This past March saw the 151st installment of Wenner-Gren’s legendary symposium series, as we invited scholars from around the world to share their work and discuss the transformation of public life in the context of rapidly-evolving media technologies. Alexander S. Dent, an Associate Professor of Anthropology at The George Washington University, sat down with us at the symposium’s conclusion to share his reflections on the experience and what it could mean for future research.
Archive for Conferences & Symposia
A look ahead at what this summer holds, sponsored by Wenner-Gren.
July 1 – 3, 2015
University of Zimbabwe, Harare
The biennial Association of Southern African Professional Archaeologists (ASAPA) Conference brings together a vibrant community of professional archaeologists and allied specialists from Southern Africa as well as international scholars whose research interests lie in the region. The main aim of the conference is to provide these professionals with an international platform to share new knowledge, network and seek collaboration in the fields of archaeology and archaeological heritage management. This provides a solid platform for the transmission of new techniques, new theories and field approaches to ensure that southern African archaeology is locally and globally relevant. The theme of ASAPA 2015 is promoting inter-disciplinary research. The conference attracts other stakeholders such as members of communities that live around archaeological sites, traditional custodians, policy makers and museum curators. It provides an opportunity for dialogue in theory and practice between different archaeological practitioners.
July 6 – 10, 2015
L’université de Paris Ouest
Every two years, the European Association of Southeast Asian Archaeologists aims to bring together scholars working in the field of Southeast Asian archaeology to present and discuss new data. This international initiative aims to foster scholarly cooperation within Europe, as well as worldwide cooperation among Southeast Asian scholars. Panels on a wide range of topics relevant to the field will be present.
July 15 – 17, 2015
Thammasat University, Bangkok
The title of the conference is ‘Re-imagining Anthropological and Sociological Boundaries’. This theme proposes to debate how already-existing tools for the study of societies may benefit from questioning long-held assumptions and categories, and how looking beyond the conventional boundaries of anthropology may help the discipline renew itself, from a theoretical, methodological, and political perspective. We deem it significant that the need to re-evaluate anthropological approaches to the study of humanity should be raised by scholars from an area as diverse as Southeast Asia, and in particular from Thailand, a country whose unusual engagement with colonialism, paired with recent experiments with neoliberalism, has resulted in complex social phenomena we often feel unprepared to interpret. This conference is also an opportunity to encourage dialogue between Thai anthropologists and social scientists worldwide.
August 3 – 6, 2015
Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania
EAAPP marks its 10th anniversary in 2015 at the height of commemoration of the 50th anniversary of Homo habilis (OH7), which the holotype specimens are now housed in the National Museum of Tanzania in Dar Es Salaam. The goal of this conference is to bring East Africans, international researchers and cultural heritage managers together in a forum to share current research findings and knowledge on the status of human origins research fifty years after the discovery of H. habilis at Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania. This forum provides unique opportunity of discussions among scientists, curators etc. about research development, conservation, and curatorial management. At the core of this conference is raising public awareness and interest in science and conservation of fossils and archaeological material.
August 12 – 14, 2015
Buenos Aires, Argentina
The Sixth Paleopathology Association Meeting in South America (PAMinSA VI) seeks to promote the exchange of results and to establish bonds between professionals from South America and all over the world. This event offers a space to promote advancement in innovative paleopathological research. This meeting represents the tenth anniversary since the first PAMinSA. Thus, it will be an opportunity to discuss the advances produced in South-American paleopathology during the last decade and to debate about specific issues related to the study of ancient health in the region. Its attainment in Argentina will allow keeping the continuity of these meetings as well as encouraging and enriching paleopathology as a scientific discipline in South America.
June 21-25, 2015
University of Zagreb
“This Congress’ theme takes the triad of utopias, realities and heritages as a challenge and seeks to relate it to the ethnographic study of expressive culture and everyday in European ethnology, cultural anthropology and folklore studies. The Congress theme thus aims at analyzing the contemporary moment in the production of imaginaries, projections, wishes, frustrations and anxieties that people have with regard to the past and future; and at the same time proposes to take a self-reflexive stance toward our discipline’s own role in defining the future and imagining the past. While the topic of utopias has recently surged as an iconic term in other academic conferences, ours gives it a special twist by linking it to specifically anthropological and ethnological approaches to everyday realities which are the context of both utopian visions of the future and representations of the past as heritage. The biennial SIEF conference, held for the first time in its history in southeastern Europe, aims at more intensely involving colleagues from Europe’s margins and beyond in international scholarly exchange in cultural anthropology, European ethnology, folklore studies and adjoining fields.”
