Last weekend, despite weather warnings, an empty fuel tank, and a big bag of nerves, I headed even further north to Newcastle for NEBARSS 2015, a postgraduate archaeology symposium for us Neolithic/Early Bronze Age types. I prepared my very first poster for this event. This is the story of how it went.
My first impressions of Newcastle University were mostly governed by the proximity to a Blackwell’s bookshop and the fact it looked very charming in the snowfall (about 18 flakes but still very briefly beautiful). This train of thought was clearly my mind’s attempt to distract me from the thought of there will be people there who know Things about archaeology, and they will realise that you are an Idiot. I’m no stranger to Imposter Syndrome, in fact I have previously counselled friends and colleagues about it during my teaching days, but when it happens to you it’s an entirely insidious, sneaky feeling. They will Know.
Thankfully, I was relatively confident that my poster at least looked pretty good and read well, as I’d guinea pigged it on a couple of colleagues and had diligently followed advice from several excellent blog posts on creating decent conference posters; I’d recommend reading here, here and here if you too are putting together your work in a handsome sheet of A1.
It was early in proceedings that I started to feel less like a numpti, too. People were actually TALKING about my work, in an interested way that leads to the kind of conversations you don’t want to stop.I got invited to give a lecture to a local archaeological society, by some wonderful women who had worked at Evora in the 1980s – I plan to survey there so their first hand knowledge of the earlier excavations was a gold mine. I got chatting to a fine art student who is working with a stone on Ilkley Moor to try and give it back its agency as a living landmark through her art; I actually had cause to talk about a paper I read last week about the agency of contentious sites such as Nuremberg and how sites maintain their influence and power even in the face of ideological change or attempted destruction of their previous intent. There was me thinking I was procrastinating rather than doing some relevant reading! I fell back in love with Deleuze and Guattari, and reminded myself I need to write up all my thoughts on assemblage into my methodology and lit review. I developed a mad notion to get into pottery so I could recreate some Bronze Age funerary wares. Once more, I felt the need to trek to Orkney and live there like some mad archaeologist hermit.
Above all, I felt once more like part of an academic world that has the sense of “home”. Sharing passions and frustrations and discoveries – that’s pure joy. The setting was casual enough to be comfortable, but academic enough to feel like I’d broadened my mind.
Also I managed to look fairly normal (although apparently from 1978) in my snapshot, which is an achievement in itself.