Where I’ve Been; Where I am; Where I’m Going – Part 2

The last time I wrote, I was eager to share some of the recent (read: over the past 2 years) developments in life. I had just completed my first year of my PhD at the University of Virginia’s Mediterranean Art and Archaeology Program. Of course, life got busy and I’ve only now been able to make the time to focus on a follow-up where I can finish sharing “Where I’ve been” and “Where I’m going”.

To start, perhaps I should explain “Where I am”. Right this very moment, I’m writing from Fayerweather Hall on UVA’s campus and home to the Art Department’s Art History Faculty and its Visual Resource Center. My 2nd year is well underway and I’m navigating two big milestones in my program: 1. my first semester in the role of Teaching Assistant; 2. Prepping for my comprehensive exams, which I’ll take at the end of the Spring semester.

The first of these is both new and familiar. Naturally, I’ve acted in the role of an instructor several times in the field as a Trench Supervisor; however, leading groups of 20 undergraduates (mostly freshmen) in critically thinking about assigned readings for an introductory Art History survey course isn’t quite as hands-on as driving home the concept of superimposition applied to stratigraphic excavation. Nevertheless, it’s been interesting thus far and frankly, the pedagogical experience I get in a program such as mine is a principal reason for why I wanted to work in my PhD here in the US.

The second big bear to wrestle is my comprehensive exams. Almost all PhD students/candidates/holders have some engagement with this “rite of passage” so to speak. Effectively, I will have to demonstrate a general expertise on an array of topics, not all necessarily overlapping or directly related, but ideally they are reflective of the frameworks and broader categories of knowledge that I’ll draw from when I propose and eventually write my dissertation. Thankfully, Prof. Smith, my advisor, had some great guidance nice and early this semester and we’ve worked out a solid roadmap to prepare and succeed in these trials. Indeed, planning is only a small step in this endeavor – the real work will be the reading.

The “reading” also doubles as a enough material to make a fortification wall. Call it “experimental archaeology”

I’ve taken over an entire shelf in the TA office (read: not my personal office, but one I share with the other Art History graduate students…sorry!) and its not unreasonable to expect the total reading I’ll need to complete to be prepared to be around double what you can see above! For what it’s worth, though, after my summer’s travels, I’m quite excited to actually dive in and read all this stuff!

Like I mentioned before and in my last post, I was writing from the library at the Cyprus American Archaeological Research Institute (CAARI) in Nicosia, Cyprus. Cyprus was the first stop on a summer-long adventure to “get back out there”. To some extent, too, I needed to make up for lost time having not really traveled much for archaeology and research purposes after I unfortunately parted ways with the Apolline Project in 2018. (I did get to go to Justin and Veronika’s wedding with my good friend Ray in summer of last year, but that wasn’t quite research focused and is a whole story for another time!)

The goal for my ~3 weeks in Cyprus this summer was to effectively just “be there” and soak in the places, spaces, and objects I’d spent the last year reading about for coursework. Of course, in 2017, Dr. Pam Gaber hosted me at the tail end of the field season at Idalion, and it was then that the bug for Cypriot archaeology really bit me! This past summer was time to go and meet scholars, visit sites, explore the research resources available, and hopefully scare up some fieldwork and/or a dissertation topic. I think both of these objectives were more or less achieved and hopefully all goes to plan, but I’ll save the juicy details for another post or three (once I’ve written all my very overdue thank you cards!).

Me, sweaty but stoked to be at the Tombs of the Kings in Paphos, Cyprus!

The second and longer chunk of my summer was spent in Greece. Thanks to a generous fellowship from the American School for Classical Studies at Athens, I was able to participate in their Summer Session, a renowned program that takes scholars and enthusiast of the Ancient World on a fast-paced and exhaustingly comprehensive tour in Greece. I was going to slap together a map and embed it here showing all the place markers, but that would literally be a major project on it’s own! Effectively, itinerary was all of Greece (minus all of the islands aside from Crete and Aegina) Of course, in 6 weeks, all is impossible, but as a participate, it was hard to tell that we didn’t and it certainly wasn’t for lack of trying! Our group’s leader and instructor, Prof. J. Matthew Harrington, was particularly motivated!

Our fearless leader in his full glory!

For the duration of the program, we were based in the ASCSA’s newly renovated facilities in Athens, but most of our time was actually spent on the road. Generally, we didn’t stay in any one place for more than a night or two! My experiences this summer with the ASCSA will definitely warrant a few posts on their own, so stay tuned!

This summer will certainly be “one for the books” and I can say that there were genuinely some spiritual moments that were had while on this massive adventure! Truly, when you get the opportunity to connect with the sites and artifacts that, up until that point you’d only read about or seen in pictures from a PowerPoint during a lecture, it is powerful.

I have immense gratitude for the ability to have these experiences and I extend my heartfelt thanks to the ASCSA for awarding me the William Sanders Scarborough Fellowship, named in honor of the individual who is considered the first African American professional Classics scholar. The fellowship provided full funding in order for me to participate in the Summer Session. I also owe thanks to my department and our Director of Graduate Studies, Prof. Fotini Kondyli, for providing additional funding for me to visit Cyprus and help give some vitality to all the coursework and reading I’d done over my first year (under the careful and patient guidance of Prof. Smith of course!).

And finally, what’s next? For the Starving Archaeologist at least, I’ve got plenty to write about including reflections on this summer’s adventures.

In addition, I want to dive in and explore a topic that I am inextricably part of – Black Classicism, the tradition of Classical Studies and the impacts and reception to its heritage on African Diaspora communities, especially African Americans. William Sanders Scarborough is an exceptionally compelling contributor and focal point for this topic.

A portrait of Scarborough

Lastly, I will likely use this platform as a means of sharing and unpacking my thoughts and experiences as a PhD student (sorry in advance if that content gets a bit…rambly).

Thanks for sticking with me on this journey as I trudge along and please feel free to follow along on social media between my posts, which I must admit will be a bit intermittent because…you know…I’m working on a PhD afterall!


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