First reports from Europe's largest anthropology conference (EASA)


Today was the fifth and last day of the 10th Biennial Conference of the European Association of Social Anthropologists (EASA) in Ljubljana, Slovenia. There are no news stories yet, but anthropology students at the University of Ljubljana have already written an impressive number of reports on workshops, plenaries and poster sessions.

The students have done a real great job and I hope they will inspire other conference organizers. There are exciting things being told and discussed at conferences. But until now, these stories have stayed inside a small community of scholars. Things are changing: The Society for Applied Anthropology (SfAA) has started podcasting from their annual meetings.

EASA has started an ambitious project. Read this:

You have reached the online database of texts on the 10th Biennial Conference of the European Association of Social Anthropologists (EASA). During this event, the site is hourly updated, bringing you fresh reports on the venues (workshops, plenaries and poster sessions) as well as several interviews with the lecturers, EASA officials and other guests. All texts will be published in English language.

The reports and interviews are written by students at the Department for Ethnology and Cultural Anthropology at the Faculty of Arts in Ljubljana. Since human resources are scarce, not all venues are covered and are therefore not reported or commented. We are trying, however, to present as much material as possible by covering as much events as possible.

The reports give a great overview over current anthropological research in Europe.

Tjaša Selič and Goran Karim for example write about Michael Carrithers who is interested in the question: How can so many differences between cultures, groups of people and individuals still inspire participation, cooperation, solidarity? (pdf) Tjaša Zidarič also mentions Panayiota Toulina Demeli who is interested in how being in prison effects the social meaning of motherhood (pdf).

Nikolas Kosmatopoulos seems to have given an interesting paper in the workshop “Imagining and Constructing “Terrorism” and “War on Terror". “Being an anthropologist in the Middle East feels almost like being a spy", he said according to Vasja Pavlin:

(I)t is possible to be objective in such an intense field as Lebanon. There is a grey zone between the attackers and the attacked into which an anthropologist enters in order to do his or her research. By entering into this zone one immediately becomes a suspicious person.

An anthropologist has to tell his or her informants some of the intimate stuff about what he or she is doing in order to be accepted by them. The situation forces you to take a position but you cannot please everyone; if you do so you are just like a clown. He concluded that being an anthropologist in the Middle East feels almost like being a spy.


“Crowd crystals and birdwatchers: charismatic leadership in volunteer organisations” was the title of Dan Podjed’s paper. In her summary, Tina Mučič informs us that the meaning of charisma and charismatic leadership is “a black hole in anthropological research” (pdf).

She also writes that “his presentation was very good and in some parts funny".

I was surprised over the open and honest comments on the papers and the presentations. Maybe these reports may inspire some anthropologists to rethink their way of giving papers.

Tina Kranjec comments on a presentation by Elke Mader at the workshop Happiness: Anthropological Engagements:

I must say this was a very interesting paper. The author explores how fans experience, express, communicate and circulate happiness in relationship with Shah Rukh Khan. There was a lot of visual material, which was also very representative.


But the workshop On ‘Souvenir’: experiencing diversity, objectifying mutuality was less exciting, she writes:

After visiting two other workshops, I can say that this last one was more oriented on giving as much information as possible and not so much on trying to provoke us and making us participate by commenting and asking questions. Almost all of the lecturers were reading as fast as possible, which made the comprehension of the papers quite difficult.


Tina Mučič has also reviewed several presentations. An anthropologist “was reading her paper very quietly so it was difficult to understand everything", another one “was speaking and reading very fast, almost too fast to understand the meaning of the paper.”

She liked Gillian Evans‘ presentation best:

This introduction was the most likeable. Dr. Evans was speaking aloud and her tone was resolute. She was trying to explain some terms which we did not understand and was aware that there were not only experts on this topic in the room.

It seems that more and more paper givers have used PowerPoint presentations than for two years ago when I attended the conference of the Association of Social Anthropologists of the UK and Commonwealth in Keele. Then, most presentations were so boring that I decided to stay at home. According to the students’ reports, the conference in Slovenia must have been very interesting. Their reports are very inspiring. Maybe I should have gone though?

>> overview over all reports

>> conference website

UPDATE (12.9.08) : Guest post: Review of the Moving Anthropology Student Network conference

UPDATE (3.9.08): Martha Jiménez-Rosano has written a few notes about the conference of the Moving Anthropology Student Network (MASN) that took place before the EASA conference (in Slovenia as well) and has uploaded her paper “Projectionists of Reality. When researchers project images of their own boundaries.”

UPDATE 10.11.08) Another EASA-report by Martha Jiménez-Rosano: A feeling about EASA 2008


What’s the point of anthropology conferences? - EASA conference 2006

How To Present A Paper - or Can Anthropologists Talk?

Academic presentations: “The cure is a strong chairman and a system of lights”

Norwegian anthropology conferences are different

Anthropology and the World: What has happened at the EASA conference?

Conference Podcasting: Anthropologists thrilled to have their speeches recorded

This is conference blogging!

AAA Annual Meeting: Are blogs a better news source than corporate media?

First news from the AAA-conference?

Military spies invade anthropology conferences?


Comment from: Andrea Ben Lassoued [Visitor]  
Andrea Ben Lassoued

Just a short note - guess it was a typo: lke Mader is acutally Elke Mader, a viennese lecturer.

2008-08-31 @ 17:10
Comment from: [Member]

Corrected. Thanks Andrea.

2008-09-01 @ 12:24
Comment from: Anthropolpogist [Visitor]  

I think I do have to comment on the workshop-reviews on the EASA-page: Not all of the reviewers seemed to have followed all of the papers fully-through. A few of the summaries just seem to be copy-pasted from the workshops abstracts and can’t be counted as reviews on the actually held papers as well as the following discussions and debates. I’m especially referring to the review of workshop W015: “Diversifying Anthropology: Politics of Research or Research in Politics?”
Both the Papers of Emilia Epstajn and Marija Licina on the ethnographic museum of Belgrade, and Kathleen Reedys paper on
HTS, AAA and the discussion on Ethics are more or less copies of the abstracts. Its not my intention to accuse the student of not doing their work properly, but especially the latter paper on HTS had more ( or , in some parts, less) to it than one could read in the abstract. Virtually no-one, not even the convenor of the workshop, A. Boscovic, seemed to be aware beforehand that the presenter was a member of the infamous “Human Terrain Team", defending her and her colleagues work with the US-military. Her “presentation” , and especially the discussion held afterwards belonged to the most vivid and controversial 30 minutes of the EASA-conference (in my oppinion). I hope to find the time, in the near future, to post some remarks and comments on the discussion held afterwards between the workshops attendants, including the current editor of Anthropology Today, Gustaaf Houtman, and Ms.Reedy.

2008-09-03 @ 14:49
Comment from: [Member]

Thanks for your comment. Writing reviews so fast has its price, it seems.

It would be VERY interesting to hear more about the HTS discussion!

2008-09-04 @ 01:14
Comment from: pijavka [Visitor]  

The report ˝Crowd crystals and birdwatchers: charismatic leadership in volunteer organisations”˝wrote Tina Mučič not Tina Kranjec. The link to this report in also wrong. :) thanks

2008-11-05 @ 10:48
Comment from: [Member]

Hi pijavka, thanks for the corrections :) Text and links are updated.

2008-11-05 @ 21:05

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