Active Commissions and Task Forces

AAA Task Force on Cultural Heritage

Committee Charge


The Task Force is charged with producing recommendations to build a stronger, durable, and multifaceted approach to issues of cultural heritage in the association.  The goal is to increase appreciation of cultural heritage issues in anthropological discourse and to assist the Executive Board in developing effective positions and practices on cultural heritage issues in the US and internationally.


Cultural heritage issues will be a permanent and increasingly important element of the cultural landscape, and hence the intellectual and political landscape for anthropology globally.   The AAA has currently adopted a piecemeal, primarily reactive, approach to threats to cultural heritage, drawing on the expertise of current Executive Board members.  An institutionalized structure is required for the Association to proactively deal with the complex issues of cultural heritage from an anthropological perspective.


November 2013-November 2015

TF Reports to:

The Executive Board


  1. Examine what “cultural heritage” means to different constituencies and how it relates to different areas of anthropological inquiry in order to guide the implementation of AAA positions and practices.
  2. Investigate how other professional associations are dealing with cultural heritage nationally and internationally and incorporate their best practices in recommendations for new structures or formations that will allow the AAA to become and remain actively engaged in cultural heritage issues.
  3. Identify potential proactive initiatives aimed at protecting cultural heritage in the US and internationally in collaboration with international colleagues and organizations (possible recommendations include: sign up for alerts of governmental action that impact cultural heritage, such as the State Dept. website:; become a member of the Presidents list-serve initiated by Claire Smith, past-president of the World Archaeological Congress).
  4. Recommend initiatives to increase awareness of cultural heritage issues and to educate the membership and the public about anthropological perspectives on cultural heritage and its protection (possible recommendations include: regular AN articles, a “cultural heritage issues” page on the AAA website, a list-serve for members interested in cultural heritage, posts on other anthropology blogs).
  5. Recommend ways to increase training in cultural heritage issues in undergraduate and graduate anthropology curricula and continuing education in other venues (possible recommendations include: development of sample syllabi, workshops at the annual meeting, webinars and other AAA-sponsored training sessions).
  6. Identify sustainable means for coordinated collaboration among relevant AAA committees and sections (e.g., COE, COPAPIA, AD, CMA, AIA, Tourism IG), other professional organizations (e.g., Society for American Archaeology, Society for Historical Archaeology, Archaeological Institute of America, Society for Applied Anthropology), trade associations (e.g., American Cultural Resources Association), and other organizations involved in cultural heritage.
  7. Recommend ways for the AAA to become a leading association for national and international dialogue and change regarding cultural heritage, identifying the special or unique contributions the AAA can make in this regard.  Organize a blue-ribbon panel at the 2014 AAA meeting to bring together experts to discuss possible recommendations.
  8. Help draft advocacy letters or statements until such time as more permanent entities can carry out that task, and devise guidelines and protocols for such letters and statements.

Membership and Appointment:

Appointed by the President

Chair(s) and approximately 7 members with expertise in the different aspects of cultural heritage

President and Vice-President/President-elect serve ex-officio

EB Liaison (2013-2014): Sandra Lopez Varela


One meeting at the 2014 Annual Meeting; teleconferences when necessary


Report with recommendations to the Executive Board

Staff Liaison: Elyse Bailey 

Committee Members

Sarah Cowie
University of Nevada, Reno

Michael Di Giovine
West Chester University of Pennsylvania

T. J. Ferguson
University of Arizona

Susan D. Gillespie (co-chair)
University of Florida

Antoinette Jackson
University of South Florida

Rosemary A. Joyce
University of California, Berkeley

Morag Kersel
DePaul University

Teresita Majewski (co-chair)
Statistical Research, Inc.

Richard Meyers
South Dakota State University

Stephen Nash
Denver Museum of Natural History

Mark Turin
Yale U/moving to University of British Columbia

Executive Board liaison:
Sandra Lopez Varela
Universidad Autónoma del Estado de Morelos/UNAM

AAA Staff liaison:
Elyse Bailey


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