By Bill Roberts
Program Chair, 2012 SfAA annual meeting
Soaring temperatures and sweltering heat gripped much of the nation this summer. Gridlock characterized more than just the DC beltway, and Republican candidates are ramping up their campaigns for next year’s US presidential election. It’s been quite a summer. Personally, I’ve been settling into a more sedentary lifestyle after my nomadic sabbatical trip across the great landscape of the United States this past spring semester. Now, looking ahead as I write this column, I think about welcoming all of you to Baltimore, MD, aka Charm City on the Chesapeake. You’ll want to come to Baltimore next March for the annual meeting, and I encourage you to invite friends. We are making progress in planning for the meeting, and there’s a great deal to do in the Baltimore-Washington, DC corridor.
The photograph I selected for this column shows me handing over a beekeeper’s hat from an American beekeeper to a Gambian beekeeper. I want to evoke images in your mind, not of aggressive African bees, but of the admirable ways bees work together for a common good. Whenever one hears the loud buzzing of bees, one can be sure that a group of bees is busy at work. Over the next couple of months I invite each of you to contribute to building a “buzz” about the Society’s next annual meeting in Baltimore, which has the potential to be one of the biggest and best meetings yet.
Over twenty people have indicated their willingness to serve in some capacity on the program committee and help plan and promote the Baltimore meeting. I welcome the energy and effort, encouragement, ideas, and suggestions from any member of the Society—this is your annual meeting, and you can contribute and thus help to shape next year’s meeting.
First and foremost is to reach out to your colleagues, friends or students, especially those who have never been to an SfAA meeting, and organize an event for the meeting. Generally, these are the events one can organize for the meetings:
Organize a session around a topic on which you’ve been actively involved with colleagues or community leaders which may (or may not) cohere with thematic topics in the annual meeting’s description of “Bays, Boundaries and Borders.” A session generally consists of at least three presentations, and the principal organizer is usually the session chair who is responsible for submitting the session abstract and making sure each of the other presenters in the session submit their presentation abstract on time (see http://www.sfaa.net/sfaa2012/2012sessionchairguide.pdf). Each session is 105 minutes, so it’s important not to have too many presenters (I personally think five is a good maximum number) or a discussant that will leave no time for comments or questions from your audience. I want to reiterate here that single sessions are preferable to longer double or even triple sessions from a scheduling standpoint.
If you want more extended interaction or discussion with people about your work, then I encourage you to think carefully about organizing either a roundtable or preparing and presenting a poster.
For a roundtable, you would complete and submit an abstract in the same way that you would for a more traditional session, but indicate that it is a roundtable. Roundtables are events that often bring applied social scientists and sometimes even community members into dialogue with others who are interested in the topic(s) being discussed. Roundtables, like sessions, also run for 105 minutes, but the ambiance is one of discussion rather than presentation. This means one can organize a roundtable where, in essence, every member of the roundtable is in more of a discussant’s role than a presenter’s role.
Another excellent way to present your work and be able to talk in more depth with people about their reactions to what you’ve done is to submit a poster. The number of posters submitted each year has grown substantially, and this year the poster session will take place earlier in the meeting than the traditional Friday afternoons of the past. To submit a poster for the annual meeting you register (https://www.sfaa.net/sfaa2012/2012regform.html) as usual and indicate that you will submit an abstract for a poster. There are tips for how to prepare a good poster (http://www.sfaa.net/sfaa2012/2012posters.html) and you will note that there are awards for student posters. Also, one has 180 minutes to talk with others about what they’ve done.
Yet another event is to submit a documentary video for the annual meeting. The annual meeting has featured documentary videos for many years now, and last year Darby Stapp initiated an award for the best documentary film. This year we plan to build upon Darby’s efforts and begin to institutionalize a process with criteria and guidelines for recognizing a “winning documentary.” Matt Durington (Towson U) and several other people on the program committee will work to formalize this process, which I should be able to describe in more detail in the November newsletter.
Taking Shape: Baltimore 2012
In June, SfAA executive director Tom May visited the Sheraton Baltimore City Center hotel and met with four members of the program committee: Bill Roberts (St. Mary’s College), Ruth Sando (Sando and Associates, outgoing president of the Washington Association of Professional Anthropologists), Rory Turner (Goucher College) and Baltimore resident John Massad (independent). We discussed many topics and generated ideas for next year’s meeting during the several hours we met together. We’ve made progress in a number of areas.
One theme in our discussions centered on the efforts of Baltimore City Mayor Sharon Rawlings-Blake and her administration to address issues related to food security and access to good, healthy food. The term “food desert” has been used to describe urban neighborhoods without a supermarket or other facilities that offer healthy, nutritious, low-cost food options within walking distance to its residents. Residents can find fast food or many other less healthy options, but if they want healthy food, they generally pay about 20% more for it. Baltimore’s city government has been working with partners on issues related to promoting increased access to healthy food for good nutrition, food security and food safety, and the promotion of urban farmers and neighborhood community gardens. This provides the Society an opportunity to develop a community day in Baltimore that provides some continuity with the community day held at the Seattle meeting, but with an emphasis on urban food initiatives. Interestingly, while urban residents in Baltimore may have trouble with access to sources of healthy food, fishers along the Chesapeake Bay continue to struggle to develop strategies to sustain their livelihoods.
