Committee on Minority Issues in Anthropology

Committee Description and Institutional Memory

In 1992 a Planning Group for a AAA Commission on Minority Issues recommended the creation of a Commission on Minority Issues, which was tasked with creating the organization and objectives of a standing Committee on Minority Issues in Anthropology. In 1993 that Commission determined three focal areas of concern for the new standing Committee: attracting minorities to the discipline and the Association; overcoming the alienation of Native Americans to the discipline, and defining anthropology's roles in public discourses about cultural diversity. In 2007 the AAA Executive Board established the Commission on Race and Racism in Anthropology (CRRA) to review and make recommendations regarding the organization and responsibilities of the CMIA. Based on CRRA recommendations, the charge and structure of the CMIA were modified in 2013.

Committee Activities
The Committee on Minority Issues in Anthropology has become an active committee with more visibility within the Association.  The main activities conducted by the Committee include the administration of the AAA Minority Dissertation Fellowship and active participation at the annual meetings.

1. Minority Dissertation Fellowship:  The Committee administers the AAA Minority dissertation Fellowship since 1999.  Awardees of this fellowship have been:

  • 1999: Carolyn Kehaunani Cachola-Abad
  • 2000: Shannon Speed
  • 2001: Ivelisse Rivera-Bonilla
  • 2002: Audra Simpson
  • 2003: Julie Chu
  • 2004: Lisa Anderson-Levy
  • 2005: Russell Rodriguez
  • 2006: Shedra Amy Snipes
  • 2007: Rocío Magaña
  • 2008: Kerry F. Thompson
  • 2009: Sherina Feliciano-Santos
  • 2010: Felicia Gomez
  • 2011: Shankari Patel
  • 2012: Carwil Bjork-James
  • 2013: Karen G. Williams
  • 2014: Adela Amaral

Since the year 2003, the recipient of the Minority Fellowship has been honored by the members of the Committee with a luncheon at the annual meetings. Recipients of honorable mentions have also been invited to these luncheons.

Since the creation of the fellowship, members of the Committee have maintained discussions on the Minority Dissertation Fellowship including eligibility and ways to increase the number of applicants. In 2005, members of the Committee conversed about applying for further funding to create a new fellowship for community college students and to increase the endowment of the current Minority Dissertation Fellowship by applying to corporate sponsorship and reaching non-traditional potential funding agencies or sponsors. The Committee is also interested in meeting with the Director of Development to discuss strategies to achieve this goal.

2. AAA Annual Meeting: The Committee has maintained visibility at the AAA meetings by organizing a series of events and workshops specifically aimed to minorities. 

  • The Committee holds one business meeting every fall at the AAA annual meetings.
  • The Committee also holds one or two phone conferences per year.  One of those conferences is devoted to electing the Minority Dissertation Fellow; the other conference is usually devoted to preparing for the annual meeting (this second phone conference is optional).
  • The Committee receives two invited sessions at the annual meetings of one hour and forty five minutes. This means these two sessions are guaranteed time at the meetings and are not reviewed by any section or committee.

Starting in 2003, the Committee has organized panels at every annual meeting thereafter. At the annual meetings in 2003, the Committee organized two panels, one on funding issues for minority scholars (co-sponsored with ALLA) entitled “Mentoring Latino/a Students,” and another panel entitled “Religion, Politics, and Citizenship: Affinities, Divisions and Transformations Among Mexican Migrants in Non-traditional U.S. Destinations.” In addition, the Committee co-organized with the Public Education Initiative on Race, "Understanding Race and Human Variation.” Finally, the Committee organized a Chair's breakfast on mentoring and increasing the presence of minoritized anthropologists. Panelists included representatives from the Mellon and Ford Foundations. The CMIA/NASA invited panel for 2004, “Advocacy and Scholarship in Minoritized Communities: Engaging Activism and Academia,” was held in Atlanta. The funding invited panel organized for the 2004 annual meetings was postponed due to the change in venue of the meetings. The workshop took place at the annual meetings in 2005. The panel: “Show me the Money: Critical Issues in Minority Research Funding,” co-organized by Carla Guerrón-Montero and Cheryl Rodriguez, took place on Friday December 2, 2005.

For the annual meetings in 2006, the Committee has organized two invited sessions: a session dedicated to discussing the teaching of race, entitled “Teaching about Race from the Sub-fields of Anthropology,” co-organized by Carla Guerrón-Montero and Patricia Mathews-Salazar, and a session dedicated to cultural diversity training in universities, entitled “Taking K-12 Cultural Diversity Training to the University Setting: Transference or Transformation?” organized by Michael Winkelman. The Committee will also hold an open forum to discuss model standards for universities in the development and implementation/institutionalization of cultural diversity training and engagement.

At every business meeting, the members of the Committee discuss ideas for the organization of panels or workshops. Generally, this process evolves in an organic manner, and members agree upon the suggestions unanimously. There are many options for the organizations of these panels, ranging from organization within the Committee to collaboration with other sections and committees. The advantage of collaborating with other sections is that sections can divide their time in order to maximize it. For instance, two sections might decide to collaborate on an invited session and use half of their allotted time each to put together a session. This frees up time for the organization of other workshops and/or sessions. It should be noted that CMIA (as well as other committees) may organize more than two sessions at the meeting. However, only two sessions are guaranteed the status of ‘invited session.’

Other Activities:

3.  Public Education Initiative on Race:  The Committee has been invited to continue to take an active role in the dissemination portion of the Public Education Initiative on Race.  To this effect, the Committee has held special meetings with Alan Goodman (in April 2005) and with Faye Harrison, Cheryl Rodriguez, and Miguel Diaz-Barriga (in November 2005) to brainstorm ways to participate and support the initiative in a concrete manner.  In addition, the Committee is in close communication with Peggy Overbey and Yolanda Moses on this subject. 

