It is clear to me that the American Anthropological Association (AAA) is rapidly becoming (already has become?) irrelevant to and un-supportive of the needs of anthropologists working in corporate, military, and other contexts where the methods are used as part of a deep, day-to-day hands-on practice. But the rift between applied and academia is an old one. I think its time to seek other options, namely to back an association independent of the AAA. It’s not to reject the AAA, it has its place, but the control of a vocal minority to press an ideological and political agenda over one of science, methods, professional practice, scholarship and open-hearted exploration has made the AAA incompatible with the professional realties of many in the practicing community. There are certainly many precedents. For example, the American Board of Forensic Anthropology: Not part of the AAA, it actually offers professional certification of its members. I know a number of archaeologists that don’t belong or go to the AAA meetings, because they have a national organization that meets their needs more closely.
I have in the past belonged to the National Association of Practicing Anthropologists (NAPA), a sub group of the AAA. Should NAPA spin out as its own organization? A very good alternative is EPIC, which is rapidly becoming the conference of choice for anthropologists who do a wide breadth of work in applied work in corporate settings. I have never been a member of the Society for Applied Anthropology (SFAA), so I can’t speak to their activities or attitudes of inclusiveness with regards to the contexts of practicing anthropology. Perhaps SFAA presents a viable alternative.
My thinking, however, is that EPIC should be the epicenter of this new association. It understands the needs of corporate work, for example, that many of us work under non-disclosure agreements. The conference also recognizes that anthropology is not the only place to get insight and inspiration. It welcomes papers and presentations from professionals in a wide range of allied fields from design to engineering and art. It is also an atmosphere that I suspect would welcome those in the military and intelligence communities based on an interest in uniqueness of the work, not the ideology of it.
What do you think? I can’t be a member of the AAA anymore if the voice vote making secret and proprietary research unethical passes (since I don’t think I or my colleagues are unethical for working for large companies). It’s really time for an alternative. I had a friend who used to tell me that there is little point in trying to date someone who doesn’t want to date you — it leads to restraining orders at best. Let’s quit trying to change the AAA and recognize that evolution exists, even in professional organizations. We are a different profession, have different needs, and need a different code of ethics.