The Baltimore meeting site is a great venue to highlight the efforts of anthropologists, other applied social scientists, and community activists in many areas of urban intervention. These efforts take many forms, including research that leads to policy recommendations, as well as project development and intervention at neighborhood and city levels (see Merrill Eisenberg’s column). Let us make an effort to highlight the work being done to generate urban employment and neighborhood renewal, and improve nutrition and community health indicators. Come to Baltimore and tell us about efforts on projects related to promotion of urban neighborhood cultural traditions, such as screen paintings in Baltimore’s East End, or the challenges of improving urban schools and students’ educational outcomes. Many urban museums, such as the Smithsonian Institution’s Anacostia Community Museum (ACM), develop projects with their communities that involve both exhibition and education components such as the ACM’s forthcoming exhibit on the Anacostia River. I want to encourage those of you working in urban areas to take this opportunity to bring your colleagues to the meeting and discuss your work, the challenges you face and results you’ve achieved.
Cities, of which Baltimore is a great example, face challenges in the areas of heritage preservation, cultural sustainability, and urban renewal or regeneration. Applied social scientists and community leaders are working on these and comparable or related issues in cities around the country. Let’s all make an effort to get these folks to Baltimore to share what they’ve learned about their work with us.
The Society for Medical Anthropology will meet with us in Baltimore, and we anticipate a strong turnout for both societies. I will work with the leadership of both Societies and their representatives to coordinate events of mutual interest, such as the Robert Hackenberg Memorial lecture. This year we anticipate that Professor James Troestle will give the Hackenberg Memorial lecture on Thursday, March 29.
Members of the program committee are exploring the possibility of hosting an “Employers Expo” in Baltimore similar to the event that Cathleen Crain organizes for the National Association for the Practice of Anthropology (NAPA) each year at the American Anthropological Association annual meeting. We are still at a very early stage of moving from a good idea to the actual commitments on the part of employers to come to Baltimore. One good idea can perhaps generate another—and I encourage students and faculty of the applied social sciences to consider organizing a session or roundtable that, in a constructive and critical way, looks at the recent track record in preparing young people for the arenas of practice. In other words, how well are the graduate programs doing in providing appropriate skills and knowledge and assisting their students to find gainful employment?
Speaking of students, the SfAA Student Committee, led by Boone Shear (U Mass, Amherst), Brian Burke and Lucero Radonic (U of AZ), has been actively exploring a range of activities that support concepts and practices associated with alternative political ecologies. You can read in more detail their thinking and preliminary plans in the Student Corner in this newsletter
And for Fun?
I’ve promised many people that Baltimore will blast into being the “Reign of Music and Dance” under SfAA president Merrill Eisenberg. This will show up in a number of venues at the Baltimore meeting. Mark Edberg (George Washington U), Rory Turner (Goucher College) and Lisa Stahl (Shaw Group) will work with me and the SfAA office to have music and dance be featured as a prominent and memorable part of events beginning with our welcome reception and going through to the reception that follows the Malinowski award. Be sure to bring your dancing shoes to Baltimore.
We have identified a wide range of tours that we will describe in more detail in the coming months. We’ll have information for you about self-guided tours by foot from the conference hotel, e.g., you can walk to the Walters Art Museum (www.thewalters.org, no entrance fee), or to Baltimore’s Inner Harbor and its many attractions that include the National Aquarium (www.aqua.org, adult $24.95). We’ll also make sure you have information about Baltimore’s free public transportation system on its Circulator Buses that can take you on an adventure into one or more of Baltimore’s 300 city neighborhoods. We soon will also advertise tours in the Baltimore and surrounding region (DC, Annapolis, even St. Mary’s City in southern Maryland) that will be led by resource people who can take you behind the scenes.
The variety of foods and drinks that abound in Baltimore provide something for everybody. To whet your appetite, take a look at the food-oriented fieldwork undergraduate anthropology and sociology major Caitlin Cromer has been doing in the Baltimore area this summer (http://anthro-foodie.blogspot.com/). We’ll have many more suggestions for your palate well before next March.
As a child, I remember watching Romper Room, and still remember the slogan that encouraged me to “be a good bee”—I imagine that many of you reading these words feel as “busy as a bee” and are doing what you can to “be all you can be.” I trust that after reading this column, you see that the potential for the Baltimore meeting is tremendous. Remember that this is YOUR meeting. You can make a positive difference in planning, organizing, and participating in next year’s meeting. If you have friends or colleagues who can help publicize the meeting on websites of their organizations or comparable applied societies, please take the initiative and let me and our executive director, Tom May, know about your plans. I want to hear about any and all ideas you have about what you can do to make next year’s meeting in Baltimore successful.
Remember, the deadline for session, paper and/or poster submissions is October 15, 2011.