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Meeting Perspective – Day One

We’re pleased to share the this blog post from special AN reporter Alice Walker (McGill University). She shares her observations and some photos from of the beginning of her first AAA meeting.

Undergraduates from McGill University volunteering as student ambassadors. From left: Adam Flincher, Mathew O'Reilly, Morgane Suel, and Julian Tucker. Photo courtesy Alice Walker

The weeks leading up to the meeting, I was unsure what to expect. Several of my professors and other students were attending, but social media and news sources had been relatively quiet leading up to the event. Wednesday morning Twitter (#AAA2011) exploded with messages about delayed flights, advertisements for upcoming speakers and tremendous dialogue about the free poutine provided by the City of Montreal; I had to get down there to see what all this was about.

McGill doctoral student, Qiuyu Jiang, presents her poster called "The Stigmas of Female Sex Workers in China." Photo courtesy Alice Walker

From my background as an undergraduate student in a small department, seeing more than five anthropologists in the same room is an anomaly. Upon arriving at the meeting and witnessing thousands of students, professionals and enthusiasts flowing in and out of lecture halls was incredibly overwhelming.

A stark contrast to the chaos in the hallways, the silence and calmness of each lecture hall makes it easy to focus on the fascinating lectures at hand. With only fifteen minutes each, speakers summarized months of fieldwork and research, then, after realizing they have about a minute left, thumb past multiple pages to get to the complex theories and observations that are the crux of their presentations. The audience, ears pricked, hastily scribbled notes and nodded subconsciously as they digested the complex material.

Arriving at the event without any prior experience was incredibly intimidating, but well worth the initial discomfort. Not only are the papers being presented incredibly interesting, but each lecturer clearly cares deeply about their research and speaks about it passionately. In my first day I was able to hear a huge array of topics from sex practices in Senegal, to modern superstition in Italy. It’s easy to lose track of time, but such a fascinating experience that I cannot wait to return to tomorrow!

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