AAA 2015 Preview: Graduate Student Workshops

Screen Shot 2015-10-28 at 5.10.11 PMCall 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):

– Exploring Exclaves
– The Afterlife of Ethnographic Fieldwork: Prospects and Limits of Post-Fieldwork Collaborations
– Anthropology and the Repugnant Cultural Other
– Secrets, Silences, and Limits to Knowledge
– The Anthropology of Policing and Punishment

Each workshop will be limited to 4-5 students, who will meet with 2 faculty members at a café or restaurant 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:

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 ( and Joshua Clark ( with any questions or concerns. The final deadline for consideration will be October 19, 2015 but workshops fill up quickly, so apply soon!

Workshop descriptions:

Exploring Exclaves
Anthropologists have begun to pay greater attention to the existence of exclaves- territories surrounded by ‘alien’ territories and ‘cut-off’ from the rest of their territory, like Kaliningrad, the Gaza Strip, and Dahagram–Angarpota. This attentiveness is a byproduct of a broader theoretical shift within anthropology that emphasizes the three-dimensionality of borders: territories regulate the movement of differing actants such as radio signals, humans, and dust, across their borders differently at different sites. This workshop invites scholars to explore  the legal and political existences of exclaves and to consider how their distinctiveness shapes their inhabitants’ lives, material environments, and ecologies. Topics discussed might include: how do such territories regulate infrastructural systems, like heating and sewage, how are economic activities – such as foreign exchange and employment – managed, and how might this burgeoning literature offer new insights to, that enduring site of anthropological interest, the ethnic enclave?

The Afterlife of Ethnographic Fieldwork: Prospects and Limits of Post-Fieldwork Collaborations
As a discipline, anthropology stems from a productively conflicting tradition of critical-complicit proximity towards its object of study: human beings and the social context they creatively inhabit. Because of this proximity, the discipline has developed ethical codes that explicitly account for issues arising during the design and the execution phases of graduate researchers. Yet, reflection on the deeply personal and very practical question of what happens after, rather than during, fieldwork, have been typically absent from formal anthropological training. In this workshop we ask participants and mentors to reflect upon some of these issues. What type of support, advocacy or commitment is expected from anthropologists leaving the field? To what degree should anthropologists be concerned with these sets of expectations and in what ways could they meet them? Are current ethical guidelines, including anonymity provisions, enough to satisfy the demands of further collaboration, help or critique coming from research participants?

Anthropology and the Repugnant Cultural Other
In a 1991 article, Susan Harding raised the “problem of the repugnant cultural other,” referring to the challenges of theorizing the modern discursive construction of cultural others intimate to the anthropologist’s own social position. This workshop invites participants to build upon new theoretical, social, and methodological insights to reconsider the challenges of conducting ethnographic research among groups whose cultural and religious perspectives clash radically with those assumed to be held by the anthropologist. What theoretical questions does  research among repugnant political others (such as explicitly racist organizations, homophobic campaigns, agents of structural violence)  pose, what objectives continue to motivate it, and what analytic opportunities does it afford? This workshop is a venue to discuss the challenges that arise in the course of conducting such research (getting through interviews laden with violent speech, cultivating empathy for subjects, managing one’s presence in ethnographic sites) and the ways in which ethnographers respond to the representational, methodological, and ethical challenges of such ethnographic projects.

Secrets, Silences, and Limits to Knowledge

The legal and political are often framed as public: matters out in the open, articulated, made plain.  But as researchers in these fields as much as any others, we run up against gaps in the archive and evasions in interviews, “open secrets” and deliberate dissimulations.  How do we think through these limits to what we’re allowed or able to know?  In our studies of law and politics, what do secrets mean and what do they do?  How do we write and otherwise represent them in ways that go beyond exposé as critique? This workshop invites advanced graduate students to discuss productive and creative engagements with dynamics of concealment and/or non-knowledge in ethnographic research.

The Anthropology of Policing and Punishment
Anthropologists have long studied the illegal and illicit as categories that produce social difference and condense power.  The everyday work of enforcing the law has, however, been considered far less.  This workshop invites graduate students at all stages to discuss the role of political and legal anthropology in understanding and confronting systems of policing and punishment.  Potential topics include, for example: the privatization and militarization of municipal law enforcement; the translations and transformations of policing under the rubric of “security,” and the contemporary elision of policing and punishment which the Black Lives Matter movement brings to light.  This workshop further aims to explore the methodological, ethical, and representational challenges that emerge in the course of such research.

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