APLA at that AAA Meetings, Washington D.C. 2014

2014 Washington DC Annual Meeting

Final preparations for the 2014 AAA Annual Meeting in Washington, DC have begun! As usual, APLA is sponsoring a wide range of scholarly sessions, events and workshops, including workshops for graduate students and a salon and reception in honor of our journal, PoLAR. Please mark your calendars for this special event, “Producing Political And Legal Knowledge Through Cross-Disciplinary Engagements in the Political and Legal Anthropology Review,” to be held Wednesday, December 3 from 6-8 pm at the area bookshop Busboys & Poets (at their 14th and V location, 2021 14th St NW). Come to participate and mingle!

This year’s events continue our focus from 2013 on issues of publishing, scholarly communication, and broadening the reach of political and legal anthropology.  The Business Meeting (held on Saturday, December 6 from 1:00 pm to 2:15 pm) will feature news from the Future of Publishing Subcommittee; a report about the creation of a new Law and Society Association research network for “Ethnography, Law & Society”; and the awarding of the first ever APLA Book Prize.  In addition, the APLA Paper Prize will not only be announced at the business meeting, but there will be a special panel devoted to the finalists where they will present their papers and receive comments from mentor-discussants (Thursday, December 4, 1:00 pm-2:15 pm).

Read on for more details and updates on selection procedures from the program committees.

Graduate Student and Early-Career Events

By Josh Clark (APLA Graduate Program Committee)

The APLA Graduate Program Committee is organizing a slate of five mentoring workshops to be held during the AAA meetings, aiming to bring together graduate students with faculty who share thematic, theoretical, or methodological concerns. Visit aplaorg.org in mid-September to find more information and to apply.

APLA will also host a special evening panel for graduate students and recent PhDs entitled, “Launching a Career in Academia” (Thursday, December 4, 8:30–9:45 pm). This panel will address topics including publication, job applications, interview strategies, tenure and work-life balance; all graduate students and recent PhDs are welcome.

APLA’s Junior Faculty Committee and Graduate Program Committee have jointly organized a professional development roundtable and discussion entitled, “Digital Anthropology and Career Mobility: Do These Go Hand-In-Hand?” (Friday, December 5, 7:45–9:00 am); and the Junior Faculty Committee has organized a mentoring event for early-career scholars on the topic, “Building a Research Agenda” (Saturday, December 6, 7:30-9:00 am).

Panels: New Selection Process and Invited Sections

By Heath Cabot and Jeff Martin (APLA Program Committee)

This year, APLA is sponsoring 54 panels. The submissions were, across the board, remarkably strong: cohesive, thoughtfully articulated and showcasing a range of debates and discussions currently taking place in political and legal anthropology. Some cross-cutting themes include anthropology and its publics; new ethnographies of the state; the weird and the uncanny; citizenship, migration and belonging; and justice, knowledge and legal processes. A number of panels also interrogate methodological and ethical questions.

The selection process was particularly challenging this year, owing to changes in the process as well as the lower acceptance rate, thanks to the smaller venue in Washington DC. As section editors, we do not simply reject papers or panels; acceptance is based on a ranking system and the ultimate number of submissions across all sections. The AAA program committee makes final decisions, and the section process involves ranking submitted panels based on cohesiveness and quality, and forming new panels from individually-submitted papers (which we then also rank).

This year, we learned after the selection process that there was a much higher number of rejections across all sections due to limited space. There was extensive debate among all program coordinators during the scheduling process, and we believe the AAA program committee will be looking to refine a process that is more predictable for all involved. Another relevant change in the programming process was that double panels were no longer accepted.

The competition for invited status was also particularly high this year, since this process for submission and selection also changed: we the section editors were free to select invited sessions out of the entire pool of APLA submissions. Moreover, we also considered sessions that other sections brought to us to co-sponsor. APLA has six “credits” to bestow on invited sessions, and two credits are necessary to sponsor a session—single credits may be combined with other sections to form a co-sponsorship. We made our choices based on the panel’s engagement with emergent and highly relevant themes in political and legal anthropology, capacity to speak to audiences outside of APLA, and the quality and cohesiveness of the papers. We also took particular note of panels that sought to relate to the Meetings’ theme of “Producing Anthropology” and which invited participants to consider questions of method, knowledge, and truth. We sponsored five sessions, three of which we sponsored with the American Ethnological Society and one which we sponsored with the Society for Linguistic Anthropology.

Here is a short preview of the invited sessions, but please go to the online schedule and browse all the excellent panels in the APLA program:

  • The Invisible Specter: Linguistic Anthropology, Neoliberal Morality, and The Linguistic Incarnations of The Enterprising Self, organized by Aurora Donzelli. Wednesday, December 3: 12-1:45 pm.
  • The Pragmatics of Jurisdiction, the Limits of Sovereignty, organized by Jeffrey Kahn and Justin B Richland. Thursday, December 4: 9:00-10:45 am.
  • Anthropological Approaches to Law, Gender, and Human Rights: Papers in Honor of Sally Engle Merry, organized by Ram Natarajan and Amy L Field. Friday, December 5: 9:00-10:45 am.
  • Silence In/And Ethnography: Cartographies Of Power And Knowledge In Anthropology And Its Publics, organized by Natasha Zaretsky. Friday, December 5: 11:00 am-12:45 pm.
  • The “Coefficient of Weirdness”: Paranoia, Conspiracy, and the Unintelligible in Rational Institutions, organized by Leo Coleman and Noelle Mole. Sunday, December 7: 8:00-9:45 am.

