July 1, 2010
Apart for a Season, AAR and SBL Re-merge Conference
The premier scholarly groups' decision, announced this week, will alleviate logistical headaches for many attendees and publishers.
What seemed like a divorce turned out to be only a brief separation.
The Society of Biblical Literature (SBL) and the American Academy of Religion (AAR), premier academic societies in the respective fields of critical biblical studies and religion, sent a letter to members this week announcing their joint conference — an annual pre-Thanksgiving event that in 2007 drew over 10,000 scholars — would resume in 2011 in San Francisco. They began holding separate conferences in separate cities in 2008.
This week April DeConick, a Rice University scholar in early Jewish/Christian thought, posted the letter, which includes agreed-upon guidelines for forthcoming conferences:
These meetings will
Occur in the same city — though the venue will change from year to year;
Occur at the same time — the weekend before the US Thanksgiving holiday;
Feature a single, jointly managed Publishers/Software/Book Exhibit;
Feature a single, jointly managed Employment Center;
Feature distinct and separate AAR and SBL programs planned with open communication between the organizations;
Encourage the organizations’ members to attend each other’s programs and events at no additional cost;
Allow the organizations to pursue their unique, if sometimes overlapping, missions;
Enhance cooperation, not competition, between the organizations.
The decision to meet separately drew criticism from attendees whose scholarly research fits AAR and SBL's respective fields, and who thus had to ask their schools to pay to attend both or opt to attend only one. Religion booksellers, seminary exhibitors, and alumni groups faced similar logistical challenges.
The letter, signed by AAR executive director Jack Fitzmier and SBL executive director Kent Richards, says nine concurrent meetings are planned from 2011 to 2019, with a fall 2012 meeting in Chicago and a fall 2013 meeting in Baltimore.