American Adventures: Saying Yes in Second Year

PhD student Yvonne O'Dell tells us about her research trips this year
American Adventures: Saying Yes in Second Year

Yvonne and Oliver Harris at TAG

Second year has been my year of saying yes. First year passed in a blur of Deleuze and Spinoza, training sessions, and introductory language classes, as I got to grips with the art of doing a PhD. This year I wanted to cram my time with as many opportunities as possible before the self-imposed hibernation of writing up turned my eager affirmations into reluctant nos. So, when Ollie Harris sent the email advertising the position to represent the school at the Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology in Albuquerque, New Mexico (somewhat dubiously including Breaking Bad as a selling point), I jumped at the chance. Armed with the promise of sherbet lemons and a social media strategy to entice prospective students, I made it through interview. I signed off on risk assessments, informed the airline of my lengthy dietary requirements, and was good to go.

San Felipe
San Felipe de Neri Church, Albuquerque
The SAA’s Annual Meeting is one of the world’s largest archaeology conferences. Over 5,000 people attend, questioning, challenging, transmitting, and ingesting all things archaeology. Our school hoped to attract new students with a stand in the enormous exhibition hall, where a steady stream of conference attendees browsed books, university stands, society stalls, and crafts. As a self-confessed introvert, it was intense. However, it was also a lot of fun. I was able to meet distance learners, alumni, and many people curious about our Midlands home, “Lie-chester”. Attending the SAAs was a valuable experience. Events at the conference called for a timely re-evaluation of our strategies for addressing #metoo, and pertinent questions were raised about the exclusionary nature of academic conferences.

Syracuse University
Syracuse University
Fast forward a fortnight and I’m making my way to Syracuse in upstate New York for the Theoretical Archaeology Group (TAG) conference. Some time before, egged on by Hannah Cobb and Rachel Crellin over drinks in the Marquis, I’d applied to speak in a session on Post-humanism and feminism, somewhat belatedly realising that feminism is something I could and should talk about in my research. TAG has long been one of my favourite conferences and the US TAG lived up to the precedent set by its British counterpart. I attended some fascinating sessions which have led me to new theories and databases, reconnected with former Leicester colleagues, and particularly enjoyed an after-hours reception in the Museum of Science and Technology.

So, what have I learned? A second year of saying yes has led to some exciting opportunities, taking me to cities I never thought I’d visit. I’ve really enjoyed my time stateside, and now you can find me plotting my next adventure before the year ends.

Yvonne O'Dell, 2nd year PhD student

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