Important note: This is for a humanities conference.
About a month out from a conference, I realize that the abstract I wrote is not going to work. I can write the paper I set out to write in the abstract, but it's not going well due to archival limitations. I have received a small stipend to attend this conference, so I feel obliged to go. In addition, it is an important, international conference and I have already booked flights. I am a PhD Candidate on the job market, so I would like to "look good" around people who could very likely be on my hiring committee someday.
Question: At this point out, I'd feel more comfortable presenting on an entirely new topic. The new topic would be in keeping with the topic of the panel. I am embarassed to ask the panel organizers if I can submit a paper on the new topic. I mean, I should know better, right? However, the new topic is still related to the overall theme of the panel. If they say "no," then I imagine that I will still need to go ahead with the original abstract. How do I make this request without sounding like an idiotic grad student?
I don't want to offend anyone by changing my topic, but I also don't want to offend anyone on the panel by presenting a paper that isn't going to be great.