SWAA 2009 Archive

The SWAA Annual Conference for 2009 took place from April 30 to May 3 at the Palace Station Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada. Learn more about the event:

Call for Papers

Public Anthropology in a Globalizing World

In celebration of SWAA’s 80th anniversary, the theme of this year’s conference will be Relevancies: Public Anthropology in a Globalizing World. More than at any other juncture in our discipline’s history, anthropologists are being challenged to find ways of expanding their profession beyond academia. Ours is indeed an “information age” of rapid travel, digital technologies, and sophisticated telecommunications, in which, as Marshall McLuhan reminded us, the “medium is the message.” Tragically, it is also a time of human dislocation and commodification, forced migration, transnational pandemics, the wanton destruction of cultural heritage (too often for the sake of development), human-rights atrocities, global warming, the unbridled and indifferent rule of free markets, violent fragmentation of nation-states, and the depredations of despotic rulers and terrorists alike.

In this time of new challenges, awareness of human diversity and difference is becoming ever more acute. While this climate would seem perfectly attuned to the special skills and perspectives of anthropologists from across the various subfields, most are only now (despite a venerable history of “applied” work) beginning to engage this complex and often bewildering world in which even the most abstract debates can have “real world” implications.

In the same vein, in a time of cross-disciplinarity, hybridization, Cultural, Women‘s and Ethnic Studies, anthropologists are being ever more forced to justify their field as distinctive within the social and human sciences. How we do so, and whether or not we are effective, will have singular consequences for the discipline in decades yet to come. Among anthropologists, this conversation is long overdue. It is perhaps ironic and even appropriate that that such serious subject-matter be tackled in the midst of Las Vegas—“Sin City” herself! The intersection of such disparate worlds of experience and value is emblematic of the modern world writ large—an ever-more integrated tapestry in which norms, values, and logics compete with one another in ambiguous spaces and places.

In our 2009 conference, we call upon participants to help shine a bright light on these conjunctions with sessions and papers that attend to the needs of a progressive anthropology even in the face of the many moral and ethical quandaries and controversies that attend public engagement of anthropology with the globalizing world; for instance, the place of anthropology within and in relation to industry, market research, the pharmaceutical industry, biomedicine, natural and cultural heritage resource management, the civil service, and the military.

Our banquet speaker for the conference will be Dr. Montgomery McFate of the US Army.* One of the best known and most controversial figures in current anthropology, Dr. McFate is a passionate exponent of anthropological engagement with the United States military and is a key architect of the army’s Human Terrain Systems initiative—a program that seeks to reduce battlefield casualties on all sides through the application of anthropological methods, perspectives, and concerns to the activities of soldiers operating at the brigade level in Afghanistan and Iraq.

*Each year, the conference banquet speaker is invited by that year’s SWAA President. As such, the speaker’s views and opinions are in no way endorsed by the SWAA membership or Executive Committee, nor do they represent those of SWAA as an organization.