2010 Annual Meeting Inno-vents

We see the 2010 AAA meetings as a space where diverse partners can come together to explore and debate issues of mutual concern, through a variety of ways of constructing anthropological knowledge. We would like to bring into the meetings site people and events that are not often present there, as well as in getting people off site to encounter other people and to do different kinds of things. We are interested in going both local and global, and in adding sight, sound, taste and smell to our usual fare of text and talk.

To that end the program committee created "Inno-vents" -- events which innovate in some or all of those ways. The seven inno-vents being held during the 2010 Annual Meeting are --

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Secrets of the Tribe: Film Screening and Ethics Caucus
6:00 p.m.-9:45 p.m.
Grand Ballroom A, 5th Floor, Sheraton
Organizer: Barbara Rose Johnston, Center for Political Ecology
Participants: Barbara Rose Johnston, Center for Political Ecology
      Leda Martins, Pitzer College
      Laura Graham, University of Iowa
      Janet Chernela, University of Maryland
      Debra Martin, University of Nevada-Las Vegas
      Louise Lamphere, University of New Mexico
      Jean Jackson, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

"Secrets of the Tribe" had its world premier at the January 2010 Sundance Festival. This documentary, a BBC and HBO production directed by Jose Padilha, explores some of the controversies surrounding the publication of Patrick Tierney's book "Darkness in El Dorado" and subsequent efforts by the American Anthropological Association to address allegations of ethical misconduct and human rights abuse. The film is made up of clips from historical film footage and current interviews, with no narration. This approach allows each person to speak of their understanding, perspective, or experience for themselves. In addition to the various key actors in anthropology, human genetics, and sociobiology, the Yanomami appear throughout the film offering their views on anthropological interpretation of their culture, their memories of hosting the scientific enterprise, and their sense of the consequences of serving as human subjects. In juxtaposing academic debates with the Yanomami experience, this film allows the viewer to consider and question the underlying issues that structure science/subject relationships and the ease in which such responsibilities can be and have been ignored. Viewers wonder, is this history? Or, is this a view of current anthropological praxis? Is the conflict between scientific anthropology and humanist anthropology still ongoing? What has been the response to this history from the anthropological establishment?

Recognizing that any viewer of this film will be left with significant questions the AAA Committee on Ethics has organized this "Secrets of the Tribe" Inno-Vent for the AAA membership and interested members of the public. Co-sponsored by Wenner-Gren Foundation and chaired by Committee on Ethics member Barbara Rose Johnston, this Inno-Vent includes a screening of the 96-minute film and an Ethics Caucus. In the Ethics Caucus panelists will offer brief commentary and, with the audience and an open mike, engage in a focused discussion of the underlying ethics/praxis questions raised by this film. Questions for the panelists and the audience to consider: What does this film say about the anthropological enterprise? What are the key issues in this film concerning human subject praxis and human rights abuse? Is this simply a historical case: How are human subject praxis and human rights issues addressed in current and emerging norms? What are the ethical dilemmas encountered in today's work with vulnerable peoples? How is this history and associated ethics/praxis issues being taught? How might film be used as a means to write/teach about ethics/praxis? What does this film suggest about AAA response? Are there remaining obligations for the organization to consider? And, what are our personal and professional obligations in responding to ethical/praxis complaints?

Friday, November 19, 2010

Silence and Silos: The Problems of Fractured Thought in Finance
12:15 p.m.-1:30 p.m.
Grand Ballroom A, 5th Floor, Sheraton
Organizers: Shirley Fiske, University of Maryland
      Mary Butler, University of Maryland
Chair: Patricia Ensworth, Harborlight Management Services
Speaker: Gillian Tett, Financial Times

CoPAPIA and NAPA propose a noon-time keynote speaker and moderated discussion with Dr. Gillian Tett of the Financial Times. Motivated by the hope to bring new people and anthropologically-constructed knowledge to the annual meetings, we extended an invitation to Gillian Tett to speak at the AAA meetings in New Orleans and are extremely pleased that she has accepted (waiving her usual speakders fee and paying own travel expenses).

