By William Roberts
Program Chair, 2011 SfAA Meetings
With less than two months before the start of the Society’s 2012 annual meeting at the Sheraton Baltimore City Center Hotel, it’s high time to begin finalizing your plans for the conference. Your response to this year’s meeting theme “Bays, Boundaries and Borders” illustrates a remarkable breadth of constructive and creative applied work social scientists, practitioners and activists are doing in a variety of contexts around the world. Each of the cosponsors for this year’s meeting: The Society for Medical Anthropology (SMA), the Council on Nursing and Anthropology (CONAA), the Political Ecology Society (PESO), and the Washington Association of Professional Anthropologists (WAPA), has organized a series of special events and invited lectures with wide appeal for conference participants.
You can find the preliminary program online to review the schedule for sessions, roundtables, videos and workshops (http://www.sfaa.net/sfaa2012/sfaa2012preprogram.pdf). Sessions organized by members of one of the meeting’s cosponsors has its acronym in parentheses next to the session title. One new feature on the program you’ll note is that individual presentations with a specific policy engagement research focus will have a star to the left of the presenter’s name, or, in some cases, to the left of the session title. A quick look through the program reveals three plus days full of activity, with presentations or discussions on topics of contemporary importance. Among the topics we will discuss in Baltimore include issues surrounding food production and access to healthy foods, with a special emphasis on urban areas; energy exploration and its impact on the environment; migration and border control; responding to disasters; public health issues associated with communicable and chronic illnesses; climate change; anthropologists working with the Department of Defense; efforts to understand and create alternative political economies; tourism; and teaching applied anthropology. These are just the tip of the iceberg. We’re going to have a great conference.
One of the recurrent observations about our annual meetings is that a large number of interesting sessions run concurrently, resulting in participants missing aspects of the intellectual substance of the meetings. In recent years there has been some effort to mitigate this through the University of North Texas podcast project, in which a number of sessions are recorded and made available to the community on the web after the conference. We’ll do this again in Baltimore.
Several celebratory events are planned for the conference that are open to all conference participants, so make a point to try and attend. Tuesday, March 27 is Community Day. Look for more details about the community day from the SfAA office before the meeting, but plan to come to Baltimore early and enjoy what the city has to offer. The Community Day events will likely begin in the late afternoon Tuesday and continue into the early evening. Watch for more details soon.
The Welcome Reception, planned for Wednesday evening, March 28, from 7:30 – 9:30 will be hosted by our President, Merrill Eisenberg. We will have a welcome address, an opportunity to eat and drink together to catch up with old friends and make new friends. We will also enjoy music with a strong local flavor supplied by the Oysterboys band from Annapolis. They describe themselves as, “ … a troupe of Chesapeake Bay Troubadours celebrating life here in the ‘Land of Pleasant Living’ and along the shores of the Chesapeake… through song and story, and mirth… The Oyster Boys have been acclaimed as the Musical Goodwill Ambassadors from the City of Annapolis, the Maritime Republic of Eastport and the Chesapeake” (http://www.oysterboys.com, accessed January 29, 2012). I saw the Oysterboys at the St. Mary’s county annual oyster festival; you’re going to love this band and their music.
The Society’s General Business Meeting takes place on Friday, March 29, from 5:30 – 7pm. The agenda features the announcement of student travel awards, reports from the leadership, and discussion of the Society’s business. Shortly after the business meeting is this year’s Awards Ceremony and Malinowski Lecture. After the awards and lecture we’ll have music, a reception, dancing, and maybe even some live music by the Furies band (http://www.furiesmusic.com/home.html). Look for future announcements about this.
A Selection of Themed Sessions
Over the past several years there has been a great deal of discussion about the appropriate role for applied social science in its work with the Department of Defense and in particular the US military. The Human Terrain Systems project generated a great deal of discussion, sometimes quite heated, and was the focus of a plenary by the School for American Research at our annual meeting in Santa Fe in 2009. This year, anthropologist Shawn Maloney and colleagues who work with the Department of Defense have organized four sessions in which they will describe aspects of the work they are currently conducting with the DOD. Their first session, Enhancing DoD’s Cultural Competency: Applied Efforts from Social Scientists, is scheduled on Wednesday afternoon at 3:30. The next session is scheduled for Friday morning at 8am, and continues Friday afternoon with sessions after lunch and before the General Business meeting.
