A slightly more SBL detailed report:
Except for the social side. That was as it always is. I’ll mention the civilised bits: local beer was very good as was Chinatown. In fact the food generally was excellent though it was expensive. And the Sheraton bar must have made a fortune.
The lack of AAR was a problem for me on many levels but one was simple: I tend to go to a fair few AAR papers. Maybe the SBL papers I attended reflected this: a Redescribing Christian Origins session, papers on the primaries/election, corpses and Ezekiel, disability studies and Mark 5, and so on. On the deconstruction/construction issue I mentioned in connection with the Bowdoin paper, this came up in the Redescribing session. I chatted to a few people about this and I reemphasise again: does it matter if we deconstruct without reconstruction? I see no problem because it is simply using scholarship as primary source material and leads on to some of the most original discussions in recent years on the social and political histories of biblical studies.
Ok, I was also presenting at the Reading, Theory and the Bible group with the theme Reading, Space and Imagined Geographies (my paper was on the scholarly and political use of the contemporary Middle East when supposedly describing the ancient Mediterranean). While there were quite a few scholars who would be in sessions in which I have previously presented, this was a generally new audience for me, or at least it seemed that way. The audience seemed interested and engaged and was non-hostile to ideas, some of which would provoke a hostile reaction elsewhere among certain biblical scholars (as has happened in other sessions when issues relating to the Middle East are raised). There wasn’t much time for questions so all the serious feedback came after the session and around the conference. This was really helpful actually and it was also positive for the more politically themed papers (and no doubt the other papers too – but that’s not my immediate concern). There was a good sized audience for the whole session too.
Indeed, in subsequent discussions there was a fair bit of shared hostility towards such abuses of social sciences in NT scholarship from a number of scholars, whether present or not…which got me thinking... Presumably those who use bizarre stereotypes of Arabs (or Jews – another paper, another time…or indeed a book) aren’t going to sit back and accept they are wrong as some of us might like to happen. So, is the way things will change in the discipline (in this case, I mean the demise of outrageous but ideologically convenient stereotypes) – and I think I mean this seriously – simply be the old idea that a present generation of scholarly elite will eventually die off, their ideas with them…?