I’ve been thinking a bit recently about the power of the written word, and of the associations with both personal jottings and more wider ranging long form pieces such as academic text books or investigative journalism. Partly this has been guided by the growing number of books on my bedside, but also by a personal milestone in the publication of a bioarchaeology chapter by yours truly. I’ll try not to mention this too much but it has been, and it will be, the realisation of a dream of mine to become a published author and particularly so in a topic that is close to my professional and personal interests. But more on that below.
Publishing: The Invisible Researchers
The term Publish or perish is a popular and well-known academic phrase that highlights the fact that research that isn’t published appropriately, or in a relatively timely manner, can easily become lost to the archives and the relevancy of the researcher to their discipline to disappear. Any academic employed at an educational institute and conducting research will likely regularly produce articles, chapters, and books as appropriate, and actively take part in conferences giving papers or leading workshops to disseminate and communicate knowledge. This is a normal part of the workload (heavy though that can be) of a research position.
Whether that phrase is helpful or stressful depends on the context – rushed research can lead to false or doctored evidence and the increased pressure to publish, along with the normal duties of lecturing, likely being a course or module tutor, and the administration accompanying such positions, can indeed lead to a hefty work load. My interest in this though is the invisible researchers who are not employed within academia but are located on the fringes, those such as myself who work full-time in other sectors and publish and research in our own free time. This blog is a prime example of that, but also of the mixing of the boundaries between the personal and the academic which would not normally be found within journals or published volumes. Rather this is space to inform, educate, and communicate the interests and experiences of the individual. The published work, of which I have only a few examples currently with more emphasis currently on specialist reports, requires a change of tone and, often, of approach.
Publishing Date Rule of Thumb?
I’ve also recognised a relatively reliable rule of thumb for academic book publishing. For instance, I’ve been eagerly awaiting the publication of my own chapter within an edited volume titled New Developments in the Bioarchaeology of Care: Further Case Studies and Theory, to be published as a part of Springer’s Bioarchaeology and Social Theory series. The edited volume builds upon Lorna Tilley’s 2015 Theory and Practice in the Bioarchaeology of Care publication in identifying and interpreting cases of care provision in prehistory through osteological and contextual analysis, and by furthering the theoretical framework. It is exciting to a part of such a volume as a result of the SAA session in 2015 and I’m keen to hold a copy of the finished work and to read the other authors contributions. I’m also intrigued by the reception that the volume will hopefully receive and the criticism too, with the opportunity to learn from others in the field of bioarchaeology.
But the rule of thumb! Springer obviously mentions their forthcoming volumes on their site as do other commercial online retailers, however I’ve noticed they tend not to add a specific date for publication whereas some retailers, such as Amazon, do under the title release date (1). This is useful to know as the publishing date tends to change depending on when the individual chapter and volume editing and proof-reading tasks have been completed, and as to when the publishing production units can start to print. In my case I’ve noticed the dates shift around a few times due to various factors but I’ve always known when roughly publication and release date should be, sometimes ahead of emails from the volume editors. Of course this won’t really be a rule of thumb until the volume is published and collaborates my theory, but you can expect another blog post then! If you have noticed the same trend please let me know below.
Socio-Sexual Lives In Bioarchaeology
Through serendipity I happened to come across Pamela Geller’s 2016 book The Bioarchaeology of Socio-Sexual Lives: Queering Common Sense About Sex, Gender, and Sexuality, published in the same Bioarchaeology and Social Theory series by the above and due for release shortly. I am very tempted to order a copy of this volume as it seems to challenge the binary orthodoxy of sexuality and identity so prevalent within bioarchaeological analysis of past individuals and populations. That is an interrogation of the assumption of stability with regards to the values of hetero-normative relations within today’s Western world that is so often projected onto past populations and cultures.
The wide range of cultural case studies and the deep chronological scope of the volume also promises to make it be an invigorating and exciting read. As with the Bioarchaeology of Care publication, this volume probes the archaeological record into areas of research that have rarely been investigated in-depth, thus potentially opening up the record to a far greater scrutiny of the lived experience of sexual identity and gender. As such, it is very much on my bioarchaeological books to read next list (you know, after I’ve read this other pile of books by my bedside table!). It isn’t very often that I purchase bioarchaeology volumes as they can be quite expensive if they are not available in paperback or second-hand (2), but I’ll think I’ll make a change for this volume. If I do I’ll be sure to write-up an entry for the blog.
Memories of Fractures
And so to bring this post to a timely conclusion I return to my opening paragraph. One of my favourite books that I’ve had the pleasure of reading within the past few years remains the sociologist Ann Oakley’s (2007) Fracture: Adventures of a Broken Body, an essay on the impact of the author’s traumatically fractured humerus that covers much ground within a relatively slim volume. I largely adore this book because it is so relatable and so readable, the descriptions of the personal and professional impact of her fracture is something that I can very much sympathize and empathize with. However the strength is also the breadth of the book, through the historical, medical and sociological musings on the frailty, health and image of the human body and entwined identity. This volume then represents a fine mix of the personal and the academic, never afraid to speak freely on the issues and challenges that face society in accepting the differences in human form and the obstacles.
The Great Questions of Bioarchaeological Research
To me then bioarchaeology and its associated disciplines offers the chance to investigate on a fundamental level one of the central facets of our existence; what does it mean to be human? How is this represented and approached in the archaeological record? How were individuals treated within their respective populations, and what were the lived experiences of these populations and individuals like? The ability to answer some of these questions, in part at least, endlessly fascinates me. Some of the publications named above aim to answer these questions and may do just that.
(1). I have just rechecked this and sadly my thumb of thumb can seemingly be thrown out of the window. It appears that Amazon does seem to have a better rough date for volumes in preparation, but that by the final month or so within publishing and release date Springer also update their website.
(2). Joining local or university libraries, where possible, can be great to order books in or to borrow books that are otherwise un-affordable or rare to find. I generally only purchase bioarchaeology manuals that can be used in osteological analysis or are otherwise handy reference books, but otherwise some books can make great presents!
Geller, P. L. 2016. The Bioarchaeology of Socio-Sexual Lives: Queering Common Sense About Sex, Gender and Sexuality. New York: Springer.
Oakley, A. 2007. Fracture: Adventures of a Broken Body. Bristol: Policy Press.
Tilley, L. 2015. Theory and Practice in the Bioarchaeology of Care. New York: Springer.