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AAA Encourages U.S. House Representative to Terminate Human Terrain System

In a letter, AAA’s new President, Dr. Monica Heller encourages and supports the efforts by U.S. Representative Duncan Hunter to terminate the U.S. Army’s Human Terrain System (HTS). AAA has been a long-time opponent to HTS. The program embeds social scientists with combat units.

We are especially encouraged to see it more widely acknowledged by Members of Congress that the HTS Program’s shortcomings are not simply ones of poor execution, but of misguided mission, inappropriate staffing, and lack of recognized need. It is impossible to do high-quality, professionally responsible social science research at gunpoint, and reports submitted to the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) suggest that the program does not make a significant contribution to the counterinsurgency effort.

As the AAA has pointed out for several years, military leaders ought to have been the first to acknowledge that you cannot expect people to tell complete strangers anything resembling the “truth” in times of conflict. And social scientists have a professional responsibility to point this out. Social scientists also have the professional responsibility to do no harm to the persons and communities involved in their studies, and to give informed consent, without coercion, to those who participate in their studies. The circumstances under which the HTS Program operates compromise the quality and integrity of the research it purports to carry out, and work at cross-purposes with the overall mission to reduce armed conflict.

The AAA, with more than 12,000 members, is dedicated to advancing knowledge of the human condition, and to applying this knowledge to tackling the world’s most pressing problems. We feel a responsibility to help improve US government policies through fact-finding, dialogue, and deliberation. More important than the legion of problems HTS has encountered in its planning and execution, it is fundamentally flawed. It is well past time that the HTS program be de-authorized, and we applaud your efforts to end this unproductive, irresponsible activity.

Read the letter and learn more about AAA’s efforts opposing the program.

Call for Papers: IUAES 2014 with JASCA

The Japanese Society of Cultural Anthropology (JASCA) invites anthropologists from around the world to our 50th Anniversary Conference to be held jointly with IUAES Inter-Congress 2014.

The conference aims to attract over 250 international delegates to Chiba City in Greater Tokyo. The theme will be The Future with/of Anthropologies. The language of the conference will be English.

The conference will take place from 15th to 18th May 2014.IUAES 2014 Logo

The Call for Papers is now open until January 9, 2014 . Please visit the website to view the list of accepted panels and propose your abstracts directly to specific panels.

All proposals must be made to specific panels via the ‘Propose a paper’ link found beneath the panel abstract on that panel’s webpage. Proposals should consist of:
•a paper title
•authors/co-authors
•a short abstract of fewer than 300 characters
•a long abstract of fewer than 250 words.

Proposals will be marked as pending until the end of the call for papers (9th January).

Join the This is Anthropology Team at the Annual Meeting!

Over 390 anthropologists have joined the AAA’s new public outreach website, www.thisisanthropology.org since it launched in November 2012! Thanks to all of you who already contributed photos and profiles to the website. This is Anthropology is always a work in progress and it is not too late to join. The development team for This Is Anthropology will be at the annual meeting in Chicago with even more new ways for you to participate. We hope you’ll join us at the events below:

Opening Reception

Join us at our booth during the Opening Reception in the Exhibit Hall on Thursday, Nov. 21, 2013 from 6:15-7:30 PM. In addition to the food and fun of the reception, we will be on hand with This is Anthropology swag (while supplies last!) and we’ll have our cameras rolling to capture some impromptu video interviews.

This is Anthropology Booth

Even if you can’t join us at the reception, stop by our booth in the Exhibit Hall to learn more about the website and how you can be a part of This is Anthropology. It’s never too late to create a profile on the site or to share TIA in your community.

Reaching A Broader Public: The “This Is Anthropology” Project Roundtable

Join Jason Miller and Charlotte Noble on Friday, Nov. 22, 2013 from 12:15-1:30 PM in Hilton Conference Room 4M for a roundtable about the This is Anthropology project. After a brief discussion of the origin and goals of the site, we will open the floor for comments, feedback and a brainstorming of ideas for how to disseminate anthropology to a broader public.

Video Project

Finally, be on the look out for our roving camera crew during the meeting. We’re looking for anthropologists to answer one of five questions about anthropology on camera. The footage will be used to create short videos about what anthropology is, anthropological skills and careers and how to become an anthropologist.

Have further questions? Contact the TIA team at thisisanthropology@aaanet.org or participate in our conversations at #thisisanthro on Twitter!

Popular Anthropology: Buttering Up Humanity

Today’s guest blog post is by Erin B. Taylor (ICS-UL) of PopAnth.

Some years ago, when I was working at The University of Sydney, a colleague of mine stopped me in the corridor to complain. “Nobody listens to anthropologists,” she lamented, “We have so many interesting things to say about the world, but people don’t pay any attention.”