Many colleagues have organized sessions that cohere with the program theme. The Chesapeake Bay, iconic symbol of the mid-Atlantic region and the largest estuary in North America, is the focus of a number of sessions. Thursday afternoon at 1:30pm, Michael Paolisso and colleagues present Applied Anthropology and the Chesapeake Bay. Other Chesapeake sessions follow, including a session on Friday about the Chesapeake Bay program at Washington and Lee University, a Saturday morning session about Washington College’s Chesapeake program on Maryland’s eastern shore, and a final session on Friday chaired by fisheries scientist Peter Fricke on Chesapeake ecology.
Locally themed sessions specifically on Baltimore begin on Wednesday morning at 10am, with Sam Collins and locally based colleagues in a session titled Anthropology in Baltimore and Beyond. Program committee member Matt Durington chairs a session, Anthropology by the Wire, on Thursday afternoon that focuses on visual and activist anthropology in Baltimore.
The Hackenberg lecture, featuring Professor James Trostle, takes place on Thursday afternoon from 3:30-5:20. Professor Trostle’s presentation will highlight the numerous boundaries he and his colleagues navigate together in or to be successful in their applied medical work in Ecuador.
Our President wrote about the solid work the Student Committee has done in organizing an Alternative Political Economy track comprised of 17 sessions and roundtables between Wednesday and Saturday. The Plenary for this track is late Thursday afternoon. Take note of the special event that follows: that evening starting at 8:00 the Society for the Anthropology of Work will hold a panel discussion on ‘Activism and the Academy: Lessons from Baltimore and Beyond’ followed by a reception and cash bar at the historic church at 2640 St. Paul Street. The 2640/Red Emma’s collective is the center of leftist activism in Baltimore. Representatives from AFSCME, UNITE-HERE, United Workers, CUPE 3903 and The Baltimore Free School will discuss distinctions in organizing and activism as well as the role of academics toward these issues in Baltimore and elsewhere. This is a great opportunity to get an idea of what organizers and faculty are doing in Maryland with implications throughout the United States.
There is such a rich array of sessions and topics I hope friends and colleagues will understand that it is difficult in the time and space available to me to give due acknowledgement to all the effort represented in the 80-page preliminary program. Whether your interests run to local or regional applied social science, international social science, climate, disasters, energy, fisheries, health, heritage management, migration, participatory approaches to social science, pedagogy, tourism, or urban issues, to name a few, you will want to read the program carefully so as not to overlook a session of particular interest to your own work.
A number of tours have been planned, and we are finalizing details for them that will be sent to conference participants ahead of time. Let me briefly describe several of the tours already in the works here. Note that we are likely to schedule a couple of two hour walking tours from the Sheraton hotel that will be led by members of the Baltimore Heritage Institute that you will learn about through an email announcement before the conference.
Laurie Krieger, long-time member of the Washington Association of Professional Anthropologists (WAPA), has taken the lead in organizing a tour of the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History on Wednesday, March 28. Participants will leave the hotel around noon on Wednesday, and travel by bus to the Smithsonian Institution, taking a bus tour of several of the DC neighborhoods along the way. After an hour or so of free time at the museum, Smithsonian staffer Kari Bruwelheide will give an up close tour of the exhibit, Written in Bone: Forensic Files of the 17th Century Chesapeake (http://anthropology.si.edu/writteninbone/). After viewing the exhibit, the tour group will meet with physical anthropologist and forensic specialist Dr. Doug Owsley to talk further about the exhibit and forensics at the Smithsonian. The group will then board the bus, joined by former WAPA president Ruth Sando, who will talk about some of the neighborhoods around the Dupont Circle area, before heading to the Beacon Bar and Grill Restaurant to experience a “WAPA social” with other WAPistAs before returning to Baltimore in time for the Wednesday night Welcome Reception.
