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The AAA Process and Discussions of the Academic Boycott of Israeli Institutions

Today’s guest blog post is written by AAA members, Fida Adely and Lara Deeb

At the upcoming (December 2014) annual meeting of the American Anthropological Society (AAA), several panels will take up the issue of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, providing a context for learning about how anthropologists have been and could be further engaged in a just resolution. Several of these forums specifically focus on discussion of the call for an academic boycott of Israeli institutions. We support this boycott, but whether or not you agree with our position, we would like to clear up some circulating misinformation about how the discussion is taking shape in the AAA.

As of late, a number of people outside anthropology who are either opposed to an academic boycott, and/or opposed to any discussion or debate of such a boycott, have criticized the AAA for failing to provide “balance” in this annual meeting programming, implying that somehow this was deliberate on the part of the AAA, or at best, a glaring oversight. It is important to note that all of the panels mentioned above were vetted through the standard review process for proposed events at the annual meeting, the deadline for which was February 15 of this year (see the call for proposals). Indeed, the panel on the AAA program that, based on its title, will present an argument against the academic boycott was also submitted and vetted through this process. If there are fewer panels that seem to argue against the academic boycott rather than support it, this is because fewer were submitted by AAA members for inclusion on the program.

To those who suggest that opponents of the academic boycott were “surprised” by the multiple panels discussing the issue on this year’s AAA program: It is worth noting that this is the second year that discussion of the boycott of Israeli academic institutions has taken place in this venue. The 2013 AAA Annual Meeting included a well-attended panel of papers addressing various aspects of the boycott, and at that panel, a draft resolution was circulated and attendees were informed that further discussion of the boycott would take place at the 2014 Annual Meeting. The passing of academic boycott resolutions at the American Studies Association, the African Literature Association, the Asian-American Studies Association, the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association, and other academic associations should also have been an indication that similar discussions would arise at the AAA and elsewhere. This is not a matter that is somehow limited to anthropologists but a broader response from scholars to a call for solidarity from Palestinian civil society, in particular the Palestinian Federation of Unions of University Professors and Employees. Clearly a few people understood that this would be discussed at the AAAs, as there is an anti-boycott panel on the program. If people do not find that particular panel “credible,” it is not the AAA’s fault.

There are a number of possible explanations for the dearth of anthropologists from major Israeli universities on panels addressing these issues. Those scholars may not have wanted to open up discussion of the academic boycott, as indicated by a letter from the Israeli Anthropological Association that condemns the AAA for its panel selections and for focusing on Israel as a key topic of discussion at the upcoming meetings. Yet it may also, instead, be an indication that it is not an easy task for Israeli scholars to publicly advocate the boycott of Israeli academic institutions – for fear of reprisals or punishment under Israeli government anti-boycott laws. While boycott advocates are not calling for scholars working in Israeli institutions to boycott their own institutions, some scholars in Israel have spoken out in support of the boycott. More than forty Israeli anthropologists responded to that letter from the Israeli Anthropological Association in a counter-letter defending the right of their anthropology colleagues to have this discussion. Notably, quite a few of the signatories on the second letter chose to sign anonymously, highlighting the very real possibility of sanctions, especially for early career scholars. As demonstrated in the IAA letter, those opposed to the academic boycott of Israeli institutions have sought to shut down even the mere discussion of the boycott. The default “anti-boycott” position is to not address it at all. This may provide a possible explanation for why only one such panel was organized and submitted for inclusion on the 2014 Annual Meeting program.

Finally, it is worth pointing out that the demand for “balance” in the context of an academic conference such as the AAA Annual Meeting is a puzzling one. What does balance mean in this context? That every argument should have a counter-argument? That AAA should henceforth review proposals with “balance” of theoretical and ideological leanings in mind? The AAA leadership’s job is to make sure panel proposals meet minimum criteria and are vetted through an established peer review process. They are not tasked with – nor should they be tasked with – micromanaging the conference program. Those who demand “balance” are asking the AAA leadership to interfere with existing process by which the conference comes together each year, something we are certain neither Association members or those in its leadership positions think is a good idea.

Annual Meeting Call for Papers – April 15 Deadline Reminder

Photo by HowStuffWorksThe 2014 AAA Annual Meeting Call for Papers embraces this year’s meeting theme Producing Anthropology. Please take a moment to familiarize yourself with the broad range of program changes designed to enhance the Annual Meeting experience and better meet the needs of our members and attendees. Click here for step by step instructions on the submission process. Take note of the important dates . Session proposals are due on April 15 at 5:00pm EDT.

April 15 Deadline Approaching

The 2014 AAA Annual Meeting Call for Papers embraces this year’s meeting theme Producing Anthropology. Please take a moment to familiarize yourself with the broad range of program changes designed to enhance the Annual Meeting experience and better meet the needs of our members and attendees. Click here for step by step instructions on the submission process. Take note of the important dates . Session proposals are due on April 15.

Seeking A Great AAA Love Story

heart_of_sand-1824It is no secret that the AAA Annual Meeting provides an amazing networking opportunity. And perhaps its been all the Valentine’s marketing in the air that has me wondering, is there couple out there who attribute their courtship to the AAA Annual Meeting? Perhaps you initially met at the meeting or had the opportunity to get to know one another better while at the meeting. I’ve heard rumors that some have even gotten married at past AAA Annual Meetings (If it’s true, I’d like to hear from you!).

The meetings are quite large, more than 7,000 attendees last year, so what was it about the individual that caught your attention? Maybe you sat next to each other at a session or met in the coffee line?

Send your love story to me, Joslyn at josten@aaanet.org. I’ll share them here on the AAA blog throughout February. Here are the details needed:
-the year of the meeting you met
-how you met
-a photograph if available
-your permission to share your story and photo

Thank you for sharing your great AAA love story!

