NAPA members reflect on the 2012 SfAA Annual Meeting
During the week of March 19-23, while Spring Breakers across the country headed for the beach, hundreds of practitioners, academics and anthropology students gathered in the Mile High City for the Society for Applied Anthropology’s (SfAA) 73rd Annual Meeting. The conference provides applied social scientists from across the globe the opportunity to learn, network and collaborate on emerging topics. NAPA, LPOs and other professional associations also take advantage of the annual gathering to hold spring business meetings and informal meetups.
Many attendees appreciate the open atmosphere and networking opportunities the SfAA conference offers through small-room sessions, roundtables and numerous receptions. Graduate student and NAPA member Shane Pahl (U North Texas) was especially impressed at how accessible people are at the SfAA Annual Meeting. “The meetings have greatly helped me to network with fellow students, applied anthropologists and practitioners. Roundtables and smaller sized sessions create a very comfortable environment for students to engage in the dialog. From book recommendations to thesis-changing conversations, I’ve found my experiences to be invaluable.”
Session Highlights: On and Off-Theme Discussions
This year’s theme, “Natural Resource Distribution and Development in the 21st Century,” drew attention to decisions of equitable access to basic resources for various and often competing stakeholders. From sustainability practices, to disaster response and food systems planning, the conference highlighted anthropology’s involvements in local and global communities. AAA’s new Executive Director Ed Liebow attended the SfAA Annual Meeting and noted, “It is a great time to be an applied anthropologist, and the SfAA conference certainly put the spotlight on many of the valuable contributions to societal good that our work offers. I was especially intrigued by sessions I attended about the engaged university (organized by Linda Bennett and Linda Whiteford) and about human dimensions of global environmental change (organized by Shirley Fiske).”
Natural resource distribution, however, was not the only topic of discussion at the conference. Encouraged by conversations during the 2012 AAA meeting in San Francisco, Brigitte Jordan (Lifescapes) chaired a roundtable with the intent of promoting business anthropology topics at the conference. Jordan commented, “The Business Roundtable I co-organized with Maryann McCabe and Brian Moeran at the recent SfAA meetings in Denver was a terrific venue for listening to expert business/industrial/corporate anthropologists offer up their experiences and ideas for the future of ethnography in business settings. This was one of several efforts intended to increase the presence of business anthropology in SfAA meetings and publications. Conversations continued after the Roundtable at a lovely reception, generously sponsored by SfAA leadership.” The reception allowed for an open dialogue between practitioners, professors, and students of business anthropology to share ideas on how to further engage within the SfAA community.
The Future of SfAA: Opportunities to Further the Discipline
In anticipation of SfAA’s 75th anniversary in 2015, the organization’s leadership is revisiting their processes and procedures in an effort to better serve the needs of its membership in the 21st century. As part of this initiative, the Board of Directors led robust, informal roundtables at the conference to address the findings of a recent membership survey aimed at clarifying the values and needs of SfAA stakeholders. Continuing the conversation, the focal point of the SfAA Business Meeting centered on a discussion of issues and proposed changes to the organization’s bylaws, specifically changes to board composition and voting privileges which includes provisions to shift from paper ballots to online voting. The results of the roundtables and Business Meeting held in Denver will be distributed to SfAA members in their May newsletter.
The changes taking place within SfAA to remain relevant in the 21st century reflect the necessity for the practice of anthropology to remain open and adaptive to change. Now is the time for NAPA members to become involved and support the efforts of our colleagues engaged in furthering our shared discipline. Ed Liebow (AAA) champions this idea, “In my new role, I had wonderfully productive and far-ranging discussions with Tom May, my counterpart at SfAA, and with Merrill Eisenberg and Roberto Alvarez, the out-going and in-coming SfAA Board presidents. We are committed to finding enduring ways for AAA and SfAA to work together for the benefit of the profession. I had a chance to visit with the NAPA Governing Council while in Denver, and reaffirmed this commitment as well.” Together, we can ensure applied anthropology continues to serve the best interests of communities local and abroad.
The 74th SfAA Annual Meeting will be held March 18–22, 2014 in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Missed this year’s conference?
Listen to the podcasts of the sessions mentioned in this column plus many more sessions from this year’s SfAA Annual Meeting at www.SfAAPodcasts.net, also available through iTunes. The SfAA Podcast Project is a student-led project sponsored by SfAA and the University of North Texas that has made the recordings of selected sessions available as free podcasts since 2007.