ASA January 2010 AN Column

Anthropology News • January 2010 • Volume 51 • Issue 1
Paul L Doughty, Contributing Editor

Who Are We?
By J Anthony Paredes (ASA President)

As I write this in November 2009, Paul Doughty is off to the South Seas. Literally! So, I am sitting in for him. May he and Polly enjoy a wonderful, adventurous escape.

In his December column, Paul told us that Walter Goldschmidt has become—of all things— a blogger at age 96. That’s quite an inspiration for us “young seniors” (now an acknowledged demographic category). But who exactly are “senior anthropologists” and how many are there? Our ASA bylaws are cagily vague on the subject. Membership is open to any AAA member who supports the purpose of ASA, which is “to create a sense of community among senior anthropologists and to further their interests and concerns.” Back in October, member Joel Halpern (jmhalpern@anthro.umass.edu) inquired via email, “Do there exist any databases concerning retired anthropologists?” Paul replied that roughly 500 AAA members are registered as retired, but AAA does not collect age data, so “…the only way to get at that info is by the date listed for receiving the PhD, but of course, that is not age, or retirement status.” I took up the challenge and did some “advanced” searches of the 2009–10 AAA Guide, which also includes many anthropologists who are not AAA members but are affiliated with participating organizations.

Entering “emer” and “ret” in the “position title” field (some titles are abbreviated in the Guide) yielded the names of 775 emeritus/ emerita/retired anthropologists. That’s nearly 8% of the approximately 10,000 people in the AAA Guide. The lists do not include, of course, retired anthropologists not affiliated with an institution or organization in the Guide, especially the growing numbers of private sector and government anthropology retirees. Mere lists of names from the AAA Guide don’t tell us much about the demographics of retirees, but perhaps they could provide a starting point for a survey to answer intriguing questions about the role of retirees in anthropology, which Joel Halpern suggested in a later message.

Another correspondent, Philip Singer (singer@oakland.edu), is taking a different, more ethnographic approach to finding out about us. He has submitted a grant proposal (at age 84— another inspiration!) for doing a series of videotaped conversations with senior anthropologists addressing “the question of the relationship between professional anthropological identity and personal identity at the end stage of life.” Many senior anthropologists have not retired. To find them I pursued the year-of-PhD tack Paul suggested (even though that does not include masters’ degree professional anthropologists, of which there are increasing numbers, especially in archaeology). For the 1960s and early 1970s, average age at completion of PhD was assumed to be about 28 (cf, AAA’s Fellow Newsletter, April 1962). Taking age of eligibility for Medicare (age 65) as a reasonable demarcation for “senior” status in society at-large, by my calculation the newest crop of “senior anthropologists” received their PhDs in 1972. There are 150 of them listed in the Guide (by contrast, my 1969 cohort has only 109 listed). The Guide lists a total of 942 individuals who received the PhD before 1972, including 121 from the 1950s.

This doesn’t tell us much about who (or what) senior anthropologists are, but it does tell us there are a lot of us—certainly many more than the 150 or so who belong to ASA. It might even help explain the delightful statistic that AAA webmaster Lisa Myers passed along the other day: Between January 1 and November 12, 2009, there were 2,209 hits on the ASA website. All these numbers, incomplete as they might be, also suggest that as longevity increases, “seniors” will become an ever more significant demographic segment of anthropology. And, one hopes, seniors will become an even more vital and potent intellectual (and political?) force within the discipline. By the way, using the year-of-PhD measure, 96-year-old Walter Goldschmidt with his 1942 PhD is not the most senior anthropologist in the Guide. There are two listed who received their degrees before he did. Go look.

Closing note: neither “emerita” nor “blogger” are in my 2005 computer’s spell check dictionary. As computer technology plows ahead much is left in its wake, but it must move ever faster to catch up with what’s ahead.

ASA November 2009 AN Column

Anthropology News • November 2009 • Volume 50 • Issue 8
Paul L Doughty, Contributing Editor

How We Compare, Then and Now
As the annual meeting draws close we trust that ASA will be well represented in Philadelphia. We encourage you take part in our invited session on Thursday morning (December 3), followed by the annual Members Business and Board Luncheon at McCormick & Schmick’s Restaurant at noon. The meeting always brings questions about ASA, so I thought it would be interesting to review what the ASA founders said about our section’s goals.

