As a follow-up to my recent post on our regional SBL research group, the mastermind behind our research group and the editor of our project wanted to add a few words. Antonios Finitsis is associate professor of Hebrew Bible at Pacific Lutheran University. Here's what he has to say:
Academics, we all love our footnotes, those long litanies of names and sources that are the hallmark of our work. It is a matter of ethics, respect, and attributing credit where credit is due. It is also recognition of the fact that we all stand on the shoulders of giants. Any research is indebted to those you came before and devoted their minds to exploration and discovery. Thus, I would argue, it also an expression of gratitude towards the labor of scholars who shared their findings with us. Citations are indispensable for our work.Thanks, again, Tony, for pouring your energy into this community of scholars and making the Pacific Northwest a truly collaborative place to work!
In that spirit, I have to refer to my undergraduate Hebrew Bible professor in the University of Athens: Elias Oikonomou. He was the scholar who introduced me to biblical archaeology and exploded my imagination with his work on biblical ecology. His mind was a spring-source of new concepts and I was often taken by his thoughts. One of them, that apparently had a profound impact on me, was what he called: “collective thinking.” He explained that biblical scholars do most of their work in isolation, however, he believed that working and thinking together could lead to even greater discoveries. Today, I would add that it also leads to even greater gratification and contributes towards better community.
Our Pacific Northwest research group was conceived on the theoretical basis of what professor Oikonomou called: “collective thinking.” I even likened its workings to a “think-tank” in the call for papers the year that I introduced it to the regional conference. My goal was double. First, I wanted to prove that biblical scholars in our side of the country do great work. Second, I wanted to build community. Higher Education institutions in our region are not as close to one-another as the ones on the East Coast and more importantly we do not have institutionalized annual conferences as they do. The result is a true Wild West loner feeling for all of us. If I were going to do this research group right, I would potentially affect our regional prestige and our sense of community.
So the call for the Research Group on Clothing went out in 2014 and, as they typically say, the rest is history and in our case it is also a book. All of us who study history though know that nothing simply happens. In our case there are two behind the scenes details that I wish to disclose. First, nothing would have happened if the scholars gathered had not brought their A-game with them. We all worked hard and inspired one another to surpass our expectations. Hence we put forward our book with pure joy and celebration. Then, as Carmen astutely observed above, the academic world is filled with fragile egos and I would add: with bitter feuds. Had that being the case with our research group, history would have been very different right now. The intellectual humility and spirit of generosity that this group of scholars brought and cultivated was unparalleled. I still remember the euphoria we all experienced at the end of our conferences. It was not a feeling anyone could have foreseen or construct artificially. That was a sign of a unique collaboration. Of course, our scholarship will be evaluated on the basis of its quality and we will be delighted to be engaged in dialogue. While the enthusiasm for our findings might fade, the memory of our community will be forever vibrant and energizing.