The 151st(!) symposium of the Wenner-Gren Foundation, “New Media, New Publics” was held this past March 13-19 at Palácio de Seteais in Sintra, Portugal, organized by Charles Hirschkind (UC Berkeley), Maria José de Abreu (University of Amsterdam) and Carlo Caduff (King’s College London). Like all of our symposia, the work presented here will be featured in a future special open-access issue of Current Anthropology!
One thing that’s special about this symposium (and that we’re especially excited about) is that it is the first in WGF history to feature an audio-visual component with the participants themselves. In the coming weeks, expect to see a series of short videos with the organizers, participants and others outlining their particular projects, what the symposium means for the anthropological study of media, and the larger history of the Wenner-Gren symposium program. This is something of a new frontier for the Foundation and the program, so please let us know what you think once they go live!
Read the Organizer’s Statement below for a better grasp of the symposium’s theoretical concerns and goals.
Dr. Michael Chazan is professor of anthropology at the University of Toronto and director of its Archaeology Center. Dr. Chazan’s history with the Foundation goes back to 2007, when he received a Post-Ph.D. Research Grant to aid research at Wonderwerk Cave in Northern Cape Province, South Africa, which helped establish it as one of the most important archaeological sites in Southern Africa. In 2011, he and colleague Dr. Susan Pfeiffer co-organized the 2012 Meeting of the Society of Africanist Archaeologists (SAfA) at UToronto with Wenner-Gren support. During the meeting, Chazan and Pfeiffer took the opportunity to organize a retrospective of the Harvard Kalahari project, commemorating its wide influence on the field, and saving for posterity the reflections of the scholars involved.
What is/was the Harvard Kalahari Project and why was it important in the development of archaeology and anthropology in Africa?
From 1963 to 1976 a team of researchers led by Richard Lee and the late Irv Devore studied the Ju/’hoansi of the Kalahari. Their collective work gave rise to insights about diverse topics from child care to nutrition. For archaeologists this project, including the archaeological and ethnoarchaeological research by Allison Brooks and John Yellin, has been a critical resource for understanding hunter-gatherer societies.
What are the main legacies of the Harvard Kalahari Project? How does it relate to the Kalahari Peoples Fund, which is one of the oldest anthropological advocacy groups in North America?
There is of course a tremendous scientific legacy that stretches across the social sciences. There is also the literary legacy left by Margerie Schostack’s book, “Nisa: the Life and Words of a !Kung Woman, and the many other books and articles written by the members of the project. What is clear in the film is that the research team collectively saw the need for social advocacy, leading to the establishment of the Kalahari Peoples Fund – still very active today. This linkage between a strong program of empirical research and social advocacy is the hallmark of this group’s work. I think quite an interesting model for anthropology as a discipline.
Why was it important to hold a retrospective of the project 2012, who participated, and what were the outcomes of the meeting?
Susan Pfeiffer and I felt that the meeting of the Society of Africanist Archaeologists in Toronto would be a great opportunity to bring together members of the Harvard Kalahari Project to talk about their experience. Brooks and Yellen are active members, while Richard Lee and Nancy Howell are emeritus U of Toronto faculty. We thought that this would be a natural venue for a reunion. Once we suggested it, momentum arose within the group. All we had to do was secure a venue and arrange for the taping. Part of the motivation for me was the sense that there have been high profile negative stories emerging about anthropological fieldwork, so we can benefit from a reminder of how collaborative research teams can make a fundamental, positive contribution. We also felt that the so-called Kalahari Debate that had swirled through the 90′s had simmered down to an extent where it would be possible to get a more balanced perspective on the experiences of the members of the Kalahari Project.
What can we learn from the Harvard Kalahari Project as anthropology and archaeology move into the second decade of the 21st Century?
I think we learn quite a bit from the Harvard Kalahari Project and the initiatives it started. The project shows the rich potential of collaboration. What we see in the film is how human this collaboration is. For me, the film is quite inspiring. We see a group of senior scholars who have been profoundly shaped by the experience they had doing fieldwork. At the same time, we see their deep conviction that research matters– that there is an empirical reality and that gaining new scientific insight is in and of itself important. Their experience reminds us of the vastness of human experience and the vital contribution that anthropology can make.
WGF Symposium #150: “Integrating Anthropology: Niche Construction, Cultural Institutions, and History”
Wenner-Gren Symposium #150, “Integrating Anthropology: Niche Construction, Cultural Institutions, and History” was held this past October 17-23 in Sintra, Portugal. Like all of our symposia, the work presented here will be featured in a future special open-access issue of Current Anthropology!
All anthropologists, no matter their subdiscipline or field, are interested in why humans do what they do. In past decades, anthropologists, and particularly those in North America, worked across disciplines drawing on many applications of evolutionary, economic, and cultural theory.
In the 1980s and 1990s a broad diversity of new theoretical approaches emerged. More humanistically oriented anthropologists, rejecting metanarratives, focused on how humans create complex cultural meanings and realities. Scientifically oriented anthropologists focused on evolutionary and biological influences. Hostilities grew and even in North America, where the Boasian tradition of broad-based anthropology was the norm, some departments split and the discipline divided.
These divisions are devastating to anthropology’s ability to confront the many critical problems in the world today. There are pressing issues that demand generous engagement between ethnography, social theory, evolutionary theory, biology and socioecology. These include globalization, environmental degradation, growing inequalities, the impacts of new technologies, and social strife.
The many methodologies and theoretical investments of our diverse practitioners have led to rich understandings of human beings and being human, but at different explanatory scales. To integrate these perspectives we need a starting point. The goal of this conference, and the special symposium issue of Current Anthropology to follow, is to assemble researchers working across sub-fields and theoretical orientations and invite them to collaborate on developing ideas for integrating anthropology that run deeper than many current “biocultural approaches,” and realize these ideas via concrete case studies and innovative methodologies.
The framework we are seeking to build will include evolutionary influences, ethnographic realities, ecological niches, technologies, and cultural institutions. We need to explain gene-culture interactions as well as the sources of enormous cultural diversity in human societies. Research strategies to address the big questions require theoretical plurality and diverse methodologies. This mode of integrating approaches in anthropology will have much to offer the discipline, the academy, and society.
two gorgeous locales for these two WGF-sponsored events in November!
4th Southern Deserts Conference – “Quaternary Evolution of Deserts Landscapes and Peoples”
November 10-14, 2014
Uspallata City, Mendoza, Argentina
The central aim of the workshop is to foster and systematize a comparative approach to the archaeology of deserts from the southern hemisphere and provide the opportunity for discussing large-scale patterns of historical stability and change, and how it relates to landscape evolution. We will focus on an exploration of the dynamics and mechanisms implied in socio-demographic processes in time and space: a) Regional archaeological gaps and their meaning (bottlenecks, extinctions, relocalizations); b) Interaction of different societies: migrations, replacements, and assimilations; c) Role of information in desert societies: group boundary formation and territoriality. By pursuing a comparative archaeological perspective across continents, the workshop will provide the basis for developing long-term archaeological projects connecting disciplines and countries.
November 10-13, 2014
Queenstown, New Zealand
This combined conference of the New Zealand and the Australian anthropological societies explores and extends the critical study of cosmopolitan anthropologies by debating the theoretical value and practical applicability of an array of grounded Antipodean cosmopolitan anthropologies and by engaging systematically with the literature on cosmopolitan anthropologies from the perspective of medical anthropology. The aim is thus to further internationalize anthropological thinking and practice in New Zealand and Australia and to create a formal contribution to anthropological scholarship through the publication of two peer reviewed, edited collections drawn from the keynote addresses and plenaries and one special issue of the New Zealand-based journal Sites featuring the best quality (peer reviewed) conference papers on the theme of cosmopolitan anthropologies of the Pacific. Two prestigious keynote speakers will address the delegates, Professor Nigel Rapport ( St Andrews University, Scotland) and Prof Sharon Kaufman (University of California).
Asia Minor and South America will be busy for these late summer/early fall WGF-supported conferences!