I was puzzled. Not because I disagree on either count: I think she’s right that our voice gets subsumed to that of economists, political commentators, and publicists. I also agree that anthropologists can provide a historically-grounded, cross-culturally informed perspective on contemporary events that is of real social value.

My puzzlement, rather, was because to the best of my knowledge, this particular colleague never made any effort to be heard. She published exclusively in academic journals behind paywalls, didn’t do press releases, didn’t write for newspapers, didn’t even blog. Did she really expect that public servants, the media, and people at large would go to the effort of seeking out her and her opinions?

This encounter triggered a personal quest to find out more about the state of public anthropology. I quickly discovered that I wasn’t the only one. Thomas Hylland Eriksen, in his book Engaging Anthropology, writes that “Anthropology should have changed the world, yet the subject is almost invisible in the public sphere outside the academy” (2006:1). One of my favorite articles on the subject is by Greg Downey who, on his Neuroanthropology blog, argues that anthropology’s difficulties with engaging the public is at least partially a branding problem. He then presents a series of fascinating ideas on how to fix it.

There are plenty of anthropologists who are doing something about it. Anthropologists globally are publishing their work in news venues such as the BBC, the Financial Times, and the Trinidad Guardian. Hundreds, possibly thousands, of us are blogging our thoughts on personal and collective websites, including The Huffington Post and The Conversation. Others are interviewed on radio shows or run community workshops. The California Series in Public Anthropology provides an incentive for authors to write about their engagements with communities and policies. Our brand is looking better since Eriksen published his book in 2006.

One thing I noticed, however, is a lack of ways for anthropologists who would like to write for the public to get started. This is partially because too few academics are aware of what the possibilities are, as the work of their more public-facing colleagues remains largely invisible. There are also relatively few venues in which people can experiment with this kind of writing. Personal blogs are a beginning, but a chronic lack of feedback means that it’s hard to know whether you’re on the right track. And without having a sense of how you’re doing, it can be daunting to submit an article to a newspaper.

PopAnthThis was a major reason why Gawain Lynch, John McCreery and I began the community website PopAnth: Hot Buttered Humanity. We began building the site in July last year, after an exhaustive search turned up exactly zero generalist anthropology websites that are truly written for a popular audience. There are many brilliant blogs out there, but they either focus on narrow topics, or include academic content such as jargon or calls for papers. We deliberately designed PopAnth to cover all branches of anthropology because we wanted to see what kinds of topics would prove popular.

In just over a year since launch, the site has grown surprisingly fast, and last month we had 90,000 unique visitors (bots largely edited out of our analytics). This is a pretty impressive feat for a non-profit website that relies on a small crew of committed editors. I’m particularly happy that authors have been courageous enough to send us off-beat stories that otherwise might never have seen the light of day. Our articles have covered topics as diverse as the history of Rastafarianism in Jamaica, land use rights among footballers in Trinidad, metal theft in the United Kingdom, drug markets in Colombia, consumer freedom in Germany, and angry tourists in Madagascar.

What makes PopAnth work? In my opinion, it’s the effort we put in to making popular anthropology visible. We don’t just promote ourselves, we use our website and social media to promote popular anthropology wherever it is published: newspapers, blogs, books, TED talks, and so on. This increases our audience base and helps make anthropology a household name.

Crucially, we provide a mentoring service to new public writers, helping them polish their articles for PopAnth and gain confidence to submit their work to other venues. We also act as a hub connecting new popular authors to old hands. Because we publish on merit, not qualifications, our authors are just as likely to be undergraduates as they are to have regular columns in The Huffington Post or Psychology Today. This means that up-and-coming authors who aren’t sure where to publish can gain inspiration from seeing what their colleagues are doing.

What’s the next step in getting public anthropology out there? My feeling is that cross-promotion will help us all build our audiences and contributor bases. To this end, I’ve begun talking with people people from other groups, such as Savage Minds, DANG, Ethnography Matters, the Society for Visual Anthropology, and others about how we can best work together to stay in communication and build collaborations. I’d like to invite everyone to join the conversation in the PopAnth group at the Open Anthropology Cooperative. And, of course, if you want to write for PopAnth, you can check out our Contributions page. The more we write for the public, the more the public will be able to listen.

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.

Anthropology Added to Appendix of C3 Framework for Social Studies State Standards

C3 Framework for Social StudiesThe National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) has released its C3 Framework for Social Studies State Standards, which includes as appendices companion documents for anthropology, sociology, and psychology. The AAA Education Task Force and Ad Hoc Anthropology Companion Document Review Committee prepared the Anthropology Companion Document for the C3 Framework, Appendix D (page 77) in the C3 Framework for Social Studies State Standards (PDF).

This companion document provides an Introduction to the Disciplinary Concepts and Skills of Anthropology, four concepts of the discipline and provides connections to the College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards.

