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?
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