By Merrill Eisenberg
University of Arizona
Greeting to all SfAA members!
Preparations for our Baltimore meeting are well underway! These meetings promise to be both informative and fun thanks to the many members who submitted excellent abstracts, and the hard work of our Program Chair, Bill Roberts, the Program Committee, and our staff in Oklahoma City. Bill’s update on the meetings (see page 22) provides a good overview. Here, I would like to highlight some of the unique aspects of these meetings that I am particularly excited about. This is followed by a brief overview of recent Board activities.
Electronic Program: This year SfAA goes green with the introduction of an electronic program. Don’t worry, paper versions will still be available, but registrants for the Meeting will also have the opportunity to obtain a digital, pdf version of the Annual Meeting program, which is searchable on laptops, iPhones, and iPads using standard pdf readers. For example, on an iPhone, you will be able to open the Annual Meeting program in iBooks and use the convenient search functions. Selecting the digital file option will permit the Society to decrease the number of hard-copy programs that are printed, contributing significantly to our efforts to convene a more environmentally-conscious meeting. We have Neil Hann in our Business Office to thank for this innovation.
Policy Engagement: Probably just about all applied social scientists produce work that has policy relevance. A subset of our work actually calls upon us to engage in the policy process. However, most academic programs (with the exception of our colleagues in Political Science) do not include instruction on policy engagement or study of the policy process as a social and cultural endeavor. This year our Policy Committee, headed by Robert Rubinstein, asked authors of accepted abstracts to identify if their presentation will include discussion of policy engagement. These abstracts are marked with a star in the program to help those who are interested in learning about the lived experience of working in the policy arena, identify sessions where policy engagement is discussed.
Alternative Economies—research and practice: The Student Committee has been very active in planning events for Baltimore. They have developed a “track” on alternative and non-capitalist political ecologies—in others words, a cohesive and integrated set of events that all help us reflect on already-existing alternatives to capitalist social and social-environmental relations in a variety of contexts and from a variety of perspectives. An opening plenary session featuring political ecologists from anthropology and geography will help to provide a theoretical frame for the 17 sessions that form part of the track, and a closing discussion will provide an opportunity for participants to come back together to integrate all that was learned.
These activities are enhanced by a tour of worker-owned cooperatives (one over 100 years old!) in the areas of food, arts and crafts, bicycling and transportation, and industrial production. Additional activities are still in discussion.
And that is not all! The Student Committee also points out that alternative economies are already integrated into conference practices, such as allowing student volunteers to trade their labor for admission to the conference, and facilitating room, ride, and child care sharing. Taking this a step beyond our usual practices, the Student Committee has created an arrangement with the Baltimore couch surfing group to have a special group of couchsurfers willing to host conference goers for free. They are compiling a map of Baltimore’s alternative economies and ecologies projects so that conference goers can explore and support on their own, and are creating an online SfAA Commons where conference goers can link up to arrange for ride shares, room shares, running partners, reciprocal childcare groups, and more. I am duly impressed with the energy, imagination, and dedication of Brian Burke, the Student Committee Chair, and the other committee members who have worked so hard on this. They represent the future of applied social science, and based on their performance, I have no doubt that our future is sound! More information is available at: http://alt-political-ecologies.weebly.com/
The Reign of Music and Dance: My predecessor, Allan Burns, presided over the Reign of Chocolate (which we all enjoyed very much!), and when I was elected people asked me what my reign would focus on. Although I love chocolate, my work has been focused on obesity prevention these days, and it didn’t feel quite right to extend chocolate’s tenure (don’t get me wrong—I personally appreciate all of chocolate’s wonderful attributes!). Thinking about the benefits of physical activity it occurred to me that getting us moving more during the meetings might not be a bad idea, and thus was born the Reign of Music and Dance.
Thanks to the generous contributions of SfAA members too numerous to mention here, the Program Committee has engaged a Maryland band that reflects the local Chesapeake culture to perform at the opening reception. So, come prepared to dance the night away with Them Eastport Oyster Boys!
We also have planned to honor our Malinowski Award winner, Clifford Barnett, by incorporating his favorite dance music—traditional and early jazz—into the reception following the Awards Ceremony. The Awards Ceremony will also feature the Sol Tax and Margaret Mead Award winners, and the winning student posters will be displayed at the reception. Please join us to celebrate these award winners and dance to the music of Jelly Roll Morton, Louis Armstrong, Django Reinhardt, Benny Goodman, Fats Waller, Billie Holiday (a Baltimore native!), Ella Fitzgerald, and others of their ilk!
Don’t be surprised to encounter other music and dance opportunities once we get to Baltimore. We may have some surprises!
Update on Board Activities
Since November things have been fairly quiet on the Board. We conducted a review of PMA, our business office, and have been working with Committee Chairs on implementing the Conflict of Interest policy and filling upcoming vacancies. I want to give a shout out to all of the wonderful Committee Chairs and members who do the lion’s share of the work of our Society. Thank you all for your service!
We are also discussing the feasibility of small international meetings, separate from our annual meeting, developed in collaboration with in-country organizations. A study group has been appointed to explore this. In the meantime, while we normally schedule an international meeting every 4 years, the Board has decided to forego the next one due to uncertainties about the economy and safety.
Beyond 75 planning continues, with the Board focusing on strategic planning for the organization as well as for a grand celebration at the 2015 meetings. Fund raising is well underway as well. You will see more on this in my future columns.
Save Ethnic Studies: Last spring the Arizona legislature passed a bill that prohibits school districts from teaching any course that promotes the overthrow of the US government, promotes resentment toward a race or class of people, is designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group, or advocates ethnic solidarity. This law was specifically directed at the Tucson Unified School District’s Mexican American Studies course. Upon passage of the bill, the Superintendent of Education immediately declared the TUSD program to be illegal. Eleven teachers and two students filed a federal suit to enjoin the law, and in August the SfAA Board joined a host of other academic, professional and community organizations in an Amicus Brief supporting the program.
Unfortunately, in December, the Federal Court ruled that the program does indeed violate the law, putting 10% of the school district’s funding at risk. In January, the TUSD Board of Education voted to shut down the program. The Arizona Department of Education ordered the district to remove the books used in the course from classrooms and send them to a book depository. The books included:
Critical Race Theory – Richard Delgado
500 Years of Chicano History in Pictures – edited by Elizabeth Martinez
Message to AZTLAN – Rodolfo Corky Gonzales
Chicano! The History of the Mexican Civil Rights Movement – Arturo Rosales
Occupied America: A History of Chicanos – Rodolfo Acuña
Pedagogy of the Oppressed – Paulo Freire
Rethinking Columbus: The next 500 Years – Bill Bigelow
In protest, last week about 70 students boycotted classes to attend the “School of Ethnic Studies,” a day long “teach in” organized by UNIDOS, a group of graduates who had taken the Mexican American Studies class previously. According to the local newspaper, “for one day, students get to choose where they obtain their education,” UNIDOS leaders said in a Facebook posting. “And if it’s taken away from them inside the institution, we as a community have the right to create it elsewhere.” Students who participated were suspended from school for the remainder of the week.
If Arizona’s ethnic studies bill follows the trajectory of its anti-immigration bill, you can expect to see similar proposals in a state legislature near you. I urge all applied social scientists to pay attention, get involved, and head off similar proposals.
As always, I welcome comments and input on any of the topics discussed in this column. See you all in Baltimore!