Friday, August 13, 2010

What next for the MAA?

by J J Cohen

So the story gets more interesting (and complicated, and depressing) as time goes on.

That the Executive Committee was not behind the recently disseminated CFP makes me wonder who composed and distributed it. Was this CFP an advertisement of the newly added conference topics, or an attempt to get people to submit papers for a potentially moribund conference? Are MAA members voting again, this time through electing not to participate in the Tempe event? How united was the Executive Committee in the decision that the conference be held in AZ after all, and were they the determining voices? Is the resignation of three faculty members from the program committee a sign that local arrangements are in trouble?

My last post about the MAA was optimistic about its eventual future. I am having a harder time holding on to that hopefulness at the moment.


Karl Steel said...

At this point, I can't imagine ANYONE on any of the sides of this issue [├ępater les gauches; burn down the whole edifice; work together in a spirit of friendship; work together in a spirit of scholarship; and so on] can be satisfied with what's happening now. Things might settle back into the status quo ante, but perhaps not? Not to be too cutesy, but in this confusion and uncertainty, we might be seeing the rumblings of an actual future, an opening into who knows what.

Another Damned Medievalist said...

You know, I do sympathize with the councillors and the Executive Committee in that this has got to be hard, and probably not what they signed up for. I am very concerned that there was an implication that some members (?) were threatening lawsuits if the meeting did not go ahead, and if that's the case, then I think there needs to be a re-writing of the bylaws, and maybe a working committee that goes beyond the council and EC -- perhaps bringing in past councillors and officers as well as more junior scholars.

I really do think there needs to be an MAA, and that it should not die because of this. But I'm not sure what it is that the MAA wants to be, or that its members want it to be. It may be a time for redefinition -- or definition? Another thought: the MAA is old. It used to be *the* medievalists' society in America. But so many other societies have grown up in the last 15-20 (or fewer) years, and my impression is that these societies, e.g., those that focus on the Early Middle Ages, were created by people who felt that the MAA meetings and Speculum did not really represent their scholarly interests. The MAA meeting is really the last on my list of meetings, because the Zoo, Leeds, SEMA, Big Berks, and Shifting Frontiers are all far more likely to have papers that interest me and are relevant to my work. And Haskins is far friendlier for the later stuff I like.

Basically, MAA isn't the 800-lb gorilla anymore, but I think it still sees itself that way. The reality is that people have broader options and less money for memberships and subscriptions. This may be the time for a re-think on how to make the organization more relevant to all of us, or perhaps to specialize to a couple of core groups.