The Weekly Geekout: American Anthropological Association Annual Meeting

Tis the season for the annual gathering of anthropologists. This week, hundreds of anthropologists will converge on our capital, Washington D.C., for the American Anthropological Association 2014 Meeting. Oriented around “Producing Anthropology,” the theme “offers a provocation to examine the truths we encounter, produce and communicate through anthropological theories and methods” and an opportunity to do what anthropologists do best: reflect on anthropology and what it means to be an anthropologist. This year’s 113th Annual Meeting will also be my first anthropological conference. As our readers know, several of the TGA editors presented a panel on Geek Anthropology last year, while I was serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in rural Fiji. (What better excuse to miss an anthropology conference, though, than fieldwork?)

Via AAA:

Via AAA Website

For a recent graduate from a small liberal arts college like myself, the AAA Meeting will be my first exposure to the massive community of practicing anthropologists who explore everything from food culture to feminism, pedagogy and praxis to protest politics, sovereignty to sociolinguistics. Spanning December 3-7, I’m already putting aside extra money for the innumerable coffee runs I’ll be making throughout the days, considering that panels, open meetings and discussion sessions are held from 7:30 in the morning to 10:30 at night, a sort of intellectual marathon. Like a proverbial kid in a candy store, I’ve been perusing the AAA website ever since the 2014 program was released, smacking my lips at the panoply of options at my disposal, already wishing I had Hermione Granger’s time-turner so I could attend multiple panels at once. As an anthropologist who is interested in gender studies, medicine, literature, religious and activist anthropology, I’m particularly looking forward to panels like “Activism and Advocacy,” “Ethnographic Storytelling,” “Anthropological Approaches to Law, Gender and Human Rights,” and “Medicalizing Religion, Spiritualizing Medicine.” But there are also a number of panels and workshops that fall within the category of geek anthropology, like “Performance, Translation, and the Creation of Worlds,” “Modern Monsters Panel I: Anthropology and the Ecology of Anxiety” and the Society for Humanistic Anthropology’s workshop on “Utilizing Facebook for Ethnographic Research.” Anthropologists are increasingly acknowledging and adapting to the digital of the 21st century, and there are a number of panels negotiating the role of cyberspace in fieldwork, digital technology in modern culture and methodologies, as well as cultural communities converging through the Internet. Anthropologists are pushing toward the future, rather the past, posing speculative questions about human kind.

As per Savage Mind’s advice, I’ve accumulated a number of scarves and sturdy boots for the occasion. Having interviewed several important anthropologists while they were wearing nothing but yoga pants and an oversized Smithsonian t-shirt, I’m going to try to strike a professional balance of kooky-cool. I will, however, be geeking out with my fellow editors and trying to stay calm when I spot some of my intellectual crushes. “I just looooooove your theories on kinship and the body.” I may even start live tweeting things overheard throughout the conference, especially during the open bar events. No bones about it, I am totally pumped. It’s gonna be like Comic Con for social scientists, right?


Image from Amysantee 

Works Cited

“2014 Annual Meeting Central” (2014). American Anthropological Association.

“Annual Meeting Workshops—Friday” (2014). American Anthropological Association.

McGranahan, Carole (2013). “Conference Chic, or, How to Dress Like an Anthropologist.” Savage Minds.

“Modern Monsters Panel I: Anthropology and the Ecology of Anxiety.” American Anthropological Association.

“Performance, Translation, and the Creation of Worlds” (2014). American Anthropological Association.

Renaud, Marie-Pierre (2013). “AAA Paper: When Tactics Become Strategies.” The Geek Anthropologist.



About Emma Louise Backe

PhD student in Medical Anthropology at the George Washington University and independent consultant, focusing on the intersections of international development, global health, reproductive health justice, gender-based violence, and the politics of care. Social justice sailor scout working on behalf of survivors of sexual violence, gender equity, and comprehensive sexual and reproductive health among vulnerable populations.

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