TIPS FOR ASAO SESSION ORGANIZERS
The following pointers for organizers of sessions have been compiled from past organizers and are intended to give current and future organizers a sense of the range of possibilities they might consider. They provide a supplement to the "ASAO Guidelines for Session Organizers and Participants," which appears in the ASAO Newsletter each April.
If you have any questions please contact the current Program Co-ordinator, Alex Mawyer at <email@example.com>
Overview: The Sessions
The qualities that make a good ASAO session pave the way for a successful volume. As you organize your session you should be thinking ahead to the volume, if that is your goal; pay attention to:
Try to attract at least 10-12 contributors so that you can be selective in inviting participants to contribute to a volume. After the session, eliminate the weakest and/or least appropriate papers.Commentary on papers
You may want to ask each contributor to comment on each paper or consider assigning papers to designated session participants for response (see below, in the section "Between Sessions"). These should be written, but verbal comments at the meetings can also be very helpful. As organizer and potential editor, you must comment extensively on each paper. The more rigorous you are in suggesting revisions before and after the symposium, the fewer changes you are likely to be asked to have your contributors make later on.How many chapters?
There is no hard and fast rule governing the length of an ASAO volume. Seven chapters plus an introduction and conclusion makes a good-sized volume. The longer the book, the more work it will be for you to edit and the longer it is likely to take to appear in print (because of the number of people involved). Length determines the production cost and selling price of ASAO books. This favors the shorter volume and means that you must be certain that every chapter in a longer volume is as strong and that the consistency of the volume is as evident as it would be in a shorter book.Introduction and Conclusion
Every volume must have an introduction and a conclusion. The session organizer/volume editor generally writes the introduction as well as a brief preface. Be sure to include the potential author of the conclusions in your ASAO session, if at all possible.
Read at least some of the literature, and develop a starter bibliography for the group.Guiding questions
Formulate guiding questions. Prepare some remarks about what you see as the key issues relating to the topic/theme/question around which a project can be built. After you give these remarks, open up the session to discussion. Draft your own paper ahead of time--not only can it serve as one sample template, but having it started will free some of your attention to look for overarching issues, drafting an introduction, etc.Co-organizers
Consider having a co-organizer. During the session one person might pay attention to logistics, for instance, while the other pays more attention to issues. If you are organizing a session for the first time, it is particularly helpful to have a more experienced person involved to advise you (also for organizing a prospectus to send publisher, etc.). One coorganizer can maintain the session while the other is in the field or not able to attend the full sequence of meetings. Coorganizers can be in a strong position to move on to be co-editors of a volume. Please note that organizers must be active ASAO members in the year that they propose a session and in all years in which they act as organizers or co-organizers. Instructions and forms for joining ASAO, or renewing membership, can be found on the membership page of this website.Outreach to potential participants
Contact people who might be interested in your session ahead of time and ask them to prepare a 5-10 minute talk for the Informal Session. Identify Pacific Island scholars, and encourage and support their participation in your session. Facilitate their applications to the Pacific Islands Scholars Fund, and as the session develops, work closely with these scholars in making their arrangements to attend ASAO. Initiate external funding where appropriate.
Especially during Working Sessions and Symposia, it is important to have a schedule. Allocate times for brief summaries of and questions about particular papers; for discussion of general issues; and for making plans for next steps. Stick to the schedule as much as possible; letting one person take more than his or her share of the time is not fair to the others.Focus on discussion
Make clear to presenters that the purpose of ASAO sessions is not paper presentation, but rather paper discussion, development, and coordination. Organizers might identify themes in the papers and spend session time talking these themes through, one by one. In particular, contributors whose papers most strongly address the themes can be encouraged to speak up. Several past ASAO sessions have done this, for instance, Cultural Identity, Fieldwork and Families, Sustainability. Especially with their required precirculated papers, Symposia often don't need paper summaries at all. Focus Symposium discussions on issues and questions, not particular paper topics.Tape and transcribe
Consider tape recording either the Working Session or the Symposium, or both, and providing participants with the transcript. A summary of the recording by organizers, identifying key themes, issues, questions, can keep contributors focused.Discussants
Consider asking one or two colleagues to serve as discussants at both the Working Session level and most particularly at the Symposium level. Discussants often provide insightful critique and bring a complementary perspective to the session. Often discussant contributions become conclusions to a volume.
It may be unrealistic to expect everyone to read and critique all papers, especially in a large session. Consider assigning one or two "lead reviewers for each paper." The Housing session experimented with having reviewers actually present the paper they reviewed, allowing the authors time afterwards to clarify or correct information and answer questions from the group. Some found the process unnerving; it certainly required each person to read and consider someone else's paper carefully!Setting standards
Set clear standards for preparation for the Working Session. This can be a significant time saver if the decision is made to move from the formal Symposium to joint publication of the papers. An expectation that papers be prepared in a format suitable for submission for publication is reasonable.The rule that no previously published papers be presented at ASAO should be made clear to contributors.Setting limits
Close admission at some point. Latecomers can have trouble catching up on what has been done. Realize also that you may have to ask some contributors to withdraw their submissions if they don't contribute to the coherence of a planned volume.
A good topic tends to provide its own momentum.For instance, topics such as World War II, kastom, and chiefs, "hit a chord at a good time with a critical mass of people," and resonated with Pacific anthropologists. These sessions worked through the full sequence from Informal to Working to formal Symposium. Discussants played a key role both as an important source of feedback and as an incentive to prepare papers on time.Additional chapter
To strengthen your volume it is acceptable to consider soliciting an additional comparative or theoretical piece from a particular author for the volume.Alternative outcomes
Flexibility is important. Not all topics can or need to be developed in the same way. ASAO meetings can provide a variety of options that can be used differently toward distinct ends. One volume, for example, started as an ASAO Informal Session, and then ended up as a mini-conference sponsored by Pitzer College. ASAO was key to the start-up, but the sessions organizers and participants wanted to move quickly in a more directed way than the sequence of ASAO sessions. Please consider the ASAO book series for your volume. A strong series will contribute importantly to our organization, although some collections may be more suitable for publication elsewhere, either as stand-alone volumes or as special issues of journalsFast-track possibility
An especially organized and effective Informal Session (more like a Working Session), followed by the preparation of Symposium-quality papers at the next level, may enable you to proceed to publication after two years. Here the inclusion of a commentator/discussant is imperative. Sessions with high quality submissions on either tight regional or topical foci are the best candidates for this abridged sequence.
For those who are not members, session organizers are responsible for providing the following in a timely fashion:
For PISF awardees, special arrangements to be made include: confirming travel schedules, making plane reservations, buying or reimbursing tickets, making hotel arrangements (roommates or complimentary rooms), making sure the awardees get from the airport to the hotel, ensuring their welcome and guiding them during the meetings.The role of the session organizer is paramount. From application/submission to the scholar's arrival at the meeting site, the session organizer plays the central role in communication between the committee and the scholar. This is particularly the case when the scholar cannot be reached by e-mail. We do not want to introduce a technological bias into the selection process, so session organizers may need to fax and phone those places not yet on e-mail, thereby ensuring timely communication. As we get closer to the meeting date, session organizers should work with the Program Coordinator to arrange cost-effective accommodations for the scholar.