Building Cyberinfrastructure Capacity for the Social Sciences

Today’s guest blog post is by Dr. Emilio Moran. Dr. Moran is Distinguished Professor Emeritus, Indiana University and Visiting Hannah Distinguished Professor, Michigan State University.

emilio-moran_profileThe United States and the world are changing rapidly.  These new conditions challenge the ability of the social, behavioral and economic sciences to understand what is happening at a national scale and in people’s daily local lives.   Forces such as globalization, the shifting composition of the economy, and the revolution in information brought about by the internet and social media are just a few of the forces that are changing Americans’ lives.  Not only has the world changed since data collection methods currently used were developed, but the ways now available to link information and new data sources have radically changed. Expert panels have called for increasing the cyber-infrastructure capability of the social, behavioral, and economic (SBE) sciences so that our tools and research infrastructure keep pace with these changing social and informational landscapes.  A series of workshops for the past three years has met to address these challenges and they now invite you to provide them with feedback on the proposal below and you are invited to attend a Special Event at this year’s AAA meeting in Chicago, Saturday, November 23, 2013 from 1215 to 1:30 pm at the Chicago Hilton Boulevard C room.

Needed is a new national framework, or platform, for social, behavioral and economic research that is both scalable and flexible; that permits new questions to be addressed; that allows for rapid response and adaptation to local shocks (such as extreme weather events or natural resource windfalls); and that facilitates understanding local manifestations of national phenomena such as economic downturns.  To advance a national data collection and analysis infrastructure, the approach we propose —  building a network of social observatories — is a way to have a sensitive instrument to measure how local communities respond to a range of natural and social conditions over time.  This new scientific infrastructure will enable the SBE sciences to contribute to societal needs at multiple levels and will facilitate collaboration with other sciences in addressing questions of critical importance.

Our vision is that of a network of observatories designed from the ground up, each observatory representing an area of the United States.  From a small number of pilot projects the network would develop (through a national sampling frame and protocol) into a representative sample of the places where people live and the people who live there. Each observatory would be an entity, whether physical or virtual, that is charged with collecting, curating, and disseminating data from people, places, and institutions in the United States.  These observatories must provide a basis for inference from what happens in local places to a national context and ensure a robust theoretical foundation for social analysis.  This is the rationale for recommending that this network of observatories be built on a population-based sample capable of addressing the needs of the nation’s diverse people but located in the specific places and communities where they live and work.  Unlike most other existing research platforms, this population and place-based capability will ensure that we understand not only the high-density urban and suburban places where the majority of the population lives, but also the medium- and low-density exurban and rural places that represent a vast majority of the land area in the nation.

To accomplish these objectives, we propose to embed in these regionally-based observatories a nationally representative population-based sample that would enable the observatory data to be aggregated in such a way as to produce a national picture of the United States on an ongoing basis.  The tentative plan would be to select approximately 400 census tracts to represent the U.S. population while also fully capturing the diversity that characterizes local places. The individuals, institutions and communities in which these census tracts are embedded will be systematically studied over time and space by observatories spread across the country. During the formative stages the number of census tracts and the number of observatories that might be needed, given the scope of the charge that is currently envisioned, will be determined.

These observatories will study the social, behavioral and economic experiences of the population in their physical and environmental context at fine detail. The observatories are intended to stimulate the development of new directions and modes of inquiry.  They will do so through the use of diverse complementary methods and data sources including ethnography, experiments, administrative data, social media, biomarkers, and financial and public health record. These observatories will work closely with local and state governments to gain access to administrative records that provide extensive data on the population in those tracts (i.e. 2 million people) thereby providing a depth of understanding and integration of knowledge that is less invasive and less subject to declining response rates than survey-derived data.

To attain the vision proposed here we need the commitment and enthusiasm of the community to meet these challenges and the resolve to make this proposed network of observatories useful to the social sciences and society. For more details on our objectives and reports from previous meetings, visit http://socialobservatories.org/
Please contribute your ideas at the site so that the proposal can benefit from your input and come to Chicago for the Special Event on Saturday, November 23, 2013. We are particularly interesting in hearing how this platform could help you in your future research. This is an opportunity for anthropological strengths in ethnography and local research to contribute its insights in a way that will make a difference for local people and for the nation.

Emilio F. Moran, co-Chair of the SOCN
Distinguished Professor Emeritus, Indiana University and
Visiting Hannah Distinguished Professor, Michigan State University

NEW! Roundtable on Hurricane Sandy Scheduled

Photo by MDGovPics

A special roundtable of Hurricane Sandy has been organized for the Annual Meeting in San Francisco. On Saturday, November 17th from 12:15 to 1:30 PM in Golden Gate 7.  Gregory Button, Anthony Oliver-Smith, Susanna Hoffman, Kate Browne, Melissa Checker, Roberto Barrios, and Alexa Dietrich will discuss the hurricane from a variety of perspectives. Please join us in sharing your opinions and perspectives.

A San Francisco Treat

It’s the last day of our giveaway!

Throughout the month of October, we have been giving away Annual Meeting gear to our blog readers. The AAA Annual Meeting will be held this year in San Francisco from November 14-18.

To answer the trivia question, you will need to leave your answer as a comment here on this blog. All the comments will be held for moderation until 9am (EST) of the next day. A commenter to answer the question correctly will be chosen at random to win an item of Annual Meeting gear.

Today’s trivia question:

Trick or treat! Here at the AAA office, we’ve got a few treats to share with our blog readers.

Tell us what you are looking forward to most about the 111th AAA Annual Meeting in the comment section of this blog. Three winners will be selected at random.

Have a happy and safe Halloween!

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