Three weeks ago, anthropologists from all over the world met in Philadelphia at the annual meerting of the American Anthropological Association (AAA). What did all those anthropologists talk about during the largest anthropology meeting in the world?
This is no easy thing to find out. I haven’t found many newspaper articles about the conference. Conferences aren’t media-friendly. For the first time, the AAA encouraged to blog and tweet about the conference. But you won’t find many references to the conference on leading anthropology blogs. Savage Minds for example has only one (semi-ironocal) post: “Overheard at the AAA“.
The most informative post about the conference can be found on a totally new blog called Life at the Interface. In her first blog post AAA Round-up part I, Erica gives us an impressive summary of lots of panels she’s attended: “Creativity and Labor: Artists, Anthropology, and Knowledge-Making”, “Intellectual Activisms and the Making of the New Europe” and “Reflections on Subjectivity, Psychoanalysis, the Virtual, and the Imaginary” and “Are the Sacred Tropes of Anthropology Worth Keeping? Lessons from Information Technology Studies”.
One issue that received some mainstream media attention (New York Times, Time etc) is the AAA-report on the collaboration with the military in the Human Terrain System program. The AAA’s Commission on the Engagement of Anthropology with the US Security and Intelligence Communities (CEAUSSIC) concludes that engagement between anthropology and the military is incompatibie with disciplinary ethics:
When ethnographic investigation is determined by military missions, not subject to external review, where data collection occurs in the context of war, integrated into the goals of counterinsurgency, and in a potentially coercive environment – all characteristic factors of the HTS concept and its application – it can no longer be considered a legitimate professional exercise of anthropology.
More controversial political issues: Members at the AAA Business Meeting passed a resolution that condemns the coup d’etat by the military in Honduras. The reolution urges President Barack Obama and members of the US Congress to among other things to “condemn the human rights violations that have been committed by the de facto government in Honduras” and “join most Latin American countries in withholding recognition of individuals selected in the election held on 29 November 2009.”
Can also research about forest management be controversial? It seems so. The day after Eric John Cunningham had returned to Japan from Philadelphia, he received a phone call from the Forestry agency. “We’re interested in hearing about your paper presentation", officials said. Cunningham argues for more local involvement in forest governance in Japan. Am I being monitored, he wonders:
I’ve used the word “monitor” in the title of this post and I intend the full range of meaning that the word embodies–from innocent watching to menacing surveillance. It seems to me this is the nature of monitoring; one never knows how closely they are being watched, or to what ends. In this instance monitoring came to mind for two reasons: 1) the swiftness with which the Forestry Agency suddenly expressed interest in my research, and 2) the sense I gained of the Forestry Agency’s desire to closely control information about National Forests.
Eugene Raikhel at somatosphere has written an inspiring post about the Society for Medical Anthropology’s awards for 2009 that were announced at the conference. You’ll find lots of sugggestions for books to read or papers to check out. Most of the research isn’t available online, though. Exceptions: Sera Lewise Young who won the MASA Dissertation Award, has put several papers online. One of the best articles that were published in the preceding volume of the Medical Anthropology Quarterly is also freely available: “The Coproduction of Moral Discourse in U.S. Community Psychiatry” by Paul Brodwin ("honorable mention", Polgar Prize)
Another award: Anthropology Professor Maria Vesperi received the 2009 Oxford Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching. Vesperi is a cultural anthropologist who specializes in the analysis of contemporary social issues and the communication of anthropological ideas to the public.
“Anthropology of institutions” was one of this year’s “in” topics, writes Pál Nyiri in his post “Back from the AAA” Both of his new books – Cultural Mobility and Seeing Culture Everywhere - made their debut at this AAA – the latter even sold out, he writes.
“Seeing culture everywhere” seems to be the English version of a book that was previously published in German: Maxikulti (together with Joana Breidenbach). The book is a response to Samuel Huntington’s Clash of Civilizations:
“Seeing Culture Everywhere” challenges the misguided and dangerous global obsession with cultural difference and directly critiques the popular notion that world affairs are determined by essential civilizations with immutable and conflicting cultures. The book offers an alternative view of a world in which cultural mixing, not isolation, is the norm, but where several historical trends have come together at the beginning of the twenty-first century to produce the current wave of “culture think.”
More books: Obama’s mother’s dissertation was launched. As most of you know, Stanley Ann Dunham was an (economic) anthropologist. She died in 1995. “Surviving against the Odds: Village Industry in Indonesia” is a revised and edited version of her 1992 University of Hawaii dissertation on metalworking industries in Java, Indonesia. You can watch a video of the book launch.
Thank you for the updates. It is hard to find those in general circulation about what is going on in AAA conferences! Keep it up!