By Mark Schuller
New York College, City College of New York
At the SfAA meetings in Seattle, the Committee organized two special events: a roundtable on the citizen mobilization in North Africa and the Middle East – the so-called “Arab Spring.” This event, organized by committee member Diane King and moderated by Mark Schuller, included Andrew Gardner, Hsain Ilahaine, and Julia Wignall. This discussion was podcast (http://sfaapodcasts.net/2011/04/24/chair-king-diane-and-schuller-mark-panelists-andrew-gardner-ilahiane-hsain-yogamaya-mantha-leslie-mutuku-rignall-karen/), and a second Issue Briefing came out of this discussion: http://www.sfaa.net/committees/humanrights/humanrights.html
In addition to this discussion, Carla Pezzia and Keahnan Washington organized a panel discussion on “People in Motion: Anthropologists’ Reflections on Their Work toward Human Rights and Social Justice for Immigrant Populations.” This roundtable included activists Patricia Foxen, James Loucky, Nolan Kline, Josiah Heyman, Mark Schuller, and Diane King. Carla will be writing an article in Cultural Anthropology based on the detailed discussion sharing strategies and lessons learned about doing advocacy. This followed on last year’s successful training on media with veteran Denver Post journalist Bruce Finley.
In Seattle, we discussed what we want to accomplish to fulfill the mandate of promoting the work of human rights and social justice. We asked ourselves, what can we do to support the members at large in their human rights and social justice advocacy work? We came up with several broad themes:
- Skills-building – include workshops and roundtable discussions enhancing members’ activist or advocate “toolkit” like the media training last year and the discussions of formal public advocacy this year.
- Education on timely issues – continue the issue briefings and leave open a space in the conferences for roundtable discussions on these topics (e.g., Arizona’s SB 1070 and the “Arab Spring” above).
- Awareness of how much anthropologists have engaged in social justice/ human rights advocacy. It would be good to document lessons learned and make these readily accessible to members.
- How to find out about the work of other activists? The Committee discussed several ways of doing this, including a public database where members can input examples of their work. There may be other search engines that already highlight the work of HRSJ activists. This may be a good topic to explore at the next SfAA meetings.
- How to support the work of local HRSJ actors? We would like to support the work of local actors, especially where the SfAA conferences are being held. We can invite local groups to participate in some formal and informal ways in the meetings, and invite members to participate in their work.
We discussed a project wherein student members of the Society would interview senior anthropologists, asking about their work, the ethical dilemmas, lessons learned, how anthropologists and anthropology has contributed, etc. This would serve many purposes, to document these important lessons for current and future activist anthropologists; being interviewed is often easier than writing a piece, and it would help students in their activist education and help in the professional development (publications help improve students’ chances at getting a job).
We can post these interviews on the committee webpage and include them as articles in the SfAA newsletter. We might even contact Practicing Anthropology and others – or include as an edited collection. We can begin this now. If you’re an established social justice and human rights advocate and willing to be interviewed, or a student or junior scholar who would like to interview activist anthropologists, please let me know: email@example.com.
Finally we discussed sessions for next year’s meetings in Baltimore:
- Training on online media and advocacy – documenting, writing blogs, etc.
- Ethical dilemmas and responsibilities in doing human rights and social justice advocacy
- Debates about strategies
- Senior panel discussing the above – things you need to know about doing social justice work
- Other thematic panels – if you’re working on social justice or human rights issues please let me know.
Remember the deadline for submitting panels for Baltimore is October.
We would like to thank outgoing committee member Sue Lurie for her years of service to the Committee, and would like to welcome longtime human rights activist Carole Nagengast to the Committee.