If SBL really believed in diversity and the hearing of as many voices and perspectives (within the community of scholars, not including outside nutbags) as possible it would initiate a ‘one paper per person per annual meeting’ policy.
The reason we hear the same people over and over again, year after year, is because SBL isn’t as interested in diversity as it is offering ‘big names’ to ‘draw in the crowds’ and selling conference attendance.
“Prof NT White will be speaking at 4 sessions this year. Come and hear the great exegetical master!” or something very akin to it is a looming ghost hanging over every meeting.
Of course SBL says there are reasons that they don’t have such a policy but the real reason is because the more high profile scholars they can shove into the program, the better the turnout will be. And the better the turnout, the more registration fees they can count on.
Further- and I hope no one I know takes this personally- you shouldn’t because I’ve said it before and I have no idea who is presenting what or how many times they’re doing it this year- there are too many scholars who are more than happy to read two or three papers at a meeting. But why? Why do you feel that what you have to say is so important that someone else doesn’t deserve a hearing?
Why do too few scholars practice the fine art of self control and simply refuse to present more than one paper?
Oh sure, there’s the practical reason: ‘if I don’t present, my institution won’t pay for me to attend. So I have to propose papers to a number of sessions to guarantee acceptance at at least one’.
Ok, fine. Do that. But as soon as you find out that a paper has been accepted in one session, drop out of the others. Withdraw your proposal. You’re still presenting and your reason for proposing to several sessions is now moot. So why still insist on taking multiple spaces?
Ego. That’s why. Ego and resume packing. Be honest. That’s why.
On the other hand, you can actually believe in and practice diversity. You can surrender one of your many slots to lesser knowns if you’re NT White. Or one of your slots to someone who probably has something at least as interesting to say as you do.
We’ve all been at SBL sessions where presenters bored us to coma and we wondered how on earth their poor students put up with their mindless ramblings day after day (or how they got a position in the first place… they must know someone…). Why do they feel compelled to ramble so?
It sort of makes you wonder how much better it would all be, how much more scholarly, how much more thought provoking, if a guy or gal no one has heard of outside their tiny college got a slot to fill instead of Professor Pompous hogging all the podium time.
Diversity. Live it, or at least be decent enough to stop talking about it. SBL will be better when it actually practices diversity instead of simply paying it lip service; when it enforces a policy of one paper per presenter…