collective of Asian and migrant sex workers, organizing transnationally)

AAPI Mutual Aid Organizations by State

Support the AAPI Community Fund (GoFundMe)

The Hate Is A Virus commUNITY Action Fund 

This list is obviously not exhaustive, but I hope it can be a place to start for those who want to actively support our AAPI friends, colleagues, and communities.