Please send ideas for future columns to the contributing editors, Leo Coleman at Coleman.514@osu.edu and Allison Fish at aefish@ucdavis.edu. 

Graduate Students: these workshops during the AAAs are for you!

APLA Graduate Student Workshops at AAA 2014
Call for participants…
Each year during the AAA meetings, the Association for Political and Legal Anthropology (APLA) sponsors a series of special workshops in which small groups of graduate students and faculty convene around thematic conceptual, theoretical, and methodological issues. These workshops offer an intimate mentorship context in which students can engage in intensive discussions regarding specific problems in their anthropological research and writing. This year’s workshop topics are the following (descriptions can be found below):

1. Trial and Evidence in Science and Law

2. Representation in Political and Legal Anthropology: Moving Beyond the Textual (early PhD students)

3. Positioning Social Media in Ethnographic Research

4. Law and Politics of Environmental Justice

5. Legal Futures, Technological Futures

Each workshop will be limited to 4-5 students, who will meet with 2 faculty members at a café near the AAA conference hotel. These locations, as well as the exact dates and times of the workshops will be determined in the weeks prior to the AAA meetings.

Doctoral students who wish to participate in these workshops should apply as soon as possible by completing this application form: http://tinyurl.com/APLAgrad2014

Proposals will be accepted on a first-received, first-reviewed basis, and with the requirement that applicants’ projects/questions be closely related to the workshop topics. If an applicant feels that her or his project could be appropriate to more than one workshop, please feel free to list a second choice (in the event that the first-choice workshop has already filled up).

Email Suraiya Anita Jetha at sjetha@ucsc.edu with any questions or concerns.

The final deadline for consideration will be October 22, 2014, but workshops fill up quickly, so apply soon!

Workshop descriptions…

Trial and Evidence in Science and Law

Trials and evidence are central to the ways both scientific and legal practitioners build consensus, draw conclusions, leverage knowledge, and assert authority.  Though they take distinct forms in each field, both draw on notions of credibility, verification, causation, probability, and doubt.  Scholars have scrutinized these and other attributes of trials and evidence in science and law, but rarely do their analyses put the two fields into direct dialogue.  This workshop will convene advanced graduate students conducting research in the anthropology of law and of science to consider how their approaches to analyzing trials and evidence might inform one another. To what extent do concerns encountered in each context overlap with, and diverge from, one another? What analytical tools might researchers productively apply or adapt from one field of inquiry to the other?

Representation in Political and Legal Anthropology: Moving Beyond the Textual (early PhD students)

Just as legal accounts instantiate, substitute, and select from potential interpretations of reality, so too does an ethnographic account represent and “enhance” what are often unrecognized social truths (Yngvesson & Coutin 2008). Designed for students of political and legal anthropology in the early stages of their graduate careers, this workshop explores non-textual modes of ethnographic interpretation and enhancement. Applicants are invited to imagine the role film, performance, photography, experimental art, or sound ethnography might play in their research. Participants may also consider the professional dis/advantages of employing experimental techniques, as well as the ways in which these media forms might uniquely intersect with or illuminate processes of legal representation.

Positioning Social Media in Ethnographic Research

Political and legal anthropologists increasingly find social media playing often unforeseen roles in their research.  This occurs, for example, when they are followed, tweeted at, and “friended” by interlocutors.  These connections seem to bridge previously existing divides between researchers and their interlocutors, and allow alternative insights into the latter’s quotidian behavior and social networks. Should these novel forms of data be integrated into ethnographic accounts in qualitatively different ways than those gathered by more traditional methods?  And beyond methodological and analytical issues, what are the ethical implications of gathering and employing this type of data? For example, what constitutes informed consent in this context? This workshop invites applications from graduate students grappling with questions about social media-generated data from both ethical and methodological standpoints.

Law and Politics of Environmental Justice: Emerging Legal Subjects

Demands for environmental justice have long employed legal language.  But today we are witnessing a proliferation of claims articulating new environmental subjects and objects of law.  These include, for example, proprietary claims on biotechnology, bioprospecting, and biocultural heritage; discrimination claims of environmental racism; rights claims demanding communities’ free, prior, and informed consent concerning natural resource use; and the ceding of rights to Mother Earth in Ecuador and Bolivia and to plants in Switzerland. What conditions the formation of these environmental subjects of law and what are the implications for how we understand the politics of environmental justice? This workshop is for graduate students interested in exploring the dynamic and evolving relationships between law, politics, and the environment, and the role therein of notions of justice, well-being, and liveability.

Legal Futures, Technological Futures

Periods of rapid technological change have always posed challenges to legal and regulatory actors, who must continuously adapt their knowledge and tools to the conditions of emerging worlds.  Recent anthropological scholarship explores how policymakers, lawyers, and other purveyors of expert knowledge today aim not only to react to, but also to anticipate, evolving forms of technology and uses thereof.  This research has been rich and divergent, ranging from issues of intellectual property and free speech on the Internet to reproductive technologies, alternative currencies, and global cyber security.  This workshop invites applicants whose research interfaces with actors who construct legal, policy, and/or regulatory tools to confront anticipated futures.  What compels such predictive approaches to law and policy, and upon what bases do actors build their imaginaries of technological changes yet-to-come?