On the National Outreach Scholarship Conference: Day 2

Posted by on Sep 28, 2009 in Dirt, Research and Engagement | One Comment

Two days of conferencing have passed. I have learned a good deal about the language and scholarship of engagement. In a nutshell, engagement scholarship is the cross section of research, teaching, and outreach. It is grounded in the concept of mutual-benefit, community-university partnerships. Ideally, this scholarship approaches projects hand in hand with the community: from research to questions to data etc.

A lot of the conversation, particularly in the Emerging Engagement Scholars Workshop, hovers around the issues of challenging traditional forms of scholarship. This is emphasized in part because such scholarship does not receive the benefits in tenure and promotion that producing articles does. However, an additional reason should receive a little bit more attention: the level of interference traditional models of scholarship has had on community engagement. Typically, such engagement occurs as a top down relationship. Engagement scholarship emphasizes the equal footing of the community and the researcher. This means that traditional concepts of scholarship need to be reexamined not only by the university, buy also by the communities with which we hope to engage.

I will say that the scholarship that is done by archaeologists fits very well into this conversation, particularly the work by Maria Franklin at the university of Texas-Austin. She stresses the mutual benefit and the engagement of the community within all aspects of the research. What has been interesting is the relationship of archaeologists to their data compared to the other scholars at the conference: for us, the data is external. For them, the community provides the data. This makes the type of community and the type of engagement somewhat different.

Lastly, I have been surprised by how little the people here seem to be engage in digital social media. It seems like a free and obvious way to maintain a transparent process to the research. Communities could maintain in contact with each step of the research, and gain an insight into the process that researchers take.

In all, this has been a very rewarding experience. I think that archaeology has a critical role to play in this discussion on engagement. I hope that more of these bridges are crossed between those doing this research and disciplines that study culture and history.