#SHA2019: The Battle of Saint Charles

Another year, another joint SHA/ACUA Conference on Historical and Underwater Archaeology.

This year’s conference was hosted in St. Charles, MO and organized by Dr. Steve Dasovich and his amazing conference committee. I cannot overstate how hard the conference organizers worked and how much all of us who attended appreciated it all.

My goals this year were simple:

  • avoid disaster while chairing my session and giving my paper

  • not make a fool of myself in front of internet acquaintances and Important People

  • go see some awesome sessions given by people I respect and admire

I think these goals were achieved, although only others can comment on how much of a fool I made of myself at any given time. I did see some really wonderful presentations, of which I’ll give a round up of the greatest hits below. But, predictably, along with my plague-ridden status as a vector of the cold from hell, I also had a minor-but-embarrassing technical issue where my nearly new computer decided that having 4 powerpoint files open at once was just too much work, and crashed.

Aside from personal issues, I think this conference was a success. Perhaps in a different way than those SHA meetings that have been held in larger cities like New Orleans, but I think what made it great was the intimacy, and even the pitfalls. Archaeologists love nothing more than complaining.

Anyone who was at the conference can give you a precise rundown of all the negatives, ranging from a foot of snow to an airport fire, but I’d like to focus on the positive experiences that the smaller conference allowed for. I was able to spend quite a bit of time chatting with people I really admire at this conference— it seemed like everyone had time to kill and a drink in their hand once 5:30 rolled around. The Past President’s Student Reception was a particular success, so a round of applause to Steve and his team is definitely due. Dr. Kate Clancy’s talk and workshop on sexual harassment in the sciences was an incredible high point, and I enjoyed being able to discuss with Dr. Clancy and my fellow archaeologists the nuances of gendered harassment in our discipline. The snow and cold may have prevented us from spending more time in the historic St. Charles Downtown, but it also meant I got trapped in my hotel with some incredibly smart people, leading to several late-night discussions about queer and feminist theory, social zooarchaeology, community activism, and, of course, baculums.

This year I made a point of livetweeting almost all of the sessions I attended. I didn’t do this for the retweets or likes, but to allow myself to sharpen my ability to accurately convey the importance of a speaker’s commentary in a short period of time. Livetweeting helps me record the most striking parts of a paper, and lets me revisit the content at a later date to jog my memory. Not least of all it allows my fellow archaeologists who can’t physically attend the conference a chance to see some of the content of the paper presented, and gives them a person to contact if they’d like to know more. Some of my favorite papers/presentations/talks and a brief description of their contents are below.

  1. Dr. Kate Clancy - “Sexual harassment and contempt for women in the sciences: climate, culture, and consequences”

    • Dr. Clancy’s talk touched on the “ocean of incivility” that women in the sciences must navigate, and how institutions tend to focus too much on the “sex” part of sexual harassment, and not the constant microaggressions that form the everyday landscape. She presented information from her research on the climate of sexual harassment, and its affects on both white women and women of color in the sciences.

  2. Dr. D. Ryan Gray - “ Erasing Lines of Class and Color in Storyville(s), New Orleans”

    • Dr. Gray’s work focuses on the position of “Storyville” as an iconic aspect of the New Orleans mythos, and it’s almost complete physical erasure from the city’s landscape. He discussed how the Iberville neighborhood built directly on top of Storyville, which was a dedicated area for sex workers to live and work, shifted from a thriving, cultured center of business to a disadvantaged, primarily Black neighborhood. Gray interprets this as deliberate act of forgetting and suppression of the neighborhoods previous identity and landscape, and hoped to uncover this information again through archaeological survey by the University of New Orleans.

  3. Oluseyi O. Agbelusi - “From Island to the City: A Preliminary Archaeological Investigation of Krio and Aku Settlements at Tasso Island and Freetown, Sierra Leone”

    • Oluseyi is a PhD student at Syracuse who presented on the fieldwork and preliminary research he’s planning on incorporating into his doctoral dissertation. Oluseyi is interested in looking at the “global entanglement of manumitted Africans in West Africa” and the communities that arose after the so-called abolition of the British slave trade. He is particularly interested in the ethnogenesis of Krio communities, and their interactions with the Aku settlements of 19th century Yoruba Muslim.