Well, at least the AAA meeting gave me some perspective

I didn’t say it was a happy one, but it is a perspective. Of course there were the expected strident calls of moral outrage over anthropologists in the military. Then it got worse when a voice vote was taken and passed that “no reports should be provided to sponsors [of research] that are not also available to the general public and, where practicable, to the population studied.” (from the Chronicle of Higher Ed. Blog http://chronicle.com/news/article/3532/anthropologists-vote-to-clamp-down-on-secret-scholarship ). To be clear, this does explicitly include the kinds of proprietary research I do for my clients.

Well, there we go… apparently when that resolution passes next year (I have no doubt it will) my industry brethren and I will once again be non-anthropologist anthropologists and the rest of the field will return to the comfy tower without fear of getting its collective hands dirty. I am not renewing my membership that expired last Thursday. It’s not some form of protest, but more of why bother? I went into the AAA meetings feeling like people were having arguments that are nearly 50 years old, and already rolling my eyes. But now I’ve stopped rolling them.

I’ve realized that being annoyed at the American Anthropological Association and the more vocal members of the organization is like being annoyed at an old doddering relative. You know the one I mean, not quite crazy enough to lock up in the attic, but still likely to blurt out embarrassing anachronistic statements during holiday meals like “We may have lost the war, but I’ll be damned if I recognize missou-ra!” Also like the AAA, the effect on my life and career other than the occasionally embarrassing statement, is exactly zero.

The only function of the association is to hold a meeting once a year, distribute info about open positions in academia and issue statements about ideology. Other than that, I don’t see much. You can’t make someone stop being an anthropologist. No one can reach into my brain and remove the knowledge. Never in my career has anyone asked if I am a member of the AAA, I don’t even know if it’s a requirement of an academic department to be a member.

I don’t claim to do classical ethnography, that’s why many of us in my end of the field prefer the term Design Ethnography or Design Anthropology because it is a sub-field that is different from the long-term studies others do and used for different ends. Its not better or worse, it’s different.

So, I’m still an anthropologist but one that places academic and professional freedom above being in an Association that is trying to keep us all in a box.

2 thoughts on “Well, at least the AAA meeting gave me some perspective

  1. Tony

    Judging form the Chronicle article on the voice vote at AAA, the approval of the resolution sounded quite enthusiastic. But the AAA committee charge with examining the issue of anthropology’s engagement with the military was much less intemperate. See http://chronicle.com/news/article/?id=3512. This article refers to a report also issued last week by a committee which included both academics and practitioners. They also seemed much more in tune with the nuances of working with the military than the general voice vote at the meeting. The report itself is at http://www.aaanet.org/PM_112807.htm

  2. Tony Waters

    1.

    There was also a AAA ad hoc committee report issued in late November on anthropological engagement with the military. It is described in the Chronicle of Higher Education at http://chronicle.com/news/article/?id=3512 and the report itself is on the AAA website and is 62 pages long.

    There were practitioners working with the military on the ad hoc committee, as well.
    The ad hoc committee report takes a much more nuanced view of the issues involved than does the resolution which was approved at the AAA Business Meeting on a voice vote.

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