The Friday morning tour, titled: Annapolis, Maryland: Historic Preservation and Urban Identity, involves travel by bus to the historic center of Annapolis, Maryland, to begin a half-day tour in the State House, the active seat of Maryland government since the 1770s, where they are met by the State of Maryland’s chief architectural historian, Orlando Ridout V. The tour will begin in the State House rotunda and include the Old Senate Chamber, where George Washington resigned from the Continental Army in 1783. After an overview discussion of the unique urban plan of Annapolis, the tour will proceed on a serpentine path to the waterfront for a discussion of the city’s evolution from Trans-Atlantic colonial port to its modern role as a center for sailing and recreational boating, and as a destination for international heritage tourism. Key aspects of the waterfront will serve as markers for a discussion of the economic and social history of the city, and the complex forces that led to preservation and rejuvenation in the twentieth century. The tour will examine several key residences in the city that illustrate the life of the gentry elite as well as the “servant’s path” through the city’s architectural fabric. At 12 sharp the group adjourns to a local restaurant, where members are welcome to purchase their lunch or have a drink before departing at 1:00 pm by bus back to Baltimore. Note: A picture identification will be required for entry to the State House.
On Saturday morning, March 31, the Alternative Political Ecology group has organized two tours. The first is the Cooperative Community Walking Tour. The following description, sent to me by Boone Shear and Brian Burke, explains that the tour will “leave from the Sheraton Hotel in the morning with members of the Just Walk collective (Baltimore’s worker owned and operated dog-walking and pet sitting shop) who will lead a 3-hour walking tour of the Mt. Vernon and Station North neighborhoods. Along the way, they will introduce us to several of the city’s thriving cooperative workspaces and cultural centers, possibly including:
Charm City Art Space, dedicated to providing the Baltimore community with access to musical and visual artists from all over the world. Founded in 2002, and now in an expanded location, this collectively owned and operated project continues to be a cultural hub catering to underground artists and patrons of all ages.
Velocipede Bike Project provides access to second hand bicycles and hands-on education in a shared workspace. They envision a future where bicycling is no longer an alternate form of transportation, and serve Baltimore by empowering people of all backgrounds to take that transportation into their own hands.
Baltimore Bicycle Works is the city’s only worker owned and operated bike shop. Founded in 2008, BBW caters to cyclists of all skill levels, shapes, and sizes, all while maintaining a commitment to workplace democracy.
The Baltimore Free School is volunteer-run, community-funded project, working toward creating a space where the exchange of ideas can occur without the exchange of money; a space where people can learn to relate to each other in new and meaningful ways.
Red Emma’s Bookstore Coffeehouse is Baltimore’s collectively owned and operated Infoshop. Providing access to radical ideas, media, and delicious food & drink since 2004, Red Emma’s is one of Baltimore’s most active spaces for community gathering and organizing.”
Try and come early to Baltimore, you’ll be glad you did. Within relatively easy walking distance from the Sheraton is the historic Lexington Market, where you can find hard shell crabs, soul food, Asian food. If you want something a little more upscale, we’re not too far from Baltimore’s Inner Harbor or Little Italy. There’s lots of good food in Baltimore.
We’re working on organizing more music for the conference site, but after the sessions are over and people want to relax and catch up with one another, there’s plenty of good music and night life in Baltimore city. Some of the more memorable moments of these conferences take place outside the meeting site, and you’ll find we’ll have plenty of welcoming venues for you to patronize in Baltimore.
Coming together, discussing our work, networking, catching up with friends and colleagues, checking in with former students or mentors—there’s something very special about the scale of our meetings. Although the size of the SfAA’s meetings and the number of participants have grown steadily over the past 15 years or so, we still have meetings renowned for being friendly, stimulating and accessible. Baltimore will continue this tradition.
Whether you’re presenting or not, come to Baltimore if you can. Join us in our annual ritual of intensification and professional enrichment. I look forward to welcoming you to Baltimore. And please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or comments about the upcoming conference.