As an anthropologist, I find it very exciting to share my ethnographic and theoretical work with scholars from a range of disciplines who might not normally come across it. This is, in part, why I have enjoyed attending AJS conferences. Over the past several years I have delivered papers at AJS’s annual meeting on organized panels spanning a diverse range of topics: Jewish music; the economics of Jewish education; mysticism and spirituality; Israeli culture and nationalism; and Mizrahi pop culture. This has meant gaining perspectives and feedback from scholars who view issues from diverse vantage points and methodologies, and I know that this has enriched my research. I believe AJS could do more to facilitate such important interactions. Perhaps AJS could encourage a
formalized “speed-dating” type of academic networking during a reception, where attendees might meet a range of scholars over hors d’oeuvres; these brief interactions
would likely lead to new collaborations.
At the same time, it is very important for the more specialized caucuses to have a
space to meet. My ideal AJS conference would also offer a forum/meeting for scholars who
examine contemporary cultural studies (such as anthropologists, sociologists, ethnomusicologists, folklorists, and scholars of film, dance, and literature). We—who study the very recent past and present—are a small minority at AJS, and it would be wonderful to have an opportunity to discuss our work and shared theoretical interests and concerns.
In short, the ideal AJS conference would provide attendees with more opportunities for interaction and exchange beyond our disciplinary boundaries while also allowing further communication and connection with scholars in our own specialized fields.
Finally, I feel a responsibility to voice what so many of us feel: if we continue to meet at the beginning of winter vacation, why not occasionally hold the meetings in sunny Florida? Laura Levitt and David Shneer’s annual AJS party could only be improved if folks were sipping margaritas with an ocean-side view.