September 10 – 14, 2014
The European Association of Archaeologists’ Annual Meetings started bridging the gap between East and West in 1994 and have become the main meeting forum for archaeologists in Europe. EAA Meetings stimulate academic debate in a variety of archaeological fields, but also enhance partnership with scholars working in related disciplines, like social anthropology. The Meetings allow especially colleagues from former socialist countries to establish professional and personal contacts that often develop into long-term co-operations. EAA Meetings attract an ever increasing number of attendees (1356 in 2013), many of whom are early-stage researchers (some 160 in 2013) seeking to discuss their results with established colleagues at an international level. This is attested also by the growing number of submissions for the Student Award, conferred on the best conference paper by a student or archaeologist working on a dissertation, and then published in the European Journal of Archaeology. As well as academic sessions and the poster exhibition, EAA Annual Meetings host a range of round tables and working party meetings where current themes in European Archaeology, as well as policies setting standards for professional practice and ethics, are discussed. These are often taken up by European institutions, such as the Council of Europe.
September 18 – 21, 2014
Both the history of the last two centuries and the present of Southeast Europe are marked by deep transformations and upheavals. For entire societies, social groups and individuals all these upheavals and crises meant the experience of fundamental discontinuities, of historical and social ruptures that divided time into periods ‘before’ and periods ‘after’, experiences that structured peoples’ lives and historical memories. In many cases the ongoing crisis became a way of life. The primary goal of the conference will not be to elucidate the natural, political, military or socioeconomic causes of societal, social or individual crises but rather will focus, from an ethnological or anthropological perspective, on the reactions of societies, of social groups, or of individuals to such crises, on their impact on the everyday life of people, on their various strategies of managing and coping with them, on the processes of adaptation and interpretation, and on peoples’ concepts and attitudes, shortly: on the cultures of crisis in Southeast Europe.
October 6-10, 2014
San Felipe, Chile
The TAAS (Teoría Arqueológica en América del Sur) was born from the need to discuss the specific situation of Latin American archaeologies and its positioning regarding global theoretical paradigms. The 7th TAAS will be the first time for this event to take place on the Pacific coast of the continent. The TAAS aims to provide the chance to open a more democratic and critical engagement between professionals, students, and a burgeoning and diverse group of local stakeholders of the past, to achieve a better theoretical, ethical and practical framework for archaeological practice. We expect to have up to 350-400 participants, including students, junior and senior archaeologists and different stakeholders (mainly indigenous representatives) from several Latin American and other countries. Due to its nature, TAAS also welcomes the participation of specialists of related disciplinary fields whose work resonates with the interests of archaeology, promoting an open discussion on a variegated set of topics.
Wenner-Gren Symposium #149, “The Death of the Secret: The Public and Private in Anthropology,” organized by Lenore Manderson (U. of Witwatersrand/Monash U.), Mark Davis (Monash U.) and Chip Colwell-Chanthaphonh (Denver Museum of Nature & Science), just recently wrapped up! It was held from March 14-20, 2014, at Tivoli Palácio de Seteais in Sintra, Portugal.
Read the organizer’s statement below, and stay tuned for a future Current Anthropology special issue featuring the papers of this symposium!
Longtime readers know that we like to announce the upcoming meetings funded through our Conference & Workshop Grant. This January, the Wenner-Gren Foundation is proud to support the 20th Congress of the Indo-Pacific Prehistory Association!
January 12-18, 2014
Siem Reap (Angkor), Cambodia
The underlying rationale of this 20th Congress of the Indo-Pacific Prehistory Association (IPPA) is to bring together indigenous Indo-Pacific and other, mainly “Western”, scholars to present papers and hold discussions on diverse themes in Indo-Pacific prehistory. As per IPPA’s normal procedure, convenors will organize sessions around topical themes in Indo-Pacific historical anthropology in the broadest sense, including themes/sessions/papers from archaeology, cultural heritage, the natural sciences, comparative linguistics, cultural anthropology and biological anthropology and genetics. The IPPA region of interest extends west to east from Pakistan to Easter Island, and north to south from Siberia to Australasia, and themes, session and papers concerning any part of this area will be welcome.
IPPA congresses are held approximately every 4 years and are always organised with in-country institutions, most recently with the Vietnam Academy of Social Sciences and the Institute of Archaeology in Hanoi, Vietnam, in late 2009. Past co-sponsors have included the National Museum of the Philippines and University of the Philippines in Manila in 2006, Academia Sinica in Taipei in 2002, and with the National Museum of Malaysia in Melaka in 1998. The 20th conference is co-organised with the Royal Academy of Cambodia and the Khmer Archaeological Society.