The OI is dead! Long live the…ISAC-WANA?

I’m sure you’ve all been watching the news with bated breath today (no, not the thing about the fat guy getting arrested in New York); I certainly have. But what to make of the result? I offer my uninformed impressions below, in no particular order:

  1. Yes! It was long overdue. ‘Oriental’ was never a good name for the OI, since that implies it studied all of Asia, which it did not. Now it’s an even worse name, but of course the strength of the OI brand surely made it difficult to decide to change. I therefore applaud the OI for having the courage to do so. Never fear, us OI watchers still know who you are, no matter what you call yourself.
  2. Double yes! I appreciate that the OI tried to find a name that actually encompassed what it does, as opposed to, say, the recently rebranded ‘American Society of Overseas Research,’ which, desperate to preserve its acronym, came up with a truly meaningless name. It sounds like a travel agency for retirees (which, frankly, is not too far off). I also credit the OI for not trying to spell anything with its new acronym (though I think I went to high school with an Isaac Wana).
  3. It’s a mouthful, to be sure. It’s also weirdly similar to ISAW, which I’m sure the OI leadership noticed. And the result is somewhat uneven. On the one hand, ‘ancient civilization’ is a lot more than just ancient Egypt and Sudan and the Near East/West Asia. On the other, the subtitle is pretty awkward. I cannot help but wonder if the OI couldn’t have just expanded its remit. To be frank, the OI could have called itself the ‘Institute of Biblically Relevant Peoples’ to accurately describe its intellectual heritage. Indeed, in this respect the name ‘Harvard Semitic Museum’ was weirdly honest.

Of course, my real question has nothing to do with the OI’s name, but with its marvelous publication series (to which I have an extremely tangential connection). Will ‘Studies in Ancient Oriental Civilization’ become ‘Studies in Ancient Cultures: West Asia and North Africa’ (SACWANA?). And will we also see ACWANAP? All I know is that my bibliographies are about to get more complicated…