APLA at AAA 2018: Graduate Student Workshops


Call for Participants

Social network 2
Social Network” by Kevin Dooley. Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

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):

  •  Ritual Performances of the State
  • Religious Nationalism
  • Technology and Urban Mobility/Spatiality
  • Technology in the Age of NDA and Contracts
  • The Body in the Law
  • Scandal, Rumors and Conspiracies

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. Those interested in learning more about these workshops may check out our past workshops here.

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 Rachel Laryea (rachel.laryea@yale.edu) and Zahirah Suhaimi (zsuhaimi@ucsc.edu) with any questions or concerns. The final deadline for consideration will be October 15, 2018 but workshops fill up quickly, so apply soon!

Workshop Descriptions:

Ritual Performances of the State:

Ritual has been a pre-occupation of anthropologists since the discipline’s formation.  It has been variously conceived as producing social solidarity, structuring rites of passage, or comprising everyday practices. Questions about the productive capacity of ritual remain salient for generating insights about social and political arrangements, including state power.  What kinds of rituals–whether the ceremonious coming together of capital and state power through an economic nationalist initiative, or the mundane act of renewing food stamp eligibility–serve to render a state or political entity legitimate and how?  What forms of subjectivity are inaugurated through participation in performances of the state? Alternatively, how might ritual be an avenue for disrupting and unsettling existing assemblages of power and function as a site of resistance, counter-politics, or solidarity? This workshop invites participants to critically re-engage the notion of ritual and consider its role in negotiations of political power, state formation, and nationalist culture.

Religious Nationalism:
Secularism has long been associated with the modern state, as a key component of a liberal political arrangement that ostensibly regulates expressions of religious belief in the public sphere. But what to make of the many growing religious nationalist movements across the globe, from Indonesia to Israel to the United States?  How might relations between the state and secularity be shifting? What are the conditions of possibility for the emergence of contemporary forms of nationalism, whether religious or secular? This workshop invites participants to examine the ways in which religious politics, secular modernity, and national policy intersect and inform one another.

Technology and Urban Mobility/Spatiality:
This workshop seeks to interrogate how recent advances in phone applications (apps) and map-based technology have reorganized communities and residential life. Drivers for apps like Uber and Lyft move millions of people daily throughout global urban centers, providing alternatives to extant means of transport including taxis and buses. These apps and other emerging digital technologies point to the increasing and varying ways technology is remapping urban life, labor and development. How has expanding access to technology disrupted urban core/periphery dynamics and migration patterns? How are our understandings of public/private space and transportation shaped by technology and  government attempts to regulate it? What can we learn about the politics of urban development, racism, housing policy and exclusion through a digitally cartographic lens? This workshop invites scholars to investigate technology and its effect on urban mobility and spatiality.

Ethnography in the Age of NDA and Contracts:
This workshop explores fieldwork methodology and ethics, examining the intersection of increasing institutionalization, frequent reliance on contracts and NDAs (non-disclosure agreements), and restrictions on field research funding. Given the increasing necessity of working within institutions to conduct research and the fact that many of these organizations now require researchers or affiliates to sign NDAs, how do these mandates influence what kinds of ethnography can be done, and where? How do contracts, whether boilerplate or more elaborate, impact anthropology’s reach, and what is the function of these contracts from an international legal standpoint? What are the ethical implications of anthropologists’ signing, refusing to sign, or breaking such contracts and other institutional agreements? How do these institutional frameworks foreclose and/or open theoretical and methodological possibilities for anthropological work? This workshop examines how anthropologists can draw from other literatures on formal and informal modes of non-disclosure (for example from medical anthropology, addiction studies, the anthropology of bureaucracy, or the study of the state) to conceptualize new methodological approaches to ethnographic research in the era of contracts.

The Body in the Law:
This workshop invites scholars to interrogate the centrality of “the body” in legal and medical strands of anthropology. What is the relationship of the body to legal and institutional forms of knowledge? At stake in such formations is who counts – and who is excluded – when we think about “the body.”  Medical diagnoses of the body are often used to inform legal procedures or as evidence in a court of law, for example in cases of assault, custody, worker’s compensation, or toxic illness. In such medico-legal formations, what comes to matter as “the body” is presumed universal, yet in practice is shifting. If the body is multiple and differentiated (Mol 2002), how can we as anthropologists avoid reproducing a singular institutional view in our theoretical frameworks of the body and embodiment?

Scandal, Rumors, and Conspiracies:
What constitutes a scandal, rumor, or conspiracy? What are their boundaries and how are they differently mobilized in a diverse array of political and legal contexts? While distinct categories, all are forms of speculative knowledge that can contest or legitimize political and legal formations and that raise enduring epistemological and ontological questions about politics, power, and justice. In recent times, the material effects of scandals, rumors, and conspiracies on political life have had momentous consequences as illustrated by the #metoo revelations in the United States, the Smolensk Conspiracy in Poland, or the Petrobras scandal in Brazil. This workshop invites graduate scholars to inquire into the multiple analytical dimensions of these phenomena as well as to critically explore the ethical and methodological risks of ethnographically researching these issues.


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