Upcoming August Conferences

This upcoming August will be a busy month for the Wenner-Gren Foundation’s conference program, with two conferences taking place on two continents. Find out more below!


Africa, Anthropology and the Millennium Development Goals

August 13-14, 2012

Nairobi, Kenya

This meeting of the Pan-African Anthropological Association will turn an anthropological eye towards the so-called Millennium Development Goals, sets of development benchmarks set by the United Nations in 2000 with the aim of addressing widespread problems of extreme poverty, education, and social inequality in all 193 member nations, with a special focus on Africa and the developing world. Nearly a decade and a half later, it has become apparent that the intended goals of the MDG’s have not be achieved in Africa, and in fact the continent has backslid in key areas such as infant mortality and HIV prevention rates in sub-Saharan states. Whereas the MDG targets are clear, there are underlying forces which drive human behavior and which, if not taken into account, have the potential to derail the achievement of these goals. The conference will thus seek to examine how anthropology and anthropologists can address the cultural factors affecting the attainment of MDG targets and how they have so far engaged other disciplines and policy makers to provide solutions.


18th Annual Meeting of the European Association of Archaeologists

August 29 – September 1, 2012

Hensinki, Finland

The EAA’s annual conference aims to bring together archaeologists from all parts of Europe, the United States and other parts of the world to exchange ideas, develop partnerships, and to stimulate academic debate in a variety of archaeological fields, and to coordinate and enhance the management of cultural resources and the development of the archaeological profession, especially in the new democracies of Eastern Europe. These goals are acheived by dividing the conference into three major thematic blocks: Managing the Archaeological Record & Cultural Heritage; Archaeology of Today: Theortetical and Methodological Perspectives; and Archaeology & Material Culture: Interpreting the Archeological Record. The information shared at the conference will be reflected in future installments of the EAA’s publications, European Journal of Archaeology and The European Archaeologist.


Wenner-Gren Symposia: Alternative Pathways to Complexity

Häringe Castle as viewed from pool

As summer approaches, we are pleased to report that another Wenner-Gren symposium went off beautifully. Wenner-Gren Symposium #145 on “Alternative Pathways to Complexity:  Evolutionary Trajectories in the Middle Paleolithic and Middle Stone Age,” was held from June 1-8, 2012, at Häringe Slott, near Stockholm, Sweden.  Organizers of the conference were Erella Hovers (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem) and Steven Kuhn (University of Arizona).  The venue was of historic significance, as Häringe Castle is the former country estate of Axel Wenner-Gren, the Foundation’s benefactor.

A more detailed report on the results of the conference and a list of those who participated will be posted in the coming weeks.

Group photo, Alternative Pathways to Complexity: Evolutionary Trajectories in the Middle Paleolithic and Middle Stone Age

Upcoming June-July Conferences

Through our programs, the Wenner-Gren Foundation provides funding for a wide variety of conferences and workshops that advance innovative research and address contentious debates within the field of anthropology. Below are information on three upcoming Wenner-Gren sponsored conferences, taking place in the months of June and July.




2012 Meeting of The Society of Africanist Archaeologists (SAfA)

June 20-23, 2012

The Archaeology Centre

Victoria College, The University of Toronto

The biennial conference of the Society of Africanist Archaeologists (SAfA) is the primary international venue for Africanist archaeology and meets alternately in Europe and North America. The conference covers the full range of topics in African archaeology from research on human origins through to the archaeology of colonial contact.  The 2012 meeting, to be held from June 20-23 on the campus of Victorica College at the University of Toronto, will be the first time the University of Toronto will host the SAfA meetings. The conference is supported by the Archaeology Centre at the University of Toronto and the Royal Ontario Museum and will be held on the campus of Victoria College. The theme of the 2012 biennial meeting of SAfA is “Exploring Diversity, Discovering Connections”. The archaeological record of the African continent is characterized by diversity. It is the goal of the meetings to bring scholars together who work across this vast continent to delineate the scale of this diversity as well as to explore underlying connections. To highlight this theme we are organizing a plenary session with participants in the Harvard Kalahari Project in which we they will be looking back at this project and how it succeeded in integrating disciplinary approaches.



Anthropology in the World

June 8-10, 2012

The Royal Anthropological Institute

British Museum, Clore Centre

Anthropology is taught and practiced mainly within universities, and there are many excellent disciplinary histories which document the way that this has come about. However, its great importance outside academia in a whole host of areas of public life is less well charted. The aim of this conference is to redress this balance by examining systematically the various spheres where anthropology may be influential, including (but not confined to); medicine, human rights, gender, development, law, media (especially the visual media), tourism and heritage. This conference is international in scope, but has particular resonance in the UK, and indeed in Europe more widely, where there is a significant move toward channelling government funding away from arts and social sciences exclusively toward the hard sciences. We would argue that this is short-sighted and simplistic, but that the best way we can demonstrate the importance of the subject is to create the most public forum in which to demonstrate and discuss anthropology’s significance outside academia.



EASA (European Association of Social Anthropologists) 2012: Uncertainty and Disquiet

July 10-13, 2012

University of Paris Ouest Nanterre La Défense

Anxiety is a fundamental characteristic of human nature. All living entities have biological devices that enable them to face danger (escape, aggression, concealment). This is often studied by the social sciences under the heading of ‘stress’. Human beings, however, differentiate themselves from other species through their reflexivity, which introduces an uncertainty that cannot be reduced to the consequences of their perception. The aim of such an EASA biennial conference is to gather various perspectives and understandings which are developed within the anthropological project. The conference will allow for both an intra-disciplinary appraisal of what anthropology lends to other disciplines (hypothesis, methods, perspectives), and for a critique of the constant reshaping of a profession caught between philosophical ambitions and technical expertise. The call for an anthropology of uncertainty and disquiet seems to meet this requirement to bring together anthropologists working on cognition and the biological foundations of the human, anthropologists developing phenomenological approaches to what living a life means and how it is performed, and anthropologists devoted to the endless task of making sense of the contemporary and the complexities of the social world.

Wenner-Gren and the “Closet Chickens”

In its ongoing commitment to the advancement of anthropology, the Wenner-Gren Foundation works to foster connections between researchers around the world through sponsorship of a wide range of conferences, workshops and events. Occasionally these projects take on a life of their own and expand greatly even after the original event has expired. One such offshoot project is known to its members as the “Closet Chickens”, an informal digital exchange between archaeologists interested in Native American participation in the discipline. Recently we reached out to the Network’s principle figures, Dr. Joe E. Watkins of the University of Oklahoma and Dr. Deborah Nichols of Dartmouth College, to talk a little about the Network, how it got started, and what it does.


What is the Closet Chickens network and how did it come about? What was the importance of Wenner-Gren in its origins?

The nucleus of the “Closet Chickens” developed out of conference held at Dartmouth College in May 2001 titled “On the Threshold: Native American-Archaeologist Relations in the Twenty-first Century.” The conference, funded by the Wenner-Gren Anthropological Foundation and led by co-organizers Deborah Nichols and Joe Watkins, brought together a large number of archaeologists of Native American heritage in an attempt to evaluate the relationships not only between archaeologists and Native American communities, but also to look at the impact of the discipline on Native Americans who practiced archaeology. Continuing discussion of the issues raised at the conference on emails during the following led to the establishment of a nameless listserv aimed at expanding not only the discussion but also the parties involved in it.

The Closet Chickens are “birds of a feather” who do tend to flock together. Many of its members are American Indians who practice archaeology, but there are non-Indian archaeologists, too. In general it is an online support group