Day Three of AARSBL (American Academy of Religion and Society of Biblical Literature)

To read the previous round-ups, click here. To be honest, Day Three of AARSBL was […]

Todd Brewer / 11.22.17

To read the previous round-ups, click here.

To be honest, Day Three of AARSBL was only OK. I went to the Christian Apocrypha discussion on a worthwhile new collection of Christian Apocrypha, with interesting commentary on the nature of genres, on which texts should be included, and on future editions of this new series. I’m definitely going to buy the book at some point.

The rest of the day didn’t feature any sessions of interest, an opinion confirmed by the number of coffee meetings I had with others who were likewise underwhelmed by the offerings. That isn’t to say there is nothing going on. The place is still buzzing with everything else that makes AARSBL great. So here are a few other highlights and things of note:

The Book Exhibition

aka…I’ve died and gone to scholar’s heaven. It’s a wonder to behold. Anyone can go to a paper (it seems), but only those who register for the conference can walk into the massive book exhibition. Featuring countless stalls of publishers with unexpected discounts on their brand new publications, it’s easy to spend a week’s pay in the time it takes to have lunch. Any free time is easily spent perusing the latest and greatest while also bumping into friends and colleagues who are likewise killing time and burning cash.

That said, with each year that passes I find it less and less important to buy yet another recent commentary on Galatians. Sure, the book is on sale. But: 1. There’s only so much I can read, 2. I am not justified by the expansiveness of my library, and 3. Impulse buys are rarely good decisions. This was the first year I didn’t buy a single book.

The Receptions

The real reason to go to AARSBL. Just kidding (sort of). Publishers, societies, and many of the top-tier universities all throw parties for their respective constituents to boost their public profile. The appetizers and booze are almost always free. It’s always a great time. Like most others, AARSBL is usually the only time I get to see some of my oldest friends/mentors and these are a wonderful time to reconnect.

But as in any other job, the line between social and professional interaction is significantly blurred and the receptions provide a yearly venue to renew acquaintances with past (and future) collaborators. Apparently, the Wipf & Stock party was pretty lavish this year. Duly noted.

The Job Market

One of three conversations that is guaranteed to take the air out of the room. AARSBL tries to facilitate the candidate search process for universities by providing meeting space and an online job posting board. Consequently, every year hopeful future professors come to the conference to interview for teaching posts. It’s all a bit of a ridiculous process and I can’t name many colleagues who actually found a job through it.

This year, AAR decided to advertise about all of the underemployed adjunct professors. The statistics are abysmal and are reaching epidemic proportions. I’m not sure, though, that all the poster boards littering the hallways really had the intended effect. The administrators who make financial decisions aren’t at the meeting. And the unintentional message to prospective students was clear: “get out of academia while you still can.”


I am sure that it is a wonderful city, but the food options surrounding the conference center can’t even compare with last year’s visit to San Antonio. I would have gladly walked further for more food options, but the weather was just a step above Baltimore’s deep freeze a few years back. I’m glad that my commute here from NYC was a short one, but I’d rather not have to bring an umbrella and a down jacket to future conferences. OK, rant over.

Come back tomorrow for a review of Day Four of AARSBL—I’m told the Corpus Hellenisticum Novi Testamenti session is going to be terrific.

subscribe to the Mockingbird newsletter


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *