SUNTA 2019 Recap and Plans for 2020

It was a pleasure to see so many SUNTA members at our business meeting in Vancouver, where we recognized SUNTA members’ research, and discussed initiatives in 2019 that will continue in 2020.

Board transitions

We welcomed three new members to the board, as follows: Rudolf Gaudio (secretary), Christina Schwenkel (1st year councilor) and Claire Panetta (student councilor). Many thanks to outgoing board members Ahmed Kanna (councilor), Faedah Totah (secretary), and Camille Frazier (student councilor). We appreciate their years of dedicated service.

Awards

Congratulations to Hiba Bou Akar who won the 2019 Anthony Leeds Prize for her book For the War Yet to Come: Planning Beirut’s Frontiers (2019). Leeds Prize committee chair Danny Hoffman praised For the War Yet to Come as “a sustained analysis of the nature of urban planning in a city that many residents describe as lacking any coherent plan.” He continued to note how “Bou Akar raises crucial questions about the ways futures are articulated and realized in many cities around the world.”

I wish to thank Danny Hoffman and the Leeds Prize committee members Yukiko Koga (Hunter College, City University of New York), Caroline Melly (Smith College), and John Collins (Queen’s College, City University of New York) for their work on this committee as well.

Congratulations are also due to William Cotter from the University of Arizona, who won the Graduate Student Paper Prize for his paper “Catapulting Amman into the Twenty-First Century: Elite Discourse and Neoliberal Market Transformation in Jordan.” This piece shows the connection between neoliberalism and language through a discursive analysis of luxury real-estate developers’ and the Jordanian state’s talk about the creation of the Abdali Project, a $5 billion dollar megadevelopment of retail, business, medical, and residential space.

The Undergraduate Student Paper Prize recipient was Amy Kurtizky, whose paper, “Instrumentalizing Boundaries: Environmental Cleanup of a Waste Site in Houston, Texas” brought together ethnographic evidence and anthropological theory in a fresh and exciting way. The paper explores how a group of residents, activists, and officials “cared for” the waste in a superfund site, insisting on the site’s remediation and the full and proper management of the waste.

Thanks to all of the board members who served on the paper prize committees.

Mentoring Program

Thanks to the efforts of Past President Petra Kuppinger, we had another successful year of mentoring activities at the Annual Meeting. Mentors Derek Pardue, Camille Frazier, and Petra Kuppinger met with 18 students and early career scholars to discuss how to publish a first article, juggling the academic job market, and working at a liberal arts college.

Committee for Refugees and Immigrants

Given the increasing poignancy of debates regarding refugees, the Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (CORI) became active again in the past year. CORI focuses on the global problems of forced dislocation, the provision of asylum and resettlement to refugees, and the adjustment of immigrants. To this end, CORI (in conjunction with SUNTA and the AAA) held a meeting at the Annual Meeting during which plans were made to publish a new volume on the migration crisis. Please contact CORI chair Faedah Totah ([email protected]) if you are interested in joining CORI or contributing to the volume. And, please also take a look at the fabulous volume CORI published last year, Porous Borders, Invisible Boundaries? Ethnographic Perspectives on the Vicissitudes of Contemporary Migration, edited by Jayne Howell, Deborah R. Altamirano, Faedah M. Totah, and Fethi Keles.

Annual Meeting sessions

We also had a fantastic set of panels and events at the Annual Meeting. SUNTA sponsored more than 30 sessions, roundtables, workshops, and special events. We invited one session and co-sponsored two with the Anthropology and Environment Society and the Society for Cultural Anthropology. Thanks to Suzanne Scheld, section editor and SUNTA president-elect, for all of her hard work putting the program together.

Positive Futures

At the business meeting we also celebrated the success of the 2019 SANA/SUNTA Positive Futures conference, which took place May 2–4 in San Juan, Puerto Rico. After the Caribe Hilton cancelled the conference reservation two months before we planned to meet, due to ongoing damage from Hurricane Maria, conference coordinator Sarah Molinari put together an “alternative conference” at San Juan’s Contemporary Art Museum and the University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras campus. Positive Futures exceeded original registration expectations and brought together about 200 presenters, one third of whom were local attendees. Organizers collaborated with the grassroots collective JunteGente for a bilingual opening panel on “Critical Responses to Neoliberal Colonialism” and accompanying lecture by David Harvey. Local sociologist and filmmaker Liliana Cotto-Morales presented her documentary Desalambrando. Keynote addresses by Yarimar Bonilla and Emily Martin were fantastic and memorable. Positive Futures offered an alternative model for academic conferencing that prioritized access and local engagement. We thank Sarah Molinari who worked so hard to put the conference together. Yarimar Bonilla also provided amazing support and assistance in creating the alternative conference. And we thank our SANA partners as well, especially Julian Brash and Ruth Gomberg-Muñoz for their help in rescuing this conference and making it a great success.

City and Society

Under the editorial leadership of Sheri Gibbings and Derek Pardue, our journal City and Society (C&S) continues to flourish. We put out three volumes of high-quality articles in 2019, submissions are up, and people are citing C&S more than ever. We welcomed a new editorial board, and we continue to create innovative ways of reaching more people with the exciting work that we publish. Thanks to the entire editorial team, and please check out the latest issue C&S.

Plans are already underway for the 2020 AAA Annual Meeting in St. Louis, and beyond. Section editor Suzanne Scheld is hard at work organizing several high-profile sessions on the topic of migration and displacement. We look forward to seeing CORI’s new volume come to fruition, and we are working to increase the output from City and Society, so that more exciting work will be published this year. Please contact me ([email protected]) or SUNTA program chair Suzanne Scheld ([email protected]) with questions, ideas for sessions, or special events in St. Louis. Ideas for SUNTA columns in Anthropology News should go to Faedah M. Totah at [email protected].

Jeff Maskovsky is executive officer (chair) and professor of anthropology at the Graduate Center, and professor of urban studies at Queens College, City University of New York. His research and writing focus on health, politics, governance, and security in the urban United States.

Cite as: Maskovsky, Jeff. 2020. “Anthropology of Yemen Faces an Uncertain Future.” Anthropology News website, February 27, 2020. DOI: 10.1111/AN.1359

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