In the March 1991 ASA column, by then editor Louana Lackey, ASA President William Schwab enumerated the ambitious aims of ASA as follows: (1) aid senior anthropologists continue to make scientific contributions; (2) help senior anthropologists pursue research through grants and contracts; (3) help senior anthropologists publish scientific data; (4) help senior anthropologists attend and participate in scientific meetings and associations; (5) plan and organize scientific sessions for the AAA and other related associations; (6) establish a listing of senior anthropologists; (7) establish an occupational, job and area registry for senior anthropologists; (8) create a list of available lectures and activities for senior anthropologists; (9) create a secretarial bureau to aid senior anthropologists; (10) correlate the studies of senior anthropologists and bring together cultural, physical, linguistic and archeological anthropologists; (11) petition for change in university customs and rules concerning senior anthropologists with regard to grants, status, office space and secretarial help; and (12) seek grants to accomplish the above goals. Of this ambitious list, we have done fairly well with numbers 1, 4, 5 and 10, and a little with number 3. The other goals listed are now either a function of the AAA, beyond our capacity as a section, or no longer central concerns.

In the same article, professor emerita Lucile E St Hoyme pointed out that retirees faced many financial challenges to their ability to remain active anthropologists upon reaching emeritus status. In particular she observed that changes made by the IRS regarding deductible expenses were especially onerous. The IRS decision two decades ago, St Hoyme said, would deny seniors financial incentives to continue their work, resulting in professional discouragement and a loss of valuable research—a policy that is “penny wise and pound foolish” in her words. But wait a minute! Couldn’t we say the same of the AAA dues structure as applying to retired members?

When one looks at other social science associations, retiree dues rates are dramatically different from ours. For example, the American Sociological Association charges retirees $44 for yearly dues; the American Psychological Association cuts rates after 25 years of membership, setting them at $0 after four years of retirement; the American Political Science Association offers two payment levels based on income, of $61 or $37 per year. And what are the AAA retiree annual dues? They range from $132 for those with income below $25,000, to $300 for those earning over $150,000. I worry about how many of the upcoming generation of a thousand “boomer” retirees will want to continue paying at current rates. There is an anticipatory solution to this dilemma, which relatively few have taken advantage of, but which I encourage. By becoming a Life Member, one can pay a large initial rate up front and receive a long-term benefit. In my case, at the urging of my prescient spouse I paid the (then) great sum of $600 in the late 1970s and never looked back.

ASA October 2009 AN Column

Anthropology News • October 2009 • Volume 50 • Issue 7
Paul L Doughty, Contributing Editor

Conspiracy in the Making? The ASA Connection
What does the anthropological community expect of retiring members? Philanthropy? Silence? Fade out? Disappearance? A former student of mine recently wrote to ask my advice about his upcoming retirement and professional options. In addition to requiring planning, this is something that produces great joy for many, but may cause confusion and consternation for others.

In the extreme, the end of one’s formal professional career may raise issues like those produced in the so-called health care debate, dominated by unfounded fear and hysteria: As senior anthropologists, are our careers doomed? If so, who serves on the AAA career “death panels”? And what about senior anthropologists’ university pensions and AAA insurance—will they cut ours off when names are dropped from university listings? Or is it our money they are after as “donations”—to be used for others who aren’t so generous? Why should we give support to a professional association when our professional careers seem “over”? Obviously all seniors should get their protest signs and bullhorns ready to demand answers at the AAA Annual Meeting—or, I suppose we could take a slightly more positive approach and attend to stay engaged with our disciplinary community, to see friends and colleagues, and to continue learning about current work in the field.

At this year’s meeting, ASA will be joined in its invited session, “Anthropologists Do the Strangest Things,” by the Society for the Anthropology of North America (SANA). This event, the first in history, takes place on December 3, 8:00– 10:00 am in room 413 at the Marriott. Barbara Joans will chair the session for six distinguished presenters and a discussant. We trust that there will be seating for all seeking to listen. You’ll get an inkling of the feelings of Edward González- Tennant, Barbara Joans, Stanley Newman, Jennifer Brown, J Bryan Page and Jim Peacock as reflected in their paper titles: “Pirate Philosophy, Counter- Mapping, and Post-Racial Protest”; “Becoming a Girl Again: Anthropology in Court”; “Human Behavior in Disasters”; “Beyond the Savage and the Primitive”; “Music and Marihuana”; and “Grounded Globalism.”

Following the invited session, the famous ASA “Invited” Members Board and Business Luncheon takes place on Thursday at noon “off site” at the well-known McCormick & Schmick restaurant, located at 1 South Broad St, three blocks from the Marriott. We look forward to having ASA members and “wannabes” join with colleagues in good conversation, some ASA business and a fine repast—an ASA member benefit!

