AAA 2014 CFP: Producing Inconvenient Knowledge and Attending to the “Unimportant”

*PANEL TITLE:* Producing Inconvenient Knowledge and Attending to the “Unimportant”: Exploring Anthropology’s Enduring Contributions to Expanding, Complicating, and Challenging Conventional Models of Socioeconomic Change and Development

*WORKING PANEL ABSTRACT:* Anthropology, with its longstanding emphasis on holistic explanations of human reality and its persistent focus on better understanding (and representing) the lives, histories, and perspectives of
non-dominant groups, has much to contribute in academia and beyond.
Unfortunately, anthropological contributions are frequently over-shadowed by, for example, mainstream sociological and economic analyses that often resonate strongly in Western thought and support deceptively straightforward and convenient policy recommendations.  Here we suggest that anthropology has had–and continues to have–a crucial (if frustrated) role to play in social science and public-policy debates precisely for  those reasons the discipline rarely garners widespread or consistent attention from academics, policy-makers, or the general public. That is, though never free of its own biases, assumptions, and questionable models of human progress, anthropology expands, complicates, and challenges dominant narratives of history, modernization, development, globalization, and socioeconomic change more broadly.  From those who question accounts of ancient developments based on core-periphery models, to those who investigate the often-disappointing lived realities (and uneven outcomes) that lie just beneath rosy accounts of economic growth and development, anthropologists have a propensity to produce inconvenient, even uncomfortable, knowledge. A general focus on commonly neglected people, topics, viewpoints, histories, geographical regions, and concepts (like culture), means that anthropologists routinely (and expressly) tackle issues many other social scientists dismiss, minimize, or afford only superficial attention. As we strive for nuanced accounts that do not betray the dynamic complexity of human lives and endeavors, anthropologists frequently produce analyses of cross-disciplinary relevance; such studies, in their rich complexity, defy simple explanations and challenge us to consider the multifarious intersections of political, economic, social, cultural, ecological, biological, ideological, technological, and symbolic factors and forces in shaping human actions.

Here we celebrate the contributions of political economic anthropology in
particular with papers that highlight ongoing commitments to exploring and
illuminating: “hidden histories,” persistent (and emerging) inequalities,
and the sorts of “inconvenient truths” that, at best, encourage rethinking
(not just recycling) some of the problematic assumptions and values that
continue to haunt popular, political, and academic models of socioeconomic
change and development. A number of papers draw attention to the ongoing
benefits of disciplinary self-reflection and to the value of focusing on
the people, perspectives, and regions anthropologists themselves have all
too often neglected or dismissed. Recognizing the need to move beyond our
disciplinary and sub-disciplinary boundaries, this panel currently features
contributors with backgrounds in archeology, cultural anthropology, and
labor activism; and, we welcome relevant submissions from those working in
any anthropological sub-discipline, as well as from those outside the

*We welcome papers that touch on a wide variety of issues including,
possibly: *

-the sociocultural and symbolic dimensions of economic, political,
ecological, and agricultural systems (and transformations)

-conflicts and contests regarding land, labor, property rights,
development, and socioeconomic change more broadly

-the ability of non-state societies to craft their own histories in the
shadows of ancient states

-the biological and ecological dimensions of political and socioeconomic
inequalities, processes, and changes

-the rhetoric and reality of socioeconomic policies, programs, and
development schemes (including, e.g.: conservation programs, economic
reforms, land reform initiatives, & others)

-the roles of social movements and community organizing under shifting
political and socioeconomic circumstances

-the ways in which anthropological research (and/or insights) can help
complicate or challenge dominant understandings of history, economics,
political organization, the state, etc.

-the value of challenging dominant historical narratives and of
illuminating hidden pre- and post-colonial histories

-symbolic and discursive battles (e.g. to construct and define space,
place, ownership, identity, moral & political legitimacy) and their
connections to political economic inequalities, uncertainties, and changes

*PLEASE NOTE:* As the AAA submission deadline is fast approaching (April 15
th, 2014), we ask that all abstracts be submitted by: *Friday April 11th *(after which time, we will respond to all contributors as fast as possible).

*Please direct all submissions to BOTH:* Heather Sawyer ( and Aeleka Schortman (


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