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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Burnout is Different for BIPOC

I bet we’ve all heard at least once in the past year that “your worth isn’t tied to your productivity.” The idea is that you shouldn’t let your work consume you to the point of burnout, which negatively affects all aspects of your health. 

Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It occurs when you feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to meet constant demands.

It’s easy to say that “your worth isn’t tied to your productivity,” but much, much harder to put that idea into practice

This is especially true when we’re inundated daily with posts on social media that make us feel like we aren’t doing enough, even when we feel good about the (quality and quantity of) work we’re doing.

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5 Grad School Interview Questions You Should Be Asking

As we enter grad school interview season, it’s time to think about some questions that you should be asking on your (virtual) visits. 

These questions are primarily ones BIPOC prospective students should have in mind. I know that in light of the recent discourse sparked by a NYT op-ed featuring Prof. Dan-el Padilla Peralta, they might be uncertain about continuing their academic journey. 

These are also questions I wish I’d asked years ago during my own grad school interviews. But I believe these are generally important questions to ask for anyone who has a serious, invested interest in reforming the field.

There are many things I wish I had asked on my grad school interview

A Change in Perspective

The recent #ClassicsTwitter discourse shows that our problems can’t (and won’t) be solved overnight. Those of us who offer critiques are painted as fatalists. We want to “burn it all down” with (they assume) no regard for the future of the field or the people within it. 

When my eyes were opened to the extent of the toxicity of Classics months ago, I swore I’d never advocate for another BIPOC student to join the field. Some have considered such a stance to be ‘exclusionary’, but I just didn’t want anyone to go through what I went through.

In the intervening months I have become a little more optimistic about the future of Classics. Despite the near-constant debates about how exactly the field should be reformed – and, no, I don’t want to talk about potential name changes – I continue to love what I study. I made this blog for other BIPOC in Classics, ancient history, and archaeology who also love what they study, even if they hate the racist, elitist underpinnings of the discipline.

I don’t want to discourage BIPOC students from continuing their studies in grad school. But I don’t want them to blindly join a program (or field) that will be detrimental to their well-being, either.

I believe now that everyone should be able to make their own, informed choice about entering or leaving the field. In that vein, here are just a few questions relating to diversity, equity, and inclusion that you should be asking during a grad school interview.

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Why We Don’t Need More Films About White Archaeologists

When I heard about the new Netflix film, “The Dig” (2021), I’ll admit I wasn’t that excited.

Maybe I’m disillusioned by all of the talks, conferences, and workshops on anti-racism, and the ongoing commentary on Classics’ white supremacist foundations. My first thought when I saw the trailer was: “Do we really need more films about white archaeologists?”

It’s 2021; we know BIPOC archaeologists exist. Where’s the representation?

The Dig was released on Netflix on January 29, 2021

Anyway, I watched it, more so that I could say that I did and so that I could write this blog post from an informed perspective. This is not a review of the film. Consider it instead a review of the great mess that is the lack of diversity in films about archaeology.

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Roundup: BIPOC in Ancient Studies Week on Twitter

From January 10-15, I decided to host what was then called the “7 Day #BIPOCinAncientStudies Challenge” on Twitter. 

What I realize now is that it really turned out to be more of a BIPOC in Ancient Studies Week – no challenge about it, just a week of building community and amplifying BIPOC voices and experiences. I called it the BIPOC in Ancient Studies challenge because I wanted it to be more inclusive of scholars who don’t consider themselves to be classicists, but still study the ancient world.

Although we lost some momentum in the second half of the week, I think the challenge was successful overall. I hope that everyone (both those who participated and those who shared the posts) enjoyed it!

From the start of the challenge, I knew that I wanted to share the prompts from the week in a blog post. This is so that it would be accessible to those of you who aren’t on Twitter who want to think about the prompts.

The Prompts

Day One: Who/what inspired you to pursue a degree in ancient studies?

Day Two: What’s an academic accomplishment that you’re most proud of? (or if you have many, share them all!!)

Day Three: Share an article/book by a BIPOC author that you’ve found moving, profound, and/or inspiring. Here are the ones that were mentioned:

The Work You Do, The Person You Are by Toni Morrison (article)

Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge (book)

Amo, amas, amat: what’s SHE doing in a field like THAT!?” by Shelley Haley (video)

“The Classics, Race, and Community-Engaged or Public Scholarship” by Patrice Rankine (article)

Shapes of Native

“Venus in Two Acts” by Saidiya Hartman (article)

Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza by Gloria Anzaldúa (book)

Why Students of Color Don’t Take Latin by John Bracey (article)

“Relationality is not a Metaphor: Enacting Wahkohtowin and Kihokewin Through Metis archaeology” by Dr. Kisha Supernant (video)

Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Words by Adrienne Marie Brown (book)

Day Four: We give so much of ourselves everyday that often we forget to take care of ourselves. If it’s for 5 mins or a few hours, do something for you today.

Day Five: In what way(s) have you grown since you began your journey?

Day Six: If you could have a beverage with any BIPOC scholar in the field, who would it be?

Your Turn

Feel free to contemplate these questions on your own (for the first time or again) and share them with your friends who aren’t on social media.

We didn’t get to Day Seven because, like I said, I think we were all running out of momentum. But if any BIPOC reading this feel so moved, comment below your answer to this final prompt: 

What is your one hope for the future of Classics, archaeology, ancient history, Egyptology, and related fields?

5 Questions to Consider Before Joining a Diversity Committee

Diversity committee seems to be the buzz word for academia in 2020. If you are a graduate student of color, you have probably encountered one in your department or institution. 

I have always been acutely aware of the lack of diversity in our field
Photo courtesy of the British School at Athens Ceramic Petrology Course in 2019

If you’re like me, you may have been recruited to join a newly-minted committee early on in the scramble to create these committees in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests. While we have been quick to take action in some areas, like hosting a series on webinars on anti-racist pedagogy, the gears have slowed down a bit over the last few months due to the chaos of a full pandemic semester. 

Anxieties surrounding joining a diversity committee as a person of color are not uncommon, and while I am proud of the things we have accomplished, there are things that I wish I had asked before joining. 

If you’re a person of color on the fence about joining a diversity committee, here are a few questions you should consider before making a decision.

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Funding Guide for BIPOC Students in Classics

*To no one’s surprise, the list is currently pretty scarce, despite the fact that I included one grant for Canadian students to round out the resources. However, if there are any funding sources that I missed, please let me know and I will add to the list!*

My relationship with funding throughout my academic career is not entirely straightforward.

In undergrad, I was awarded scholarships to dig in Greece at the Athenian Agora for two consecutive summers. 

For two summers I received funding to work on an excavation in Athens

However, it wasn’t until I got accepted to grad school that I started looking elsewhere for funding opportunities. But little did I know that that was just the beginning of my search.

Grad school is hard enough for anyone who’s looking for funding for anything. However, it is particularly difficult for students of color. We constantly compete with those who are traditionally favored in Classical Studies and archaeology. 

In undergrad, I had no idea that grants for BIPOC students existed. In fact, many of these funding opportunities did not exist in 2016. 

I received a Frank M. Snowden Undergraduate Scholarship that year and used it to improve my Latin for grad school. I recently applied for the new William Sanders Scarborough Fellowship, but have not yet received my results.

In sum, these are rare and precious opportunities that have emerged for students of color in Classical Studies. As such, I collected them in a place where students of color can access them easily.

In my experience these sorts of grants were not (and still aren’t) widely advertised by individual departments. Go figure.

Updated: Feb. 8, 2021.

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