According to NCSS:

The C3 Framework was purposefully designed to offer guidance for state social studies standards, not to outline specific content to be delivered. For states utilizing the C3 Framework, the ten themes of the 2010 NCSS National Curriculum Standards for Social Studies:
A Framework for Teaching, Learning, and Assessment will be useful for the process of identifying specific content to be delivered and concepts to be acquired. The four dimensions of the inquiry arc in the C3 Framework correspond well with four sets of learning expectations presented in the National Curriculum
Standards for Social Studies

  • Questions for Exploration
  • Knowledge: what learners need to understand
  • Processes: what learners will be capable of doing
  • Products: how learners demonstrate understanding

Americans and Gun Culture

Today’s guest blog post is by Jessica Cunningham. Ms. Cunningham is a Social Anthropology undergraduate student from Queen’s University Belfast, Ireland. This past summer she has done field research, based in Austin, Texas, on American gun-owners and their attachment to their guns.

Jessica CunninghamA few years ago, I set off with two others on a coast-to-coast road trip across North America. Like all such trips, we were exposed to countless new experiences, yet for me one particular experience stands out. A fairly casual afternoon spent shooting tin cans with some friends in Santa Fe had a surprising effect on me which I can only describe now as visceral. Aware of the widespread use of guns in America, (although growing up my cultural exposure to guns was limited to gangsters and cowboys as seen on TV),  my unexpected reaction to using a gun for the first time, left me wondering just what it is about the gun that holds such sway for so many.

Since then this interest has continued and grown, as has the media coverage surrounding the issue. Now as a social anthropology undergraduate, going into my final year at Queen’s University Belfast with the opportunity to undertake my first fieldwork project as part of my dissertation, it seemed the obvious subject for my research.

Accordingly, this summer I spent two months in Austin, Texas. As an undergraduate this was a completely new challenge for me, particularly since it is also a largely uncharted area within anthropology, so I went in blind so to speak. I wanted to explore and measure the social value of firearms. By using a universally understood value reference, namely money, I asked each participant ‘If I gave you $1 million, would you in return give up your gun rights?’ In almost every case the answer was ‘No’. To what then do these rights equate?

Not having the knowledge to be overly selective, I talked to anyone and everyone in the area connected in any way with guns; including ammunition dealers, skeet, trap  and IDPA shooters (International Defensive Pistol Association), instructors and concealed handgun licensing (CHL) teachers, ranchers, hunters, students and the police, not to mention your average Joe and Josephine doing it for fun. I was completely dependent on people’s good will and openness which I can say I found in abundance. I believe that one factor which played a significant role throughout my research was my apparent ‘otherness’ to the context that I found myself in. I feel that being a relatively young girl from the UK, placed me outside of the lived experience of the gun debate. I was able to present myself as impartial, but willing to learn.

However, I soon realized that not only was I completely ignorant of the ‘gun language’, the technical terminology and even basic types and uses of firearms, but I had also not fully grasped the complex and multifaceted nature of the ‘culture of guns’, namely who uses them and why. Because of this and my obvious time limits, my stay in Texas felt far more akin to a ‘reccy’-style, preliminary research as opposed to a more conclusive academic piece of work.

However, one forcible aspect did emerge from my research, that is the way in which gun ownership is often regarded as being a right as unalienable as free speech or religious freedom. Although I approached the subject under the assumption that gun attachment held deeper implications than is commonly realized, I was surprised by the degree to which some really did hold guns in almost sacred esteem and feel sure that this warrants further attention and research.

Calling All Anthropologists – We Need You for Back To School

Today’s guest blog post is by the 2013 AAA Annual Meeting Program Chairs, Dr. Dana-Ain Davis and Dr. Alaka Wali. Share your passion with the local community through the Back to School program this November!

Dear Colleagues,

We hope you will sign up to participate in the first Anthropologists Back to School event, to be held at the beginning of the 2013 AAA Annual Meeting on Tuesday, November 20 from 9am-12pm. The Program Co-Chairs and the Executive Program Committee have organized this special initiative to provide a way for all of us attending the Annual Meeting to give back to the city of Chicago. Through this program, we will inspire young people and their teachers to pursue anthropological forms of inquiry.

Photo Courtesy of The Huffington Post

Photo Courtesy of The Huffington Post

Undergraduate and Graduate students are encouraged to participate. Registration for the AAA Annual Meeting is not required to participate in Anthropologist Back to School. Sign up today!

Currently there are several exciting Anthropologists Back to School programs under development. Here is a sneak peek:

Elizabeth Chin is going to create a display on the story of Jefferson-Hemmings connections, using Barbie dolls at the South Side Community Arts Center.

Dvera Saxton will present on school district struggles against pesticide contamination at the Casa Michoacan.

