The ASOR Regional Societies
By Suzanne Richard, Chair, ASOR Regional Associations Committee
Everyone knows about ASOR’s Annual Meeting, where scholars, students, and interested laypeople gather to indulge themselves in the excitement of learning about the latest discoveries in the history and archaeology of the Near East. Indeed, the 2012 Annual Meeting in Chicago was a roaring success with close to 1,000 ASOR members in attendance. (Read about it on the ASOR blog). However, did you know that ASOR has a number of regional conferences across the country that take place every spring, usually between February and May? At the regional meetings, ASOR partners with other scholarly organizations, such as SBL, AAR, AOS, and CBA. There are eleven well-established SBL regions (Central, Eastern Great Lakes (EGL), Midwest, Upper Midwest, Mid-Atlantic, New England/Eastern Canada, Pacific Coast, Pacific Northwest (PNW), Rocky Mt/Great Plains, Southeast, and Southwest). Currently, ASOR has a presence in eight of the eleven regions.
Like the ASOR Annual Meeting, the regional conferences offer a venue for ASOR members to present and learn about Mediterranean and Middle Eastern studies, including excavation reports, synthetic cultural or historical studies, art historical topics or combined archaeological, biblical, and literary papers. For example, recent ASOR plenary speaker Jodi Magness gave a paper on the archaeology of Jerusalem at the Eastern Great Lakes meeting, while I had the opportunity to give the presidential address on cultic miniatures at Khirbat Iskandar; Joe Seger speaks on the Early Bronze Age this year at the Pacific Northwest regional meeting, while the Southeastern region meeting includes a session on the work of Joe Callaway. Some of the regions actively pursue outreach opportunities to the general public. Outreach is one of the signature goals of ASOR.
This is an exhortation to all ASOR members, students, and interested laypeople alike to become involved in your region! More papers means more archaeology sessions, which means more participants drawn to the conference. Become an ASOR member in order to give papers. Bring your students! They will have a forum in which to present their research and, if accepted, be able to publish it in a peer-reviewed regional journal such as Proceedings.
To coordinate the regional societies, ASOR established the Regional Affiliations Committee which reports to the ASOR Chairs Coordinating Committee, which in turn reports to the Executive Committee and, ultimately, to the President of ASOR. Suzanne Richard is the Chair of the Committee, which is comprised of representatives from the various ASOR regions. This committee has for many years had its own time-slot for a business meeting at the ASOR Annual Meeting. Although each of the regional societies is autonomous, the purpose of the committee from the beginning was to strengthen relations among the various regions in order to have a forum to exchange ideas, to promote a more active role for ASOR at the local level and to enhance ASOR’s visibility, membership, attendance at the Annual Meeting. The formation of the committee helped to recognize local (and tireless) unacknowledged ASOR supporters who were working to maintain an ASOR presence at the regional meetings. The ASOR reps were delighted to hear that ASOR was trying to organize, coordinate, and help the regions. Perhaps this might be a good place to review a little history.
The Regional Affiliations Committee began as a consultation (Committee on ASOR Regions) among regional ASOR leaders at the ASOR Boulder 2001 annual meeting. Doug Clark, as Chair of CAMP, set up the meeting in order to (1) discuss the status of ASOR participation at Regional Meetings, (2) improve links between the Regionals and ASOR National; (3) consider instituting a new subcommittee of CAMP to open lines of communication with ASOR Regionals; and (4) nominate a chair to the new subcommittee. Part of the rationale to encourage regions to be officially affiliated with ASOR was to open up lines for financial support for the regions, which was a major concern of committee members from the beginning. I was chosen to chair the subcommittee with a directive to research the status of and to write a summary of ASOR representation in the 11 regions. In the process, more of the regions opted for affiliation with ASOR, new reps were appointed, and at one point there was a full complement of 11 ASOR representatives. Thanks to the new initiative, financial support was forthcoming from ASOR. We first experimented with various means to stretch available moneys, sometimes dividing the pot equally among the regions, at other times, funding special programming, such as ASOR plenary speakers or extraordinary sessions at the regions. In 2012, the Regional Affiliations Committee and the Lectures Committee decided to collaborate by pooling their financial resources in order to offer ASOR funding to a broader audience. Be sure to look for the email blast on the ASOR blog for 2013 details.
Research on the various regions did uncover a great diversity among the regions (still today). Although the larger regions (Southeast, Southwest, Central, Pacific Northwest) were organized with by-laws, a set of officers, and rules for nominations, other groups were more informally organized, often with only one person serving as the ASOR representative. This situation obtains until today. There were no stand-alone ASOR regions then and there are none today.
Find your region below:
1. Pacific Northwest Region (defined as Alaska, Western Canada, Washington, Oregon, and Idaho)
2. Pacific Coast Region (defined as California and Arizona)
3. Southwest Region (defined as Texas, New Mexico, Louisiana, Arkansas, Kansas, and Missouri)
4. Rocky Mountain/Great Plains Region (defined as Colorado, Nebraska, Wyoming, New Mexico, Utah, and Montana)
5. Central Region (defined as those states contiguous with the state of Missouri).
6. Upper Midwest Region (defined as Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Ontario, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Northwest Territory, and Nunavut)
7. Midwest Region (defined as Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, Indiana)
8. Eastern Great Lakes Biblical Society region (defined as Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia)
9. Southeast Region (defined as Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina)
10. Mid-Atlantic Region (defined as West Virginia, Virginia, District of Columbia, Maryland, Delaware, and New Jersey)
11. New England/Eastern Canada Region (defined as Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont, Quebec, Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island,and Nova Scotia)
In conclusion, the regional societies and their ASOR representatives and officers are working tirelessly to bring good programming and a forum for ASOR members to present their research each spring. The whole organization benefits by greater participation and diversity of papers. Many of the smaller regions, in particular, need more people to help out, even if on an ad-hoc basic. If you are interested in playing a role and providing much-needed support for your local ASOR region, please contact me, Suzanne Richard. The regional societies provide an essential service to regional ASOR networks, to people who perhaps cannot make it to the ASOR Annual Meeting, to professors who can bring and mentor their students in the fine arts of presenting at scholarly meetings, to authors wishing feedback in a book review panel, to scholars who wish a “dry-run” and feedback on a new paper to deliver at one of the major conferences; of course, there is ample opportunity to plan workshops and discussion groups on special topics. Finally, maintaining a high ASOR visibility and presence across the country is in the self-interest of this most premier of all archaeological organizations.