Writing Thank You Notes for Articles that Blow Your Mind

blowing your mind with geeky stuffThe main purpose of the UA Anthropology Blog Network is to engage in public anthropology, but it is also about networking. Of course, these are both related. Engaging in public anthropology is a great way to get yourself known as a scholar. But what’s with the throwing things out into the virtual void & hoping the right quiet voyeur sees it? Yes, you could skip the modern day armchair anthropology & get yourself to a conference, or you could just be a more aggressive armchair anthropologist! How did Frazer & the other Victorians amass enough material to write volume upon volume of those hoary snoozefests (that you dutifully read, no doubt!)? They wrote letters & asked for people to send them stuff. I love this blog post from ProfHacker on the Chronicles of Higher Education blog site:  “Expand Your Academic Network in 5 Minutes.”  How could that possibly be effective? Sadly, here’s why:

We all know that the audience for academic publications is small, & one result of this is that you might never hear from anyone that has read something that may have taken you a better part of an academic year (or longer) to see into print. [WHAT WHAT?!?]  Writing to let them know that you enjoyed the piece is not only kind–something that we academics could spend some time working on in general–but also provides an opportunity to get to know someone new whose work is related to yours.

You don’t have to buy personalized stationary (seriously, don’t buy personalized stationary).  I have intuitively thought to track down my fellow lonely-academic-in-an-office-waiting-for-the-postman-to-arrive after a fashion (hey, with the advent of email, this is not rocket science), & it totally works (but not always–I generally strike out on cold emails about primate sexual behavior).  The real key is just finding any excuse to write to fellow scholars to talk to them about their work.  I always put it in an equally pathetic way to students–even that person who is a rock star in your field, that you have put on their pedestal, is just Tom, Dick, or Harry (or Sally, Jane, or Mary) to his/her neighbor who wishes they would mow their lawn more often or whatever, & who could care less about our little field (“Anthropology? You dig bones or work on CSI or somethin’?”).

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