There is more! Some of you may have noticed that at the Philadelphia meeting ASA will have a joint roundtable discussion with the National Association of Student Anthropologists (NASA). Scheduled for Friday at 4:00 pm in the Grand Ballroom Salon with the suggestive title “Alternate Generation Solidarity,” this collective endeavor is certain to raise fear among ruling elites. Think of it: young rebels and old “free” radicals together! And that is not all! We are also in league with the Association of Indigenous Anthropologists (AIA) in supporting their roundtable session on Friday at 10:15 am in room 413 (the same room as our joint session with SANA).

Although most of us are retired, one doesn’t have to be of any particular age to be part of ASA, just mature enough. Indeed, a number of our current members are still gathering regular paychecks. However, if even half of all retired AAA members (well over 500 persons) should make an appearance at the annual AAA Business Meeting asking about AAA group health care for example, it would be attention-getting. If these retirees joined ASA and came to our annual member luncheon we would need a ballroom. Why not?

Regardless of such speculation, we urge all those mature enough to join ASA for the paltry sum of $10 per annum dues. We welcome you to become an ASA member during the annual meeting at the AAA booth in the exhibit area, so you don’t forget to do it later on.

ASA January 2009 AN Column

Anthropology News • December 2009 • Volume 50 • Issue 9
Paul L Doughty, Contributing Editor

A Word in Your Ear
Last spring, I found myself on Facebook without full comprehension as to what was entailed. It was a virtual accident so to speak. The next morning I opened my email to discover that 70 people wanted to “be my friends.” Most of them I already thought were my friends, and some were folks I didn’t know or recognize. Their demand was that I “confirm” that fact— how off-putting is that! One learns from experience however, even in a “senior” fashion, but how much time does one really want to spend in front of the small flat screen?

That said, however, I thank Alice Kehoe for calling my attention to a recent Internet development of considerable interest to anthropologists in general and to seniors in particular. She referred me to a wonderful anthropological blog (that’s right, blog!) written by our own Walter Goldschmidt (http://waltergoldschmidt. wordpress.com). I am not surprised by this so much as being immensely impressed and pleased for several reasons. The first is that being 96 years of age, Wally is still on the front burners of intellectual action as he has been throughout his anthropological career beginning in the 1930s. The second is that he is in the process of artfully and systematically reviewing his life in the context of anthropological thought and practice. Third, he is opening his work up for instant review, comment and dialogue with those who make comments or ask questions. Having avoided Internet babble as much as possible (I am seldom responsive to Facebook’s demands) I became familiar with blogging nevertheless through the reading of my daughter’s blog about her life in Sweden, a personal and family “voyage” over the past year or so. Along the way she quickly collected an amazing readership reaching over 7,000 from more than 60 countries—”my community” she called it. Since her unexpected death this past spring, those numbers have risen to over 10,000 readers from 90 countries! A friend soon discovered that the entire blog could be purchased as a nicely bound paperback for $10 for the 283 pages with many photographs—a marvelous family legacy indeed.

Thus, as one considers Goldschmidt’s growing contribution in this same vein but on a far broader canvas, one appreciates the fact that his productive enterprise should reach a very large audience both in the US and abroad, as indeed it already has. His “Nota Bene” at the start strikes home for many of us: “I shall offer presentation of a book of memoirs that I have long intended to write but am only now getting around to.” In view of the fact that most of us won’t be able to wait to be 96 before writing, the intellectual pathway he is following could signal a direction in which many of us could go right now as a method of getting our professional thoughts and information out to the discipline and beyond. It means, of course, resorting to a new format for self-publishing, a much denigrated action as it bypasses the rigors of editorial and peer review. Nevertheless it allows a kind of freedom and openness not otherwise available, and in the blog context such works are open to critical and collaborative comment, available for all to see.

But how much time do you want to allot to the small screen? Wally has already written (as of this writing on October 15) eleven entries since August with many more to go, but these can all be downloaded and printed; read in your easy chair, cited and commented upon. Here, perhaps, is an answer to making one’s back data and various observations available to others. The requirements for successful publishing haven’t changed of course: one must be an able and interesting author, with something of value to say to another generation.

Regarding such legacy issues, and this being the “giving season,” Louise Lamphere reminds me that there is a way to make an immediate contribution to the future generations of anthropologists without peer review or other hurdles. Rather than writing a memoir (which you might not “get around to”) you should consider a contribution to the AAA fellowship endowments. I am told that the minority fellowship endowment is close to reaching its goal, so a significant number of modest donations could firmly establish our first such award. Think about it.