Displacements are in the air: episodes of profound political upheaval, intensified crises of migration and expulsion, the disturbing specter of climatic and environmental instability, countless virtual shadows cast over the here and now by ubiquitous media technologies. What does it mean to live and strive in the face of such movements? What social and historical coordinates are at stake with these challenges? And what kind of understanding can anthropology contribute to the displacements of this time—given, especially, that our most essential techniques like ethnography are themselves predicated on the heuristic value of displacement, on what can be gleaned from the experience of unfamiliar circumstances?
Exclusionary politics of spatial displacement always depend on rhetorical and imaginative displacements of various kinds: a person for a category, or a population for a problem. In the face of such moves, the critical task of ethnography is often to muster contrary displacements of thought, attention, imagination, and sensation. What forms of social and political possibility might be kindled by anthropological efforts to broach unexpected places, situations, and stories? The 2018 SCA Biennial Meeting, cosponsored by the Society for Visual Anthropology, will invite such prospects in tangible form, as experiences of what is elsewhere and otherwise. This is a conference that will itself displace the conventional modes of gathering, taking place wherever its participants individually and collectively tune in.
For the first time, in 2018, the SCA Biennial Meeting will take place as a virtual conference. We invite you to contribute an individual audio/video presentation up to 10 minutes in length, a proposal for a panel of related presentations, or an idea for some localized form of in-person collaboration to which conference participants could have access. You may simply choose to record yourself giving a talk or reading a paper. But we especially encourage efforts to take us elsewhere along with you in a more sensory and immersive register: multimedia presentations, voiceover essays spliced with fieldwork fragments, sound works, short films, photo sequences, and so on. In this spirit, here is another call for submissions to the Biennial Meeting, one expressed in a different manner.
Air travel is one of the fastest growing sources of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide, and one of the chief ways that an academic livelihood contributes to carbon pollution. We are exploring the virtual conference format with the ideal of carbon-neutral activity in mind. This format will also enable broader geographical participation, most especially against the backdrop of a political climate of unequal restrictions on international travel. We hope, too, that the web-based media platform we are developing for the conference will allow for novel explorations of expressive form in anthropology.
One of the chief values of the academic conference no doubt lies in face-to-face meetings and interactions. We hope, however, that this effort may provoke decentralized, affinity-based forms of collaboration, interaction, and uptake, in the spirit of experimentation that the SCA and SVA have long encouraged. We therefore invite participants to consider gathering together into local nodes of collective participation in the conference: viewing parties, classroom activities, departmental engagements with the conference, hackathon-style events that culminate in outputs that can be shared with other conference attendees, or anything else you can imagine.
All presentations must be prerecorded and shared in advance with the organizers. The presentations will be posted sequentially, in real time, during the conference and will be available to registered conference attendees for viewing, commentary, and discussion over those three days. We are exploring the possibility of a digital archive of presentations for those who want to participate, although more ephemeral contributions are also welcome.
Technical guidance on presentations will be forthcoming soon, but we want to assure you that nothing more complicated is required than what can be done on a typical smartphone. In the meantime, if you are conducting fieldwork, feel free to start gathering audiovisual materials that you may wish to incorporate in your presentation (in keeping with the research ethics of your particular field site). Also, keep in mind that if you would like to organize a local node of collective participation, we will work with you to provide some form of support for your event.