We are proposing this event to provide an appropriate AAA-wide venue for an award-winning journalist, author, and anthropologist to share her insights, as we strive to understand the seismic changes in the global economic system and its cascading effects on cultures, global development, and our careers. We believe the session will have broad appeal across the diversity of anthropologists (and the public) and clearly illuminates the theme of "circulation" for the 2010 meetings. Circulation creates images of ingress and egress, flows of information, and transparent (or occluded) patterns of movement between bodies. But is circulation increasing under current globalized cultural conditions, or is it being fractured, compartmentalized, and disrupted in various ways that affect the global economy?

Gillian Tett's talk is titled "Silence and Silos: the Problems of Fractured Thought." She will expand on a key problem noted in her recent award-winning work (Fool's Gold, 2009) that allowed the financial system to spin out of control in the past decade -- a growing tendency towards 'siloisation'-- or fractured cognitive maps and social structure in the financial system (and Western society more generally). Inside banks, financial activity has been subdivided into discrete units which are so mentally and structurally separate from each other that it is very hard for managers to take a holistic view of risk. The regulators who were supposed to oversee the system were also marked by a silo mentality. Worse still, in the last two decades finance itself become akin to a silo, separated from wider society. This fractured cognitive map has had disastrous implications for finance, since it fueled a wider social 'silence' about the unsustainable developments in banking in the early 21st century. These structural developments reflect a wider trend towards 'siloisation' in many parts of 21st century Western society, a result of technological change (such as the internet) and economic shifts. The pattern is ripe for anthropological interpretation, particularly----but certainly not exclusively-in the world of finance."

As a social anthropologist, Gillian Tett has successfully negotiated the boundaries of the highly competitive field of journalism and penetrated the opaque, arcane, highly-constructed world of capital markets and the role they play in the global financial crisis. This session joins thematically with the NAPA-sponsored Executive Roundtable Discussion "Breaching the Boundaries of Anthropology" (convened by Inga Treitler and Dena Plemmons), as they both deal with the varied ways that anthropological knowledge and methods have been put to strategic use in diverse sectors of our economy.

Monkey Business Theatre: A Maya Play from Chiapas, Mexico
1:45 p.m. - 3:30 p.m.
Grand Ballroom E, 5th Floor, Sheraton
Organizers: Thor Anderson, CICE / San Francisco State University
      Robert Laughlin, Smithsonian Institution

"The Birth of Corn" is a forty five minute play written and performed by members of a Maya writers and theater collective from San Cristóbal Las Casas, Chiapas, México. The play will be preceded by a short (20 minute) introduction outlining the history, working methods, and accomplishments of this organization, and followed by a question and answer period with the actors. The work will be performed in Spanish, with a written summary available to the audience. The programmed sections before and after the play will have simultaneous translations into English.

Background: The "House of the Writer" (Sna Jtz'ibajom) is a collective based in the highlands of Chiapas (the southernmost state in México) dedicated to the protection and dissemination of native languages and culture. Comprised of men and women from Tzotzil and Tzeltal speaking communities, the organization has developed a number of initiatives to encourage language preservation and pride in local knowledge. Literacy programs, video productions, bilingual publications, and theatrical events are the principal resources they employ to forward their objectives, and for over twenty-five years they have proved their dedication to both their native cultures and to the challenges of similarly disenfranchised neighbors in the Chiapas highlands and beyond. Their theatrical troupe has received state and national recognition, touring nationally throughout México, Central America, and, in the mid-nineties, to universities and museums in the U.S.

Relevance: From an anthropological perspective, the reinforcement of Amerindian language and culture is of obvious importance. In addition, this project recognizes the value of fostering creative forms and expressive arts that synthesize local themes with modern concerns, presenting them in public forums-- from village squares to state capitals. While availing themselves of outside resources and technologies, the control of the content, both intellectual and artistic, is fully in the hands of the men and women of Sna Jtz'ibajom. Drawing on both their rich heritage and the social, political, and economic factors that so deeply shape their lives, the writers and actors of Sna Jtz'ibajom demonstrate the resiliency of spirit, attention to the details of everyday life, and an analytical perspective that are distinctively Mayan, and uniquely their own. Anthropologists have now worked in Chiapas for three generations: it is time for the Maya to speak for themselves.

Friday, November 19
3:00 p.m.-7:00 p.m.
Organizers: Anh-Thu Ngo, Harvard University
      Julia Yezbick, Harvard University

In conjunction with the founding of an online sensory ethnography journal and its 2010 AAA launching panel, "Perception, Production and Circulation: Sensory Ethnography through Media," graduate students at Harvard's Sensory Ethnography Lab propose an Inno-vent that ushers conference attendees and locals to the streets of New Orleans for shared ethnographic production of multi-sensorial, multimedia dimensions. Through AmbleNOLA we plan to concretize these ideas with activities on the ground and critical engagement online. An afternoon choose-your-own-adventure sensorial hunt propels participants across intersections and local sites, allowing them to pause and take note at their leisure. Participant X gets one out of five possible color-coded maps, each with a distinct route, phone number and instructive possibilities. X walks along this path, absorbing the colors of façades, sitting down for a meal, and partaking of other diversions. Along the way, X stops at an intersection where the scent of coffee beans hangs in the air uncannily, reminding her of her mother's favorite morning roast. Compelled to relate the moment to someone, X calls a pre-designated number set up through GoogleVoice to leave a voicemail, first detailing her whereabouts and then launching into a nostalgic monologue inspired by the caffeine-saturated corner at which she stands. At the next juncture, she uses her voicemail option innovatively, holding her phone up to the music she's found in an underground café, sharing the tune. After four or five calls, X winds up her walk, leading her to the culminating event of AmbleNOLA that takes place from 8-11PM: an evening screening-mixer at Zeitgeist Multi-Disciplinary Arts Center. Works from panel presenters and local art-makers are displayed on the main screen, while people mill about sharing notes of their different sensorial hunts, as well as discussing the art around them. In a side room, they listen for their own voice messages recorded earlier in the day, projected from a sound station. As an initiative of the online journal, this Inno-vent lasts beyond the conference itself, as participants' circuits and recordings will be plotted and mixed for the journal's inaugural web installation. An interactive map depicting the constellation of reported nodes provides the context for audiovisual fragments assembled on the website, available for participants' and new visitors' review. An editorial team will synthesize the material in the context of broad questions that inform the project, like, "To what extent can multimedia ethnography provide alternate knowledge? Because two of our committee members have done fieldwork in New Orleans, we will publicize the event locally before the conference so that community members can participate, crucially transforming the experience. We envision the recordings to run the gamut, from curious probings to revealing soliloquies. Bringing researchers together with native New Orleaners, we hope to challenge conceptions of circulation at various levels, including the circulation of anthropologists (in physical and discursive ways) around their circles, of tourists along routes in a city, of locals in familiar spaces, of sensory perception through media, and of experiential particularities through spatiotemporal ruptures part and parcel of online media.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Multispecies Salon 3: Swarm
1:45 p.m.-5:30 p.m.
Grand Ballroom A, 5th Floor, Sheraton
Organizers: Eben Kirksey, University of California-Santa Cruz
      Stefan Helmreich, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Chair: Eben Kirksey, University of California-Santa Cruz
Participants: Eduardo Kohn, McGill University
      Heather Paxson, Massachussetts Institute of Technology
      Shiho Satsuka, University of Toronto
      Eben Kirksey, University of California-Santa Cruz
      Thom van Dooren, University of Technology, Sydney
      Agustin Fuentes, University of Notre Dame
      Celia Lowe, University of Washington
      Jonathan Marks, University of North Carolina-Charlotte
      Eva Hayward, Duke University
      Jacob Metcalf, University of California-Santa Cruz
      Matei Candea, Durham University
      Alexei Yurchak, University of California-Berkeley
      Astrid Schrader, Sarah Lawrence College
      Paige West, Barnard College / Columbia University
      Jake Kosek, University of California-Berkeley

The swarm is a network with no center to dictate order. In the words of Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri it is "a multitude of different creative agents" (2004). Collective intelligence emerges in the swarm through communication and cooperation among a varied multiplicity. Swarming is the tactic, rather than the theme, of our proposed inno--vent. Multiple creative agents will come together to discuss the naturalcultural turn in anthropology. The first two Multispecies Salon events at AAA (in 2006 and 2008) gathered together an emerging cohort of "multispecies ethnographers" who are treating biologists, nature lovers, and cultural critics as key interlocutors. These ethnographers are studying the host of organisms whose lives and deaths are linked to human social worlds-bringing animals, plants, fungi, and microbes from the realm of zoe or "bare life", that which is killable, into the realm of the bios, biographical or political life (cf. Agamben 1995).

The Multispecies Salon 3 will orbit around recently published and forthcoming texts by biological anthropologists, multispecies ethnographers, and scholars who represent kindred inter and intra-disciplinary formations. We will stage a lively discussion where authors-meet-authors. Rather than formal presentations, authors will all be asked to double as discussants-coming to the event with short snippets of their own text to read as well as prose from other participants. We invite the audience to join the swarm as provocateurs. Links and citation details for all the texts under discussion will be available on the website of Cultural Anthropology ( in association with "The Emergence of Multispecies Ethnography"-a cluster of essays that will be published in November 2010.

Marnia Johnston, a ceramic artist who also tinkers with robots and living beings, will enliven the Multispecies Salon 3-supplementing our usual fare of text and talk with biotactical interventions (cf. da Costa and Philip 2008). On the sidelines of the 2008 AAA meetings in San Francisco, Johnston worked with Eben Kirksey to curate an art exhibit in conjunction with the Multispecies Salon 2 panels. This show was not a didactic exercise, but a biodiversity survey of sorts that gathered together multiple agents to create a becoming (cf. Haraway 2008). Johnston will respond to our ideas at the Multispecies Salon 3-diffracting our prose about naturalcultural forms through new media and bringing the work of other artists to the meetings. Beatriz da Costa will also have a presence at the Multispecies Salon 3: making biotactical interventions in the flesh or animating our discussions with the spirit of her work.

All Multispecies Salon III: SWARM information can be found here:
Locations: Kawliga Studios at 3331 St. Claude Ave., and The Ironworks Gallery at 612 Piety St.

Museum Exhibit/Opening: Panamanian Foodways in Circum-Caribbean
3:00 p.m.-5:00 p.m.
Organizer: Nina Muller-Schwarze, Southern University - New Orleans

The Inno-vent will be a museum exhibit at the Southern Food and Beverage Museum in New Orleans. This museum is located within convenient walking distance from the conference site and French Quarter hotels. The Inno-vent will be a special opening of the exhibit, to be held on Saturday, November 20 at 3 p.m. in the afternoon, during the annual AAA meeting. The exhibit will be open throughout the meeting. The topic of the exhibit will address the theme of circulation in Circum-Caribbean food cultures. Curator Liz Williams will coordinate the exhibit within a larger theme of Circum-Caribbean foodways in the museum space. The specific exhibit to be listed as an Inno-vent will focus on Panamanian foodways. Anthropologist Dr. Nina K. Muller-Schwarze will showcase artifacts, images, text and sounds depicting her research among a Panamanian peasant/indigenous group. The exhibit will depict the harvesting and agricultural cycle of this Panamanian group of subsistence agriculturalists; how they conceptualize land and harvests as kinship; their festivals and festival foods; an area to listen to soundscapes of this culture; and the threats to land rights this group is facing within the context of the nation of the Republic of Panama. Comparison to New Orleans and Gulf Coast cultures will be presented. Hors d'oeuvre interpretations of Panamanian cuisine will be provided by a local New Orleanian chef.

Art Spill: Disaster, Art, Activism and Recovery in Post-Katrina New Orleans
6:00 p.m.-7:45 p.m.
Organizers: Maria Bordine, Columbia University Teachers College
      Dan Cameron, Prospect New Orleans
Chair: Craig Campbell, University of Texas-Austin
Participants: Dan Cameron, Prospect New Orleans
      Craig Colten, Louisiana State University
      Eben Kirksey, University of California-Santa Cruz
      Elizabeth Underwood, AORTA Projects & Freelance Artist
      Jac Currie, Defend New Orleans
      Dawn DeDreaux, Freelance Artist

This offsite panel, which works in a complementary way with our Roundtable titled "Ethnographic termini: moving and agitating within the borderlands of contemporary art and ethnography", is a node within a network of activities and exhibitions performing and facilitating the theme of the 2010 American Anthropological Association meeting, "Circulation." The Ethnographic Terminalia projects together work to redraw lines between science, activism, education, art, and ethnography by bringing the bodies and ideas of visiting scholars into close contact and conversation with flows of public life and knowledge production in New Orleans. While the Roundtable aims to explore circulation and agitation in terms of the flow of ideas, experiences, and articulations of contemporary artists and ethnographers as well as the productive gray zones between these sometimes stultifying categories, this particular panel - a collaboration between Ethnographic Terminalia and Prospect NOLA - concretizes and informs these themes by engaging in a kind of ethnographic exercise, drawing directly from the experiences of artists and scholars engaged with post-Katrina New Orleans.

We feature participants who work in New Orleans as "public artists", as well as scholars engaged with local arts and technologies, in order to explore the intersections of local and anthropological conversations about the relationships and tensions between the categories of art vs. technology, public vs. expert, and nature vs. culture. As a kind of auto-ethnographic exercise, participants will describe and demonstrate the political and material activities of the so-called "Katrina genre" of texts, installations, new media, and visual arts which, in various ways, have sought to define and shape the "post-Katrina" temporal space. While public artists will speak from personal experience, anthropologists will mediate the discussion, weaving in examples and narratives from their fieldwork experience and historical and/or ethnographic studies. Discussion will focus on how locally engaged artists define "public art"; how and why they have sought to incorporate art works with local infrastructure including streets, floodwalls, commercial products, and other subversive or controversial spaces; and how art works reveal the experience of New Orleans as an engineered landscape whose present technologies act in a tense and interdependent relationship with the local culture and ecology.

As this is a collaborative event, we seek to advance the mission of both Ethnographic Terminalia and Prospect NOLA by hastening and amplifying circulations between different creative actors, and by bringing international and scholarly attention to the city's vibrant arts community. We also seek to advance the AAA's mission to involve various publics in innovative ways. Therefore, the panel will be held as part of a public arts exhibition in a historic neighborhood in New Orleans, to be followed by a reception and discussion. Members of the audience will be encouraged to contribute texts or images to a material space provided for reflection and expression. This will facilitate interaction and exchange between scholars, residents of the neighborhood and surrounding areas, and a wide spectrum of artists and activists, ultimately producing a lasting collaborative work as a result of this engagement.

All Art Spill/ Ethnographic Terminalia info can be found here:
Locations: Du Mois at 4921 Freret St. (Opening Nov 19 7pm), Barrister's Gallery at 2331 St. Claude Ave., and Art Spill at 2822 St. Claude Ave (Closing Nov. 20 4-9pm).