In 2004, Committee members Vilma Santiago-Irizary and Miguel Diaz-Barriga co-organized a panel with a group of biological anthropologists as part of the AAA Race Initiative.  A summary of the panel was published in “Anthropology News.” 

In 2005, the Committee created a subcommittee (Karen Nakamura, Patricia Mathews-Salazar, Najwa Adra, Michael Winkelman, and Carla Guerrón-Montero) charged with writing a proposal of intention to be submitted to the AAA Executive Board and board members of the Public Education Initiative on Race.   Some of the ideas discussed include hosting discussion groups related to the exhibit and/or its on-line components at the local level; advertising the database initiative developed by the Society for Visual Anthropology; reviewing the films included in the database and commenting on their usefulness for various educational levels, and bringing anthropological ideas to schools and high schools.  

4. Place of the Committee in AAA Long-Range Plan: We continue to look for a long-term plan endeavor.  We have discussed the possibility of developing a long-range plan of action based on one (or more) of the following possibilities:

a) Increasing the endowment of the minority dissertation award
b) Mentoring of minoritized students,
c) Mentoring and hiring of minoritized faculty. 

In addition, we consider one of our main goals related to the AAA long-range plan our commitment to participate with President Alan Goodman in the revision of AAA’s diversity initiatives.   The Committee has maintained communication with the long-range planning committee about the definitions and plans for diversity and increasing the numbers and presence off minoritized anthropologists.   CMIA collaborated with the long-range planning committee to reach a final version of the language on diversity for the long-range planning report.  In specific objective V the executive board adopted language proposed by CMIA:

The AAA will increase the presence of minoritized anthropologists, diversify the discipline, foster the understanding of diversity, and promote the equitable treatment of all anthropologists.

The AAA will increase the impact and presence of minoritized anthropologists by supporting and fostering programs that bring more minorities into the Association and discipline and through creating awareness of the issues facing minoritized groups in the United States.

The AAA will promote a broader understanding of diversity and will diversify the Association and discipline in practice, research, training, and outreach. We understand diversity to include socially constructed categories of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, gender expression, disability, class, language, nationality, national origin, and religion.

The Committee continued its efforts to improve the diversity climate of the Association.  With this purpose in mind, we accepted the invitation of Dr. Alan Goodman to discuss and suggest specific ways to achieve this goal.    

5. Other Issues: In 2001, the Committee proposed the organization of a conference on Native American issues.  At the time, Michigan State University was interested in co-sponsoring the conference.  The expected time for the conference was spring 2004; the discussion included linking this conference to a push for the Native American Interest Section to become a section. However, the conference did not take place in 2004 due to lack of funding.   The CMIA continues to support a Native American Interest Section with a recognized exception for minimum requirement of 250 members.  

In 2004, Miguel Diaz-Barriga and his research team at Swarthmore College published the survey on the mentoring and the graduate school experience in “Anthropology News” as well as posted their findings on the AAA web site.   Their study was also the subject of the 2003 Department Chairs and Representatives Breakfast at the annual meeting in Chicago.

The Committee followed AAA’s reaction to the labor issues related to the annual meetings in 2004.  

The Committee has maintained channels of communication with AAA’s sections and committees by introducing the work of the Committee to all the sections and committees of the organization, and by inviting them to work closely with CMIA on diversity initiatives.  This process has been achieved both informally (Committee members who are also members of specific sections share this information with their sections) and formally (in 2004, Carla Guerrón-Montero sent an informational letter to every section and Committee of the organization).  In 2003, the Committee met with representatives of the Society for Anthropology in Community Colleges (SACC) SACC members.  In this meeting, SACC representatives noted that it is important to identify teachings of anthropology at community colleges.  CMIA and SACC discussed funding opportunities for students and faculty at community college and ways to develop more visibility for SACC at the AAA meetings.

In 2005, the Committee has also initiated the process of documenting the historical memory of the organization.    The Committee will produce a document that will be shared with upcoming members of the Committee in order to socialize them into the organization prior to initiating their responsibilities.  Upcoming members are invited to join the AAA business meeting as non-voting observers prior to becoming official members.

6. Anticipated Agenda, Schedule and Plans for Future Committee Work:

a) Anthropology's concerns with the dynamics of cultural diversity within the discipline and producing a comfortable climate for inclusive participation need to be extended to the communities of our nation. We hope to develop programs to help take anthropology’s expertise to enhance relations between different ethnic and cultural groups in society, especially in areas where interethnic conflict is a serious concern.

b) We will continue our strong commitment to developing the Committee’s visibility through the organization of panels, workshops and sessions at AAA meetings.

c) We will continue our commitment to develop liaisons with other committees and sections in the Association, though co-sponsoring of sessions and panels at the meetings, as well as through interaction and communication beyond the annual meetings. We believe it is essential that the Association’s committees be concerned with issues of diversity and minoritized populations, that the sections and committees themselves be more diverse, and that CMIA participates in these efforts. The Committee believes these efforts will greatly contribute to the President’s diversity initiative.

d) The members of the Committee would like to stress its unanimous and sound commitment to be active participants in the diversity initiative put forth by President Alan Goodman. The Committee is also highly interested in continuing its support to the Public Education Initiative on Race.

e) The Committee has discussed the possibility of conducting one (or more) Association-wide survey to address diversity issues within the Association and the discipline of anthropology.

CMIA Committee Description and Institutional Memory was compiled by Carla Guerrón-Montero (CMIA Chair 2005-2006), October 30, 2006


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