Rosa Cabrera will present the amazing story of a mural at the Latino Cultural Center at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Gina Perez will also be there sharing her work on the award winning ethnography “The Near Northwest Side Story: Migration, Displacement, and Puerto Rican Families,” which focuses on Puerto Rican Life in Chicago and San Sebastian, Puerto Rico.

Dr. Johnnetta Betsch Cole and Dr. Kamela Heyward-Rotimi will be joined by Malcolm London, a Chicago resident, poet and activist at the Field Museum. They will be addressing stereotypes and myths about Africa and its 54 African nations, in addition to its diverse and dynamic people and cultures.

Come help showcase your work in anthropology to the wider public! We need you. Please sign-up now.

-Dana and Alaka
2013 AAA Annual Meeting Program Co-Chairs

AAA Director of Meetings Named National Top 40 Under 40

40under40

Jason G. Watkins. CMP

Jason G. Watkins, CMP

Jason G. Watkins, Director of Meetings and Conferences has been honored in the nation’s Top Forty under 40 by the Association Forum of Chicagoland and USAE weekly newspaper. In this inaugural award, Jason was selected from nearly 150 applicants who work for associations and nonprofits across the country. Applicants were judged on their roles that have contributed to and continue to aid the future of the association and nonprofit community, and their leadership skills and potential. Congratulations Jason!

Statement by AAU Executive Committee on Support for the Social and Behavioral Sciences

Following is a newly released statement by the Executive Committee of the Association of American Universities on the importance of the federal investment in research in the social and behavioral sciences. The Association of American Universities is an association of 60 U.S. and two Canadian research universities organized to develop and implement effective national and institutional policies supporting research and scholarship, graduate and professional education, undergraduate education, and public service in research universities.

AAU logoOn behalf of the 62 leading research universities that make up the Association of American Universities, the AAU Executive Committee wishes to express its unequivocal support for federal funding of the social and behavioral sciences.

We make this statement now because of a number of disturbing actions indicating that some in Congress seek to relegate such research to a second-class status in federal research funding by imposing restrictions on it, or worse, barring federal funding of such research entirely.

These actions include a provision in the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act of 2013 (P.L. 113-6) that puts new conditions on the funding of political science studies by the National Science Foundation (NSF), a provision proposed in a House subcommittee but not included in P.L. 113-6 that would have barred economic health research by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and recent communications from Members of Congress which have questioned the value of social science research grants awarded by the NSF and other federal research agencies.

We understand that there are significant constraints on the discretionary funds that support research and education, and we strongly believe that taxpayer dollars used to fund research should be spent wisely.  Indeed, AAU has long supported merit-based allocation of federal research funds as the surest means of supporting the best science.

Even in the context of federal budget constraints, we believe that actions by Congress to defund or stigmatize entire disciplines of research would severely cripple, in principle and practice, the federal government’s historically productive commitment to the funding of basic research across all disciplines.  The social and behavioral sciences – anthropology, economics, political science, psychology, linguistics, sociology, among others – have been funded by NSF, NIH, the Department of Defense, and other federal agencies to directly support their missions by advancing fundamental new understanding of business and the economy, of human development and behavior, of groups and organizations, of other nations and cultures, and of our democracy and how it can be strengthened.  This research has been important to addressing the nation’s most pressing challenges in areas such as national security, education, commerce, health, energy, crime and public safety, and transportation.

For example, NSF-funded social sciences research has strengthened public safety by helping governments at all levels to prepare for and respond to natural disasters; made possible the development of life-saving kidney transplant exchanges; provided the Federal Communications Commission market-based auction tools for selling the electromagnetic spectrum to communications companies, maximizing both government revenue and economic use of the airwaves; provided the nation’s military with tools for educating personnel on nonverbal communication that is critical for troops working with non-English speaking citizens overseas, and compiled enormously useful longitudinal data in such areas as science, innovation, income and other economic indicators, political participation, health, violence, and social networks.

Insights and innovations from the social and behavioral sciences are no less valuable than discoveries in the physical and life sciences.  Moreover, interdisciplinary research engaging the social and behavioral sciences is producing new knowledge and understanding that would not have emerged from research within single disciplines.  In fact, many innovations and new technologies, such as touch screen tablets and mobile phones, rely upon knowledge and discoveries from the physical and life sciences combined with insights from the social and behavioral sciences.

The extraordinary success of federal research agencies such as NSF and NIH over the decades has been a result, in significant measure, of Congress providing strong funding of fundamental research across all disciplines based on proven merit-review processes and refraining from a political process of picking winners and losers among grants or disciplines. We urge Congress and the Administration to provide robust funding for federal research agencies without inappropriate restrictions, so that they can continue to fulfill their missions of supporting the full range of scientific research across all disciplines.

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