ASAP starts 2021 with commitments to promoting antiracism work, career opportunities, and a potential journal.
The Association for the Anthropology of Policy (ASAP) is reflecting on its role in addressing the global challenges that have large-scale and powerful implications for human beings—how it is that polities and policies are made up the way they are, and how anthropology may provide insight into how policy regimes might change. We are pleased to introduce you to our new section leaders, and the vision and commitments that they and others will prioritize in advancing the study of the anthropology of policy; to further education in the anthropology of policy; and to encourage anthropologists to engage in policy debates.
I (Christina Garsten) am happy and honored to serve as copresident of ASAP. My association with ASAP started years ago as, during my research on labor market policy, I was enthused to find other anthropologists with related sets of interest: theoretical perspectives, methodological approaches, and recognition of potential policy implications of research. My own research is oriented toward organizational anthropology, with a focus on the cultural and social dynamics of globalization processes, the manifold ways that policy is formed through less formal channels and by way of social network constellations, interlinkages between corporations and state agencies, and the emergence of new forms of transnational governance, with a current focus on American and European think tanks. I have had the privilege to approach organizations, policymaking, and governance, and their varying sociocultural, political, and legal predicaments, from a multidisciplinary perspective throughout my numerous positions, including chair of the Anthropology Department at Stockholm University, director and subsequently chair of the Stockholm Center of Organizational Research (Score), professor of organization and globalization at Copenhagen Business School, and principal of the Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study (SCAS).
I (Bill Beeman) am delighted to serve as copresident of ASAP. I have been associated with ASAP since it was an AAA interest group. I recently retired from chair of the Anthropology Department at the University of Minnesota. Previously I was a member of the Department of Anthropology at Brown University. My interest in the anthropology of policy is informed by my direct involvement with policy studies, as well as affiliations with arts and design, regional studies, language studies, and international relations. I first engaged with the policy process and learned about the cultural and emotional factors involved during the 444-day “hostage crisis” (1979–1980), during which American diplomats were held by supporters of the Iranian revolution in protest of the American protection of deposed Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. I contributed commentary in the press and advised the US Department of State, the Department of Defense, and the US Congress. Later, I became involved with educational and technology policy in higher education, K–12 education, hospitals, libraries, and public offices, and subsequently policy in commerce, government, and industry.
We have several commitments that we will, together with the ASAP board and general membership, advance in the coming year and beyond. We welcome all members to participate in these efforts.
Foremost is our antiracism working group, which is developing an action plan to document and address the international phenomenon of racism within our own field of policy research, curricula and pedagogy related to the anthropology of policy, and formal and informal governance and participation within our own section and association. This work continues and extends priorities identified with other special interest groups during online roundtables at the American Anthropological Association’s (AAA) Raising Our Voices in November 2020, and reflects our ongoing collaboration with other groups prioritizing antiracism as a commitment and action area. ASAP’s antiracism working group will share its action plan and accountability structure in a future ASAP column for Anthropology News.
We are also concerned with promoting our discipline and creating career opportunities for everyone whose research concerns involve the anthropology of policy, both within and outside of academia. We aim to extend and strengthen dialogue between anthropologists and scholars in related disciplines across national contexts. We believe that anthropologists can play a much more effective role in the training of public policy professionals, and we also believe that the cross-fertilization between anthropology and public policy as a discipline will strengthen both. We have an active working group that is creating closer ties between anthropology and schools of public policy in the United States. We hope to sponsor a conference in which representatives from both fields meet to discuss paths to broader cooperation. We will also be strengthening mentoring and networking opportunities within the association, to support interested students and junior scholars and professionals both within and outside of academia.
We are also contemplating other opportunities to synthesize and concretize our field. We are beginning preliminary discussions on the prospect for launching an academic journal on the anthropology of policy. The logistical, administrative, and financial hurdles to this effort are considerable, but the benefits of such a professional journal are indisputable, especially for scholars beginning their careers. Following a discussion by the ASAP Executive Board to determine whether this effort should proceed, our membership will be surveyed, and a final determination reached as to whether to proceed. We welcome feedback on this prospective project.
ASAP is a remarkable collection of scholars, with members from every continent with worldwide research interests. This is a tremendous asset that uniquely allows for the comparative study of policy formulation and implementation across diverse areas including health policy, educational policy, immigration policy, and racial discrimination policy. We encourage those who share these interests to join in the inspiring and compelling work ahead of us by joining our association.
William (Bill) Beeman recently retired as chair of the Anthropology Department at University of Minnesota, following a previous 34-year appointment. A scholar of the Middle East, Japan, and South Asia, Bill has written or edited 14 books, more than 100 scholarly articles, and hundreds of popular articles.
Christina Garsten is principal of the Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study (SCAS) and professor of anthropology at Stockholm University and Stockholm Center of Organizational Research (Score). A scholar of transnational governance examining American and European thinktanks, Christina has written or edited more than 130 scholarly articles, chapters, or books.
Sarah Raskin is the section contributing editor for the Association for the Anthropology of Policy.
Cite as: Beeman, William and Christina Garsten. 2021. “What’s Now and What’s Next with ASAP.” Anthropology News website, March 25, 2021. DOI: 10.14506/AN.1604