Graduate Student Workshops

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. Secularism in Law and Politics

2. Law and Rurality

3. Mobility, Law, and Citizenship

4. Anthropology’s Audiences [I]: Addressing and Fostering New Publics

5. Anthropology’s Audiences [II]: Writing for, and with, Legal and Policy Professionals

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 by submitting the following:

– Name

– Email address

– Institution

– Year in Ph.D. program (e.g. 1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc.)

– A description of your project, no more than 300-words in length, that focuses on one or two specific problems or questions with which you are grappling, and that you hope to discuss in the workshop.  APLA graduate workshops are not intended for presenting polished, final products; they are meant instead as a venue in which student and faculty participants give intensive, collective attention to students’ works-in-progress.

Proposals will be accepted on a first-come, first-serve 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).

Proposals should be submitted as soon as possible to Josh Clark at

 The final deadline for consideration will be October 13, 2013, but workshops fill up quickly, so apply soon!

Workshop descriptions…

Secularism in Law and Politics

How is the secular, both as an analytical concept and an object of analysis, being reimagined today, and what is its relationship to emergent legal and political developments?  This workshop invites applicants interested in exploring the politics of secularism in relation to law from a variety of conceptual angles and research sites.  The workshop welcomes students addressing longstanding questions about the effects of “pro-secular” legislation, institutional structures, and litigation, as well as those grappling with current processes like the “Arab Spring” that challenge common conceptions of the relationships between religious freedom, democracy, tolerance, and violence.  Participants may also consider the question of “asecularity” (Agrama 2011), or what it might mean to be “indifferent” to the distinction between the secular and religious.  What does anthropology bring to the study of these different perspectives on secularism, and what contributions can ethnographic work make?

Law and Rurality

Rurality, writes Lisa Pruitt, is a continuum: “At one end of the spectrum, it is a fishing camp in a remote area of Alaska… at the other end, it is exurbia” (2006:237).  Taking this continuum as its point of departure, this workshop unsettles the presumed rural-urban dichotomy while simultaneously recognizing its meaningful operation in the legal realm.  It asks: What is the role of law in rural lifestyles and landscapes, broadly understood?  How do legal processes delineate, maintain, and transform rural communities?  In what ways do popular and juridical narratives of the rural reflect or contort complex rural realities?  Encouraging conversations that identify rurality as a critical and expansive site for ethnographic inquiry, the workshop invites graduate students whose research engages the shifting parameters of the significance, definition, and regulation of rural spaces.

Mobility, Law, and Citizenship

This workshop seeks to widen anthropology’s lens on the range of relationships between legal regimes, citizenship, and human mobility.  Research on this topic has tended to focus on the regulation of transnational migration, including regimes of confinement and the condition of deportability.  This workshop encourages expanding the study of mobility to include: 1) sub-national-level regulation of movement, and 2) legal mechanisms that not only restrict but also instigate mobilities. While influential scholars have argued that the unfettered movement of persons is a foundational problem for the modern state, mobility need not be antithetical to state power; it may in some instances serve to reinforce it. The workshop offers a space to reevaluate the problematic of mobility across groups as varied as: displaced persons and refugees, Roma and travellers, transnational migrants, nomadic herders, the homeless, persons with mobility impairments, public transport users, and persons choosing to live “off the grid.”

Anthropology’s Audiences [I]: Addressing and Fostering New Publics

As part of APLA’s initiative to increase the public presence and impact of anthropological knowledge beyond the academy, this workshop will convene graduate students working to communicate their research and analysis to non-academic publics through various media forms. Venues including blogs, op-ed columns, and other journalistic outlets will be discussed as forms of technical writing that require skills and methods distinct from those of academic writing. Beyond these questions of form, participants may also consider issues of voice, power, accountability, and ethics in communicating anthropological knowledge to broader audiences.  Each participant will prepare a short writing sample addressed to a popular audience to be discussed and analyzed in the workshop.

Anthropology’s Audiences [II]: Writing for, and with, Legal and Policy Professionals

As part of APLA’s initiative to increase the public presence and impact of anthropological knowledge beyond the academy, this workshop invites graduate students engaged in conveying their research and analysis to legal and policy audiences. This may include students working to prepare research products intended to influence the work of said audiences, or students who have become co-authors or collaborators with legal and/or policy professionals.  Participants will share insights concerning technical and practical questions arising from scholarly engagement in legal/policy writing genres while also considering the epistemic and ethical implications of doing so.  Each participant will prepare a short writing sample addressed to a legal/policy audience to be discussed and analyzed in the workshop.