Graduate Student Workshops at AAAs

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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):


– Authoritarianism: Forms, Practices, and Modes of Governance
– Climate Change and Environmental Stressors
– Emerging Questions in International Trade and Financial Regulation
– Kinship and Law in the Contemporary
– Political Trust
– (Re)Imagining Sovereignty

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 Aderayo Sanusi ( and Rachel Laryea ( with any questions or concerns. The final deadline for consideration will be October 21, 2019 but workshops fill up quickly, so apply soon!

Workshop descriptions:

Authoritarianism: Forms, Practices, and Modes of Governance
This workshop focuses on authoritarian politics, taking its point of departure both from the “rise” of right-wing authoritarian regimes at the national level and seeking to understand how this trend relates to other forms of authoritarian social relations in the family, the workplace, religion etc. How do these multiple registers of authoritarianism relate to one another? And what might a cross-cultural examination of authoritarian politics tell us about the multiple meanings of authoritarianism in the lives of everyday people? More fundamentally, this workshop puts into question authoritarianism itself, noting both how it has been treated as democracy’s other and yet endemic to democratic forms of governance. In what ways has political anthropology reified this understanding of authoritarianism and as a consequence “naturalized” democratic forms of governance and social relations? Relatedly, what can be learned from authoritarian social relations and politics and how might this better inform our larger understanding of the current trends underway?

Climate Change and Environmental Stressors
In this session, we will discuss ideas and topics related to climate (change), environmental history/justice/policy-making, as well as disasters, disaster response initiatives, and human organizing. These topics are especially timely given the rise in human-related environmental changes and the United Nations report that indicated the urgency in addressing how humans, non-humans, and Earth are responding and might continue to weather impacts of detrimental policies and planning. From an increased frequency in forest fires, hurricanes, and tropical storms to a recurring emphasis in climate change discourse about continued institutional investments in fossil fuels, how is human organizing taking place in response to these social issues? How do political economic modes inform the problems we face and the potential solutions available to us? Join us as we workshop projects and papers, employing social theory to analyze the foreclosures and opportunities of environmental stressors and solutions.

Emerging Questions in International Trade and Financial Regulation
Anthropologists have increasingly studied sociocultural practices related to money, finance and the transforming infrastructure of global financial markets in the contemporary. This growing body of scholarship examines the historical factors and socioeconomic conditions that have precipitated increasing levels of debt and financial precarity, the disruptive influence of novel financial technologies that continue to pose new regulatory challenges, the Fair Trade Movement and other pressing international trade issues.  This workshop invites participants interested in exploring the political and legal mechanisms that regulate global financial markets and trade networks.  Topics discussed might include alternative forms of finance and new digital currencies, new economies, sanctions, tariffs and contested global financial governance regimes and productive angles for achieving increased financial inclusion and protection.

Kinship and Law in the Contemporary
The inextricable nature between kinship networks and policy-making has become an emergent theme in everyday media. From financing Trump’s wall at the US-Mexico border to the shifting regulations surrounding refugee reception in Europe, family ties at national borders can be analyzed to reflect how institutions are managing the transformative nature of social relationships. Through this workshop, we will explore some of the following topics and questions: how are increased flows of migration and transnational immigration reconfiguring kinship networks? How can we understand the changing shape of “kinship” and “kin networks” and their varying registers in the context of asylum, LGBTQ families, and surrogacy/adoption in a capitalist market? In other words, what stakes do governing polities have in how kinships are formed? You are invited as we will discuss and interrogate the political and economic factors that contribute to the changing nature of social relationships and how this might be recognized on institutional and local levels.

Political Trust
Trust in one another defines resilient and meaningful social relations. But beyond the sphere of hearth and home, this precious commodity remains an invaluable property of legitimate state governance, democratic or otherwise. Anthropology’s focus on the foundations of all trust – like intimacy, familiarity and integration – presents us with an opportunity for real influence over contemporary debates about social cohesion. In an era increasingly marked by distrust of established politics, this workshop invites participants to reconsider classic themes like alienation, conspiracy and witchcraft as part of wider shifts in neoliberal governance. In addition, we will have the opportunity to explore the dynamic interaction between this (dis)trust and the explosive rise of national-populist leaders all across the globe.

(Re)Imagining Sovereignty
The concept of sovereignty looms leviathanic in anthropological and political imaginations.  Often associated with powers of the divine, states, or willful action by individuals, “sovereignty” holds a range of meanings.  Recent scholarship has served to renew anthropology’s focus on the assumptions and historical narratives from which sovereign entities draw authority.  Some has shown how divergent forms of sovereignty concatenate, producing outcomes that are planned as well as those that are unintended.  How do these forms of sovereignty– divine, nested, layered, more-than-human, or otherwise– structure relationships?  What lives and ways of living do they make possible? This workshop encourages a critical engagement with the concept of sovereignty.  Participants will have the opportunity to think through the ways in which the notion of sovereignty is variously taken up, expressed, and challenged in their research sites.

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