Learning Together at the OTSEM Meeting in Hamburg

by Tero Alstola

Following an annual tradition, a group of PhD students, postdoctoral researchers, and senior scholars of Old Testament studies got together at the annual meeting of the OTSEM network on 12–15 September. This year, the meeting was held in the old Hanse city of Hamburg on the river Elbe in Northern Germany. A number of CSTT members, Katri Antin, Martti Nissinen, Emilia Tapiola, Hanna Tervanotko, Tuula Tynjä, Joanna Töyräänvuori, and Tero Alstola, attended the meeting. The OTSEM (Old Testament Studies, Epistemologies and Methods) network was founded in 2004 by several Northern European universities to support the interaction between PhD students of the participating institutions. The network has expanded over the years, and today it consists of 16 institutions from all the Nordic countries, Estonia, Germany, and the United Kingdom. In addition to the exchange of people and knowledge between the institutions, the network organises an annual four-day meeting, hosted by one of the member institutions.

The concept and atmosphere of the annual meetings are unique: each participating PhD student or recent postdoc contributes a paper that is circulated well before the conference. A respondent is assigned for each paper, and all the participants prepare for the meeting by reading a number of papers in advance. During a paper session, the presenting PhD student or postdoc briefly summarises the main points of her paper and receives a response by a senior scholar. Finally, the audience is invited to join the discussion. This one-hour session is an exceptional opportunity for the presenting scholar to receive feedback on her work from outside of her own institution and closest colleagues. The friendly and encouraging atmosphere of OTSEM creates space for fruitful discussion and learning and makes it easier to present ideas that are still immature and work in progress.

Due to this unique opportunity to share and learn together, many people attend OTSEM meetings year after year, seeing the progress of each other’s work. The future meetings of the OTSEM network will take place in Uppsala (2015), Turku and Helsinki (2016 & 2017, the order is to be decided), and Edinburgh (2018). For more information about OTSEM, please visit its homepage at www.otsem.uni-hamburg.de.