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August 23, 2010


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Color me dubious. What will take place at those panels? Will there be genuine interaction and debate among the panelists over the paper(s) that are presented? Will many members of the audience have read the paper, or profit from hearing it in a way that adds value beyond reading the paper when it eventually appears in print?

The cynical view is that the call for papers and for poster presentations is a way for AALS to attract junior scholars willing to spend their schools' money, at the exorbitant rate the conference demands, in order to secure CV entries. Not incidentally, cost and waste are a third trenchant critique of AALS.


Adding an additional panelist will change little in the composition of the panels. AALS panels will continue to be composed of well-connected people who have friends in high places. It will continue to favor people from big name schools because that tends to draw larger audiences. The same people appear on multiple panels year after year, even if they haven't published any particularly groundbreaking work that year. The only way around this is to make the whole event based on blind review; and in a discipline where we are too lazy to even have completely blind review for journal articles we surely won't move to it at the annual meeting.

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