The 2013 AAA meetings are nearly here and APLA is preparing a range of exciting special events and invited panels, in addition to our ever-popular business meeting.  Read on for details about dates and times and for a report on the review process for invited panels from our APLA selection team, Heath Cabot and Jeff Martin.  Submissions for invited panels are due in March each year—so mark your calendar for the 2014 meetings!

APLA events this year focus on publishing, genres of public writing, and expanding anthropology’s audience beyond the academy. Our business meeting is open to all and, as always, features a discussion of a key issue or concern within the subfield. This year, we will host a conversation on “Expanding Anthropology’s Reach,” featuring Yale professor Erik Harms, PoLAR co-editor John Conley, and outgoing president of APLA Susan Coutin. We can look forward to a wide-ranging discussion on the future of scholarly publication and how anthropologists can reach new audiences. The business meeting will be held Saturday, November 23, in the Chicago Hilton Conference Room 4E, from 12:15-1:30.  Please come by for these events, coffee, announcements of APLA prizes, and updates on new initiatives.

The association will also be hosting a special event on “Genres of Public Writing in Political and Legal Anthropology: Addressing Multiple Audiences.”  This conversation has been on APLA’s agenda for more than a year and this event will continue to explore the issues brought up in the discussion on public engagement led by Professors Catherine Besteman and Hugh Gusterson at last year’s APLA business meeting.  This event will consist of four short presentations by prominent anthropologists followed by an interactive discussion between the panelists and the audience. This event will be held Thursday, November 21, from 12:15-1:30 in the Hilton Conference Room 4E.

Finally, there are numerous APLA-sponsored panels and four invited panels. Check out the details on the invited sessions below, consult the program for our other sponsored sections, and help us create another successful year for APLA at the AAA.

From Heath Cabot and Jeff Martin, co-chairs of the APLA Selection Panel:

This year, APLA is sponsoring 50 panels. The submissions were, across the board, remarkably strong: cohesive, thoughtfully articulated, and showcased a range of debates and discussions currently taking place in political and legal anthropology, including more established areas of inquiry and others that are very much emergent. Some cross-cutting themes include state and bureaucratic violence; conflict and its aftermath; humanitarianism and development; ethics and values; social movements; and the entwinement of technical and political processes. A number of panels also interrogate methodological and ethical questions raised by fieldwork in legal and political anthropology. In general, APLA members’ submissions were thematically at the heart of the upcoming meetings’ focus on “Future Publics, Current Engagements,” highlighting how political and legal anthropology is—perhaps now more than ever—deeply invested in discussions of wide public relevance.

The competition for invited status was, as usual, intense—with nine panels submitted directly to APLA and numerous others submitted to other sections with APLA indicated as a co-sponsor. For readers unfamiliar with the process, APLA has six “credits” to bestow on invited sessions, which may be combined with other sections through a co-sponsorship if all sections agree. A total of two credits are necessary to sponsor a single session, whereas four credits are necessary for a double session. This year, we were able to sponsor four invited sessions, two of which we co-sponsored in conjunction with other sections. To select the final list, we ranked each submission based on the innovativeness and cohesiveness of the panel and the papers, engagement in current debates in anthropology, and its capacity to appeal to broader audiences both within and outside of APLA. We also took particular account of panels that sought to relate in substantive ways to the annual meeting theme of engagement with current and future publics. Here is a short preview of what is to come.

APLA Invited Sessions

Wednesday, 12-1:45 pm: REMOVED FROM THE NATION: ILLEGALITY, DETENTION, AND DEPORTATION IN THE LIVES OF YOUNG PEOPLE, organized by Susan J Terrio and Deborah Boehm, with Susan Coutin as discussant. This remarkable panel brings together ethnographers and legal practitioners to “consider a range of experiences of illegality within the United States and beyond the borders of the nation.”

Thursday, 1:45-3:30 pm: GRAY ZONES AND THEIR AFTERMATHS: MEMORY, MOURNING, JUSTICE, organized by Elizabeth F Drexler with  Sally Engle Merry and Kimberly Theidon as discussants, explores the “gray zones” of conflict and post-conflict situations by considering “the aftermath of collaboration, betrayal and other zones of intimate engagement between indeterminate conflict protagonists.”

Friday, 4-5:45 pm: ROBOPROCESSES, organized by Catherine Besteman and Hugh Gusterson, with Rena Lederman and Joseph Dumit as discussants. This innovative panel, co-sponsored by APLA and AES, explores “evaluative protocols or formulaic scripts for interaction and judgment mobilized by corporate and state bureaucracies… which sort, standardize, and hierarchize.” This panel promises to advance conversations on the role of the technical in bureaucracy, and, like this year’s special panel (see above) also draws on themes that emerged in the discussion with Besteman and Gusterson that took place at the 2012 APLA business meeting.

Friday, 10:15 am-12 pm: THE CULTURE OF POVERTY: PITY AND SELF-CRITIQUE IN CONFRONTATIONS WITH POVERTY AND SCHOOL FAILURE, 1959-2013, organized by Raymond P McDermott and Shirin Vossoughi with Frederick D Erickson as discussant. This interdisciplinary panel, co-sponsored by APLA and the Council on Anthropology and Education, considers the role of earlier anthropological critiques in shaping school reform and educational policy in approaching poverty and its relationship to culture, in the hopes of shedding light on the present.

In addition to this remarkable set of invited panels, APLA is sponsoring many other panels of note—check the conference program for updated details on all our events.  AAA 2013 promises to hold an exciting program for APLA—and your participation is what will make it great!

Please send ideas for future columns to the contributing editors, Leo Coleman at  and Allison Fish at

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