Having just completed my 2012-13 term as SANA President, I am happy to report that the section is healthy and well positioned to continue to further its historical dedication to scholarly excellence, political activism and professional inclusion. In this brief column, I want to highlight some of the section’s major achievements over the past two years.
First, SANA has transformed our former newsletter North American Dialogue (NAD) into a fully-fledged online only academic journal. Pages per publication have been increased, the peer review process enhanced, the publication officially renamed, and the cover redesigned, all while NAD remains free and accessible to all. With these changes in place, NAD is on its way to becoming the home for cutting-edge critical anthropological and ethnographic analysis of North American life. Indeed, in its new form, NAD has already had well-read articles on key topics such as right-wing social movements, public anthropology, race and the politics of place and authenticity. Much thanks for Susan Falls, Catherine Kingfisher and Lindsay Bell for their service as editors of NAD, and moreover, as stewards of the effort to convert it into a true academic journal.
Second, in 2013 we introduced a new prize, the Eleanor “Happy” Leacock Travel Award. Building on SANA’s history of support for whose work or identities places them outside the disciplinary mainstream, this prize provides support for conference travel for the rapidly increasing number of scholars who labor in positions outside the tenure-track system. Eligible candidates for the award include independent scholars, and contingent and community college faculty (details are available at sananet.org). The first recipients of the award were Pem Buck (Elizabethtown Community and Technical College) and Christopher Carrico (independent scholar), who attended the spring 2013 SANA meetings in Durham, NC. Independent scholar Leni Silverstein received a Leacock Award for travel to the AAA meetings in Chicago.
Along with the Leacock Award, SANA’s St Clair Drake Student Travel Grant, Delmos Jones and Jagna Sharff Memorial Prize for the Critical Study of North America, and the SANA Prize for Distinguished Achievement in the Critical Study of North America demonstrate the section’s commitment to both inclusion and scholarly excellence. 2012-13′s two winners of and the two honorable mentions for the Jones and Sharff book prize addressed pressing issues such as race, biological reproduction, tobacco capitalism, and the treatment of sexual offenders. Our lifetime achievement award winners in 2012 and 2013, Michael Blakey and Lee Baker, respectively, both have done much to illuminate the relations between racial inequality and various forms of racial classification and ideology (including those produced by anthropology). It was a great honor for me to present both Blakey and Baker these awards, given that both demonstrated the pairing of transformative scholarship and public engagement that the prize seeks to commemorate.
Third, our spring 2013 conference, held at Duke University in Durham, NC, broke new ground in terms of both structure and financing. Aiming to avoid the usual serial session format in favor of a structure that permitted more in-depth, sustained, and focused dialogue, we structured the conference around four thematic tracks. Potential track editors submitted ideas for their track’s theme and program: the selected themes were “Discipline and Punishment,” “Integrated Approaches to a Sustainable Future,” “Contested Spaces,” and “Freedom, Futurity, and Doom.” Once selected, the four track editors worked with SANA’s program committee and conference chair to develop two day schedules that included standard paper sessions, roundtables, workshops, film screenings, keynote addresses, field trips and other events. By all accounts this structure achieved its aims, as conference attendees were able to spend two days in conversation with a diverse group of scholars united by their interest in a specific theme. There were also a number of opportunities for conference-wide discussion, which allowed common cross-track themes to emerge.
In an effort to attract those potentially reluctant to participate in a conference with an unorthodox structure, as well as to further SANA’s dedication to mitigating the effects of inequality within our profession, the conference was financed using a “pay-what-you-like” method, whereby participants paid as much (or as little) as they desired, according to their own ability to pay and their own valuation of the conference experience. Ultimately, the roughly 100 conference participants’ registration fees generated a per-person-average not terribly out of line with the more traditional sliding-scale registration fees used for previous SANA conferences, while hopefully leaving conference participants feeling satisfied with the conference’s cost and value.
Overall then, the conference was a success. Even if future conferences do not replicate its structure and financing exactly, SANA has opened up the door for further experimenting towards the end of insuring that conferences are engaging, intellectually generative, and (lest we forget) fun! Current SANA leadership is already planning for our 2015 conference; we hope to see you there.
In conclusion, I want to thank all of the people who I worked with during my two exciting and productive years as SANA’s president. The best part of serving as SANA President was meeting and working with so many, and such a varied group of, people dedicated to critical North Americanist anthropology. While space prevents me from thanking everyone I should, I want to give special thanks to Rachel Wright, who served capably and diligently as our 2013 conference chair and Susan Falls, for her hard work in furthering NAD’s transformation and for her intelligence in navigating the treacherous seas of contemporary academic publishing. I also want to thank new president Catherine Kingfisher for her willingness to ensure that SANA continues to be a section that cultivates politically dedicated and collegial critical scholars as well as cutting edge and groundbreaking critical scholarship of North America.
Maggie Dickinson is the SANA contributing editor.