A Year of Challenges and Accomplishments

This report marks the close of my term as AAA president. It summarizes the full, end-of-year President’s report, which I hope every member will take a few minutes to read. The long report tells the AAA story for 2017, which was remarkably productive, sometimes frustrating, always demanding, and in the end, immensely gratifying. I use this moment to thank AAA members for entrusting me with the important responsibility of guiding our Association over the past two years. It has been an incredible experience. Challenging and exciting, it provided me opportunity to learn the ins and outs of negotiating power and politics, of affirming the importance of doing one’s homework on every issue, and of really listening to and appreciating alternative perspectives.

I wish all AAA members would know and understand what it takes—the time, energy, thoughtfulness, concentrated attention, getting the information right, negotiating the many points of view and demands, and ensuring that this organization, which is at once powerful and relatively marginal, fulfills its mission. It all happens because of the hard work and dedication of AAA staff and volunteers.

The new year began at the heels of the 2016 US presidential election and the ushering in of an administration that in its statements and actions attacks the value of critical thinking and scientific knowledge, and threatens human rights, human dignity, and academic freedom. Over the course of 2017, AAA staff and leadership have prepared for and acted upon threats to anthropology, anthropologists, and the Association. Despite the deep sense of uncertainty, the Association has moved forward on several fronts, seeing some projects come to successful conclusion, the preparations for others making good progress, and plans for a productive future in the works. The key AAA activities this year were centered on: 1) public engagement and public presence; 2) publishing; 3) external relations; 4) internal relations: members, programs, meetings and sections; 5) governance and programming structures; and 6) AAA’s financial state.

Public engagement and presence

In the period between November 30, 2016 and October 26, 2017, AAA engaged over forty advocacy efforts. As always, AAA’s advocacy efforts are in keeping with the discipline’s core values and the Association’s established processes. This year’s actions included developing and enacting a collaborative, ongoing project called Understanding Race After Charlottesville, affirming AAA’s commitment to UNESCO, demanding the US Congress to swiftly enact DACA legislation to protect undocumented youth, joining forces for the April 2017 March for Science, objecting to legislation aimed at closing Central European University (Hungary), reiterating our condemnation of the Executive Order banning immigrants (related statements in January, March, May, June, August, and September), taking various steps to protect science funding and academic freedom, including establishing the Rapid Response Network on Academic Freedom, and much more. We ask all members to roll up your sleeves and participate in AAA’s Time to Take Action effort.

“World on the Move,” AAA’s enormously relevant Public Education Initiative, is making good progress despite slow-goings in securing the financial support needed to reach its full potential. In May, AAA hosted a policy workshop organized by anthropologist Eben Kirksey with support from the Wenner-Gren Foundation, bringing together over a dozen scholars to identify key policy issues requiring the input and advocacy of anthropologists, and to provide information, training, and experience on engaging Washington policy makers. AAA’s ongoing efforts on Israel-Palestine included an aggressive fundraising effort for the Palestine Israel Fellowship Fund for Travel (PIFFT). I am delighted that Rami Salameh of Birzeit University and the Graduate Institute in Geneva is named AAA’s first PIFFT Fellow.

To keep up with AAA’s actions in today’s fast-paced world, I urge members to make a habit of visiting the AAA website and the Association’s other mediums of communication, including @AmericanAnthro (Twitter), the AAA Facebook page, and the AAA blog.


This year’s big news was bringing the thoughtful 18-month process of securing a new publishing partner to successful conclusion with AAA signing a five-year agreement with Wiley.

For the period January 2018–December 2022, the terms of the contract enable the Association to support the “portfolio principle,” which means that all 20+ publications will be maintained regardless of the ability of any individual journal to be self-supporting. AAA’s publishing program, governed by the four values of quality, breadth, accessibility, and sustainability, provides opportunities for anthropologists to disseminate scholarly knowledge, receive valuable credit for their professional work because they publish in credible outlets, and participate in supporting this important community resource.

We are excited that Open Anthropology’s editors Jason Antrosio and Sallie Han will stay on for another three-year term, ensuring that this journal provides a way to open up anthropology in multiple ways, including bringing anthropology into the public conversation on critical issues. This year’s theme issues are: Open Anthropology Matters; Music – Anthropology – Life; and Advancing Age: Anthropological Perspectives on Being & Growing Older.

Moving forward, the Executive Board voted last May to authorize a review process of the AAA author agreement to ensure it meets the needs of the field considering ever changing technological and market changes, the needs and interests of authors, and the needs of the publishing program/portfolio as a whole. The Board also authorized the creation of a discipline-specific repository, a project under development by the Publishing Futures Committee (PFC, formerly CFPEP).

More for members, the discipline, and the world

Trish Redeker-Hepner, Ramona Perez, and Keri Brondo are ready to launch AAA’s new standing Committee-Members’ Programmatic Advisory and Advocacy Committee (MPAAC) in 2018. For a status update and the full roster of MPAAC members, see Trish’s AAA blog titled “MPAAC is Ready to Roll!. In other member news, AAA is in process of evaluating the dues structure with help from a professional consultant whose findings will inform any new policy in membership dues.

Among other 2017 projects, this year we issued the AAA Guidelines for Tenure and Promotion Review: Communicating Public Scholarship in Anthropology, a useful tool for tenure and promotion committees on assessing new forms of writing and publishing. In addition, the “Working Group on Anthropology Non-Tenure Track Faculty Employment” is making great progress. Charged with recommending ways the Association can contribute to reducing employment vulnerability of non-tenure track faculty in anthropology, the Working Group recently launched AAA’s online community, a platform for contingent faculty to share experiences, strategies, and practices with one another. AAA’s Daniel Ginsberg continues to issue cutting edge reports on the labor market for anthropologists, available on AAA’s online Anthropology Information Central.

AAA also continues to move on cultural heritage matters, working with Cultural Heritage Partners, a government relations consultancy, to monitor and advocate for cultural heritage safeguards. In collaboration with three other scholarly societies, AAA formed the Coalition for American Heritage to help protect funding for research and historic preservation. AAA’s relationships with sister associations around the world keeps getting stronger; this year AAA participated in fifteen conferences or other events in the US and internationally.

Agustin Fuentes, this year’s dynamic Executive Program Chair, put together the fabulous 116th AAA Annual Meeting. Thousands of anthropologists were drawn to “Anthropology Matters,” and to Washington, DC to “unite in our diversity, embrace difficulty, be vibrant messmates, and promote the relevance of what anthropology is and does,” to use Agustín’s words. With over 1,000 events, features of the Annual Meeting include our annual Native Welcome Ceremony, Paul Farmer and Jim Yong Kim in conversation, over twenty Executive Sessions, a series of late breaking panels, and the presidential lecture I’ve titled “Four Stories, a Lament, and an Affirmation.

The good news from Treasurer Ted Hamann is that AAA is on solid financial footing. Money matters, ensuring the successful provision of the wide array of programs and projects brought to members by the American Anthropological Association. Check out AAA’s Strategic Implementation Plan for more details on the Association’s programs and projects.

I leave you with my best wishes for ongoing strength and success as the discipline, individual anthropologists, and the Association continue to face ongoing challenges. I have every confidence that over the next two years, Alex Barker, your incoming president, will lead AAA with great dignity, care and intelligence.

Cite as: Waterston, Alisse. 2017. “A Year of Challenges and Accomplishments.” Anthropology News website, November 15, 2017. doi: 10.1111/AN.690

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