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There Is Work To Do

Today’s blog post is written by AAA Executive Director, Dr. Edward Liebow (eliebow@aaanet.org).

The US government’s partial shut-down has ended, and anthropologists here in the States have some work to do. The federal government activities that were put on hold over the past 16 days furloughed employees, delayed federal benefits, shuttered museums and national parks, interrupted research, put cultural resources at risk, and created economic hardships in many communities. During this partial-shutdown, the AAA office issued blog posts with updates about the shutdown, invited members to tell their stories about how they were affected; we made visits to Capitol Hill where we talked about short- and long-term effects on issues of central interest to anthropologists, and we made contingency plans to refund affected federal workers after the official annual meeting refund date.

The agreement reached last night funds the government through January 15, suspends the debt limit until February 7, and calls for formal negotiations to determine a long-term budget plan by December 13. In other words, unless Congress and the President can work out a lasting plan, the US could find itself back in this same position again in just a few months.

I may be new to Washington, but not to policy-making. I hope that from my new front-row seat, I am able to watch the country’s elected leaders put the public interest first and find an enduring budget solution that embodies a long-term commitment to promoting environmental sustainability, education and research, health and social justice, while protecting cultural resources and human rights. This is the commitment the public deserves.

Some have speculated that last night’s legislative outcomes will further compel the current administration’s political opponents to renew their full frontal attacks on affordable health care for all, and on such pressing long-term structural issues as immigration reform, global environmental change, and the unevenly distributed problems in crumbling public infrastructure.

For anthropologists in the US, the immediate task ahead is to make sure that this new round of budget negotiations does not become the forum for airing petty grievances about public support for social science education and research. This affects classroom enrollments. It affects museum attendance. Also affected is the growth of knowledge by which we advance human understanding, and apply this understanding to tackling the world’s most pressing problems. We simply cannot let that happen. I’d like to encourage our US members to make their feelings known to their elected representatives about the importance of anthropologists’ work.

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