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AAS 2010: Call for papers

Extension of submission dates for papers. Please contact the relevant panel conveners by 24 August 2010.
Mythic Potentials: Culture, Archetype and the Generation of Disorder
Conveners: Sebastian Job (University of Sydney) and Jonathan Marshall (University of Technology, Sydney)
Communities of various kinds will no doubt dissolve and coalesce as techno-scientific, bureaucracy-ridden, increasingly militaristic corporate hegemony writes its off-hand requiem to the Earth. But any analysis of contemporary death-bound processes courts na´vetÚ if it ignores the formative function of the radical imagination and therein the dynamics of archetypal structures. So, which forms and dynamics are relevant, how can they be identified, and where are we in relation to archetypes when we would attempt to identify them? This panel will throw some light on these issues from a range of empirical sites as it explores questions like: How do myths organise people's reactions in times of apparent chaos, or when facing the unknown? How do social, philosophic or mythic modes of ordering lead to unforeseen consequences, or even to the disordering of their own foundations? What is the role of the unconscious and unknown in social life? What internal social or psychological factors lead to social eruptions and new communities of meaning? Are autonomy and truth necessarily enemies of myth? Are we going to get out of here without fundamentally reconceiving who we are?
The International Movement for a Safe Climate and Environmental Sustainability: Ecological Modernisation, Climate Justice, or Both?
Conveners: Hans A. Baer (University of Melbourne) and Thomas Reuter (University of Melbourne)
Since the turn of the 21st century, a climate movement has formed in many developed and developing countries and internationally, in response to warnings about global warming emanating for the past two or three decades from climate scientists, environmental groups, NGOs, indigenous groups in the Arctic and South Pacific, other Third World peoples, and faith-based communities. This international climate movement is quite disparate. Notably, there has been a tendency for the climate movement in North America, Europe, and Australia to focus on ecological modernisation as a climate change mitigation strategy -emphasising technological innovations such as renewable energy and efficiency, while often downplaying the need to address social disparities emanating from the global economy, both within and between nation-states. The focus on ecological modernisation in the North is in sharp contrast to the climate movement in the South, which often express concerns about issues such as the greater historical responsibility of the developed countries in terms of greenhouse emissions and social inequities in the global political economy.
The recent World People's Summit on Climate Change and the Rights to Mother Earth in Cochabama, Bolivia, for example, sought to address these concerns by noting that global capitalism, as an economic system of production and consumption seeks profit without limits, separates humans from nature. It called for a shift away from economic development based upon profit-making and continual growth to an alternative world committed to social justice and environmental sustainability. Nevertheless, various alternative political and faith groups and progressive NGOs operating in the developed world are now beginning to adopt a dual approach by working with the mainstream climate movement in the developed world and yet also in solidarity with the climate justice movement in the developing world. Despite these attempts to bridge some of the most significant international gaps in the movement, we are still very far from recognising the full extent of cultural diverse responses to climate change at a local or national level.
This panel seeks contributions that enlighten us about the breadth and scope of the climate movement around the world. Particularly, we encourage explorations of local, national and international networks that promote innovative and culturally diverse ideas about how to achieve adequate climate governance, as a potential alternative or corrective to the technocratic frameworks proposed by mainstream organizations such as the UNFCCC and EU.
Reductionism, Research Ethics Oversight and Anthropology
Convener: Kirsten Bell (University of British Columbia)
Between the 1950s and 1970s a number of institutions and countries set up processes to create a system of human subject protections to safeguard the rights and interests of research participants. The resultant bodies were initially set up to oversee biomedical research, although over the past two decades they have colonised social science research as well. Commentators have used the terms 'ethics creep' and 'mission creep' to describe this expansion in the responsibilities of research ethics committees to include a host of groups and practices beyond those anticipated in original research ethics formulations. While it is in the nature of bureaucracies with their proclivity towards rule breeding and proliferation to expand, the resulting disembodiment, fragmentation and reduction, both of research itself and the focus of its enquiry -human beings -, has been of considerable concern to social scientists.
Perhaps no discipline has been more affected by the expansion of the bureaucratic oversight of research than anthropology. As many ethnographers have noted, the realities of ethnographic fieldwork, deriving as they do from the holistic orientation of the discipline (to 'anthropos') in contrast to the more fractional particularism evident in both biomedicine and other social sciences, create a profound incommensurability. Research with strictly defined hypotheses and parameters, research 'subjects' who are conceptually (and often physically) cordoned off from researchers, and research projects entailing a discreet beginning and end highlight this part/whole dichotomy. Moreover, human research ethics committees - even those that exclusively review social and behavioural research - are populated primarily by non-anthropologists with little understanding of ethnographic fieldwork.
Research ethics oversight has caused many anthropologists to "simulate consilience with the regulatory ideal so as to appear compliant, cooperative and transparent" (Lederman 2006: 103). However, Lederman suggests that such tactics may further contribute to "misinformation about ethnographic fieldwork" (ibid.) and heighten rather than resolve existing problems. More troubling still, efforts to satisfy research ethics board requirements may ironically serve to "crowd out conversations about 'real' field ethics" in anthropology (Lederman 2007: 33). Linked to this is the appropriation of 'ethnography' by a number of disciplines where it is often bastardised into something that looks very different from anthropological research, further contributing to misconceptions about fieldwork when research ethics applications by anthropologists are then submitted to research ethics boards. Such regulation may well be transforming the practice of the discipline in insidious, but potentially devastating ways, such as the reduction of data to authorised interviews.
Recognising that this topic cannot be divorced from the larger processes through which anthropological research, publication and practice are increasingly being structured by corporate forces and interests, this panel invites submissions for papers reflecting on research ethics: the impact of research ethics regulation on anthropology as a discipline, research ethics as a focus of anthropological inquiry, what an 'anthropological ethics' might fruitfully look like and how (whether?) it can be reconciled with current forms of research ethics oversight.
  • Lederman, R. (2006) The ethical is political. American Ethnologist, 33(4): 545-548.
  • Lederman, R. (2007) Educate your IB: An experiment in cross-disciplinary communication. Anthropology News, September: 33-34.
Civil Wars, Interventions and other Conflicts
Convener: Rohan Bastin (Deakin University)
The utopian optimism of certain contemporary political philosophers' expectation of an imminent (immanent?) global civil society is drawing considerable criticism, especially for its support for imperial wars passing themselves off as domestic administration, as policing matters or as interventions. That optimism is shared with an expanding cosmopolitan discourse especially evident in the global development industry and its floating signifier "NGO". It reflects a utopian desire, which is actually concerned with a global State - an apparatus that appears to put an end to civil war when in fact it simply continues civil war by other means (Tiqqun 2010: 79). Notwithstanding Tiqqun's rejection of any "starry-eyed celebration of the most beautiful episodes of social war" (ibid.: 60) and its intense antagonism to the "hippy rags of anthropology" (ibid.: 38), this panel invites speakers to present material on specific examples of contemporary social conflicts and more broadly on the anthropology of violence. Papers on the so called policing interventions involving the Australian state, both domestically and internationally, are especially encouraged along with papers on prolonged conflicts in Africa, Asia and the Americas.
  • Tiqqun (2010) Introduction to Civil War. Trans. Alexander R. Galloway and Jason E. Smith, Semiotexte Intervention Series 4, MIT Press
Anthropology Film Program
Conveners: Simon Wilmot (Deakin University)
Anthropology Film Program - details to follow
ANSA Postgraduate Showcase
Conveners: Kelly Greenop (University of Queensland) and Cameo Dalley (University of Queensland)
Papers are invited from postgraduate students at various stages of their research, particularly those who have recently completed fieldwork, submitted their thesis or graduated. The Showcase will include papers from postgraduate students which outline their research projects, or which focus on a particular aspect of their research topic. The session will be grouped by sub-themes and/or by the regions in which the work is undertaken.
Change, continuity and anthropology
Conveners: Gaynor Macdonald (Department of Anthropology, University of Sydney) and Toni Bauman (Native Title Research Unit, Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies)

This panel calls for native title practitioners and others engaged with the issues of change and continuity.  Australian Aboriginal anthropology has only recently concerned itself with change in the lives of Aboriginal peoples over time and, just as it has done so, native title has imposed an apparent time warp. What is change? What changes, and why and how? These are not new questions but they remain insistent in a world in which the desire and ability to change is understood as the measure of normalcy for some but not for others, an ongoing strategy of inclusion and exclusion.

We invite presentations from anthropologists developing ethnographically informed ways of addressing histories of change which do not necessitate the denial of continuities. We do not see this as an issue of native title so much as a challenge to Australian anthropology to draw on a couple of decades of debates in the discipline world-wide to address the dilemmas posed by its own history of traditionalising Indigenous peoples on the one hand, or deculturalising them on the other. Native title in Australia demands, whether understood as law, politics or good/bad anthropology have significant implications for the ways in which Aboriginal peoples are being constituted vis-à-vis each other, other Australians, and their own futures. Far from Agamben’s docile and cowardly body, Aboriginal peoples fought vigorously over decades for recognition and inclusion, but at a high cost. What can good ethnohistorical analysis contribute to a critical analysis of colonial subjects rendered static? Does the notion of continuity bind people into a past, thereby silencing them?

Whatever one’s attitudes to native title, it is imperative that anthropologists take seriously the implications of the ways in which they model experiences of change and continuity. These are ethnographic, theoretical and ethical challenges which require an explicit positioning on the part of the anthropologist. Contributions from people outside the native title arena but who are working on issues of relevance to it are very welcome.  The need for more sophisticated theories and paradigms of change and continuity which do not see change and continuity in binary opposition is urgent, not only in the native title arena but in anthropological studies more broadly.

The Monologic Imagination
Conveners: Matt Tomlinson (Monash), Julian Millie (Monash)

Bakhtin’s observation that “the word in language is half someone else’s” (1981: 293) has become an anthropological truism. No speaker is the sole author of his or her utterances, and the establishment of distinct voices in discourse is an ongoing, creative project for speakers and audiences alike. And yet, easy invocations of dialogism can mask the fact that many speakers present their words not as heteroglossic but as singular truths from single sources, transcending all contexts. Moreover, speakers may actively craft discourse meant to be monologic, the kind of expression for which one “expects no answer” (Mannheim and Tedlock 1995: 1-2).

Bakhtin suggests that monologic projects gained traction especially during the Enlightenment, with “everything capable of meaning [being] gathered together in one consciousness and subordinated to one accent” (quoted in Morris 1994: 97). Attempts at the unification of meaning and subordination of expression are hardly limited to the West, however, and it remains a productive anthropological question to ask when, why, and how speakers come to present their utterances as single-authored, single-voiced, context-transcendent, and precluding meaningful response. Granted that utterances can never be pure monologues, but are always rooted in dialogism, how do speakers present and justify intentionally monological discourse, and how effective can their efforts be?

This panel investigates “the monologic imagination” in religious and political discourse. Case studies include Muslim preachers who achieve successful outcomes by inverting the singular voice of propriety, creating “transgressive” narratives that treat audiences as pleasure-taking subjects, and Fijian political and religious leaders who insist that univocal, unchallenged circulation of government decrees is the most effective—indeed, the only—possible course of action at present. Other papers will take up questions of monologue and dialogue in different contexts, and may focus on such questions and topics as:

  • how, precisely, dialogism is elided, erased, or denied
  • religious understandings that support monologism as a characteristic of genres of religious performance
  • monologue as a fantasy of pure entextualization, the creation of texts that transcend all contexts and can be inserted into any context
  • pronominal strategies of authoritative speaking: the deployment of the heroic “I” and the villainous “they” in monological projects, for example
  • the “realness” of the transgression performed by linguistic strategies that decentre monologic discourse
  • the possibility of monological discourse in a heavily mediated world

For further information, please contact both Matt and Julian at and

Biosocial Communities and Emerging Identities
Conveners: Lenore Manderson (Monash)

Medical anthropologists have become increasingly interested in how technologies produce - sometimes impose - social identities on patient/consumers. Chronic illness is one example of this: the diagnostic process and the implications of prognosis, the routines of ongoing treatment and monitored adherence to changes in activities and behaviour, membership of support groups, receipt of information such as newsletters, therapeutic and social interactions, dominate everyday life and shape biosociality.  Preventive and behavioural medical outreach similarly creates dominant biosocial identities even if there is a poor match between private/lay and generic medicalized identities - people are asked to identify as 'a smoker,' a 'risk taker,' as 'obese' or 'infertile,' for instance, in order to receive and act on health promotion advice or to access medical care. New technologies have a similar effect, as those researching on tissue donation, genetic screening, IVF and stem cell research all highlight. Science and ad ministration provide further ways in which biosociality is created and politicised - research with particular populations is a case in point. In the papers to be presented under these themes, we explore the concepts of biosociality, biopolitics, governmentality, biological citizenship and identity in a variety of ethnographic contexts.

Papers already to be included are: Biological citizenship and stem cell communities (Alan Petersen), Indigenous genetics, personhood, and biovalue (Emma Kowal), Clinical trials, ethics and local politics (Doreen Montag), Biosociality and virtual communities of infertile in Thailand (Andrea Whittaker), Infertility and faith in Indonesia (Linda Bennett), Displacement, refugee status and sexual health (Celia McMichael), AOD and self -help groups in Japan (Richard Chenhall), Biosociality, diabetes and surveillance of the self (Lenore Manderson), and Agency, authenticity, access and sex work in China (Eleanor Holdroyd). We welcome more.

Topics in Contemporary Anthropology
Convener: Rohan Bastin (Deakin)

People are invited to submit abstracts for papers on any topic in contemporary anthropology. These papers may be grouped thematically for presentation but otherwise will form part of a general session.

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