The AAA Annual Meeting in Review

At the AAA annual meeting in Chicago, the AfAA celebrated another great year of work in Africanist Anthropology. During the AfAA reception, former AfAA President and 2013 AfAA Distinguished Lecturer Mwenda Ntarangwi (Calvin C) presented “Swimming Against the Tide: Hip Hop Youth Culture and Anthropology.” In this talk, Ntarangwi focused on his research on East African hip hop, some of the key challenges to and from young hip hop artists in this competitive and globalized music industry, and the appropriation of hip hop form and talent by senior political figures in Africa. Prior to and following Ntarangwi’s presentation, we enjoyed a variety of food, drink, and, of course, music, including East African hip hop.

AfAA President Anita Spring and the members of the AfAA award committees recognized the 2013 AfAA award winners. The award-winning students, whose papers were described in the August 2013 AfAA column, include Bennetta Jules-Rosette Graduate Paper Award winner Metasebia Yoseph (Georgetown U), with honorable mention to Yang Jiao (U Florida, Gainesville). The Nancy (“Penny”) Schwartz Undergraduate Paper Award was given to Rachel Mueller (Macalester C), with honorable mention to Stephen Reynders (UC San Diego). Congratulations again to these young talents! We look forward to their continued contributions to Africanist anthropology.

The 2013 winners of the Elliot P Skinner Book Award were also announced during the reception. Because of the impressive quality of submissions, the award committee selected two recipients for the year: Steven Feld’s Jazz Cosmopolitanism in Accra: Five Musical Years in Ghana (Duke University Press), and Jennie Burnet’s Genocide Lives in Us: Women, Memory, and Silence in Rwanda (University of Wisconsin Press).

Elliot P Skinner Book Award winner, Steven Feld’s Jazz Cosmopolitanism in Accra

Elliot P Skinner Book Award winner, Steven Feld’s Jazz Cosmopolitanism in Accra.

Steven Feld, known as the pioneer of the anthropology of sound, wrote Jazz Cosmopolitanism in Accra: Five Musical Years in Ghana to share the vernacular cosmopolitanism of Ghanaian jazz musicians. Feld refers to these musicians’ cosmopolitan outlook as an “acoustemology,” a way of knowing the world through sound. Some artists featured in the book and the companion CD and DVD set have traveled widely and worked with American jazz legends. Others have remained more local physically but still very much globally connected, such as a union of Accra truck and minibus drivers who produce “squeeze-bulb honk-horn music” for drivers’ funerals – the performance of which is reminiscent of jazz funerals in New Orleans. Feld’s work contests tidy American nationalist and Afrocentric narratives of jazz history by providing compelling evidence about the long-term and ongoing exchanges between Africa and the Diaspora. Feld has given the $1,000 award money to the musicians in Accra with whom he has worked.

Elliot P Skinner Book Award winner, Jennie Burnet’s Genocide Lives in Us.

Elliot P Skinner Book Award winner, Jennie Burnet’s Genocide Lives in Us.

Jennie Burnet’s Genocide Lives in Us: Women, Memory, and Silence in Rwanda relates stories of ordinary Rwandan women and how they have managed their memories of the 1994 Rwandan genocide. Burnet’s repeated visits to Rwanda have allowed her to work closely with a number of survivors, and in this book she details not just their survival strategies, but also an impressive resilience rooted in hope. Post-genocide Rwanda’s demographic realities forced women into new roles domestically. With so many changes and challenges, as well as through the support of a variety of women’s advocacy groups, women also rose to unprecedented numbers in national level political representation (note: The Daily Times of Rwanda reported that the September 2013 parliamentary elections resulted in women taking an unprecedented 64% of the seats in the Chamber of Deputies). While Genocide Lives in Us does include heart-wrenching stories, it also allows the reader to appreciate the potential for the country’s renaissance, and the crucial role of women’s leadership in it.

Congratulations to Steven Feld and Jennie Burnet!

To learn more about AfAA and to find more details about the annual awards, please visit our website at www.aaanet.org/sections/afaa.

Please send photos and column ideas to Jennifer Coffman, James Madison University, coffmaje@jmu.edu.

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