Our AAA Annual Meeting and section meetings should be spaces for graduate training. We must do more to include graduate students in our events and produce programming to prepare them for academic and alternative careers.
All anthropologists work with, in, and through language, but many students do not have the opportunity to receive robust training in linguistic anthropology through their graduate school institutions. Our Association and sections should create opportunities for graduate student training and fully include graduate students in our professional community.
In my PhD program, I witnessed many graduate students take the “Introduction to Linguistic Anthropology” seminar and discover the richness an attention to language can offer only to find themselves without opportunities for further training in linguistic anthropological theory and method. In conversations with graduate students from an array of programs big and small, I repeatedly heard students lament that they would have liked more methods training during their graduate careers.
In bringing together over 6,000 anthropologists from across the United States and beyond, the AAA Annual Meeting is an ideal place to offer supplemental pedagogy. In recent years, a number of AAA sections have implemented mentorship programs that pair students with faculty mentors. The Wenner-Gren Foundation and the National Science Foundation have offered grant-writing workshops, and there have been multiple opportunities for students to learn about alt-academic jobs. In 2019, the SLA offered the first two Methods Workshops in Linguistic Anthropology for graduate students.
Led by Hilary Parsons Dick (Arcadia University) and Jennifer Roth-Gordon (University of Arizona), the workshops focused on methods for ethnographic discourse analysis and were organized around topical themes that are significant to the field at this time: political rhetoric, and race, racism, and racial inequality.
Over 50 students attended, from PhD candidates with backgrounds in linguistics and communication to MA and early-program PhD students who were still thinking through their research questions and design. Students were able to ask the professors how they made methodological decisions in their analyses and were able to receive real-time feedback as they practiced implementing the skills they were learning. Overall, the workshops were very well received. In informal conversations following the workshops and an online discussion after the Annual Meeting, the main suggestion was that two hours was not enough time and in the future we should consider making them half-day events.
As we as a discipline and community of scholars consider the value and purpose of the Annual Meeting, it is useful to think about how the AAA and its sections can do more to create opportunities and community for graduate students.
SLA is sponsoring related sessions at Raising Our Voices this November: “Going Virtual: Linguistic Anthropological Methods in Online Contexts,” Friday November 6, 5:00–6:00 p.m., chaired by Sarah Shulist; and “A Conversation with Linguistic Anthropologists Outside the Academy,” Friday November 6, 6:15–7:15 p.m., which I will be chairing.
Lauren Deal is a PhD candidate in anthropology at Brown University. Her research focuses on whiteness, cultural appropriation, and practices and ideologies of decolonization in the Southern Cone of South America. She served as the Society of Linguistic Anthropology Graduate Student Representative from 2017 to 2019.
Steven P. Black is a contributing editor for the Society for Linguistic Anthropology’s section news column.
Cite as: Deal, Lauren. 2020. “Making Our Meetings Work for Graduate Students.” Anthropology News website, October 26, 2020. DOI: 10.14506/AN.1524