- If a disciplinary journal is edited by a scholar whose publications have involved policing the boundaries of his or her discipline, then perhaps that is not the best place to send an in-the-face interdisciplinary paper. Both of my rejections from American Anthropologist this year were interdisciplinary papers, each with an explicit message of "anthropology has something to learn from this other body of research." Well, according to some reviewers and the editor, maybe anthropology doesn't have anything to learn from other fields. Chalk up one more personal beef with the American Anthropological Association and the attitudes of many anthropologists (read why I resigned from the American Anthropological Association). My chair recently suggested I apply for the AA editorship, and I almost fell down laughing.
- Latin American Antiquity is off to a great start under the new editorship of Geoff Braswell and María Gutiérrez. My praise is not based on the fact that they accepted our paper, but on two aspects of the review process. First, the reviews were done in under three months. For a "fast" journal these days, that isn't great, but for an archaeology journal, that is a very good turnaround time. Second, the editors didn't let a single cranky and negative review interfere with their decision. Sometimes journal editors play it "safe" and offer a rejection, or a "revise-and-resubmit" on the basis of a single very negative review. But in this case Geoff and María made the right call and accepted the paper. Around 90% of the criticism of the cranky reviewer was based on one procedure we followed, which supposedly invalidated all of our conclusions. But the critique ignored material presented in another section of the paper that obviated the negative implications of that one procedure. So kudos to the editors for not getting hung up with the one cranky review.
- Commercial publishers are looking for the next Jared Diamond. Most of the replies by editors at the big commercial presses (Norton, Random House, Simon & Schuster, etc.) said that my book manuscript looked interesting, but the projected sales figures from the marketing department were not high enough to justify an offer. Aztec households and communities just aren't sexy enough. They'd love a manuscript that shows how archaeology can solve a major social problem today (as in Jared Diamond), or even some straight archaeology about flashy things like tombs and kings, if written with flair, in first-person terms. But household archaeology? Not ready for prime time. But we haven't given up yet.......
- It is disappointing when you gear up for a big fight, which then doesn't happen. Jason Ur, Gary Feinman and I just published a critique of Jane Jacobs's screwey notion that cities preceded domestication and agriculture in prehistory:
I tell the story of why it was necessary to respond to a crazy model elsewhere (an old blog post, and then a recent post on Wide Urban World). But our paper was written as a critique of an article in the same journal by geographer Peter Taylor, who champions Jacobs's model. Taylor believes in the primacy of theory over evidence. Archaeologists don't REALLY know what happened in the past, and thus, "In such situations of knowledge uncertainty, it is the plausibility of theoretical positions [rather than evidence] that matter’ (p. 425 of Taylor, Peter J. (2012) Extraordinary Cities: Early "City-ness" and the Origins of Agriculture and States. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 36(3):415-447.). So we expected to get a reply to our critique from Taylor. The journal editor was looking forward to this, and planned to use the debate to generate publicity, but evidently Taylor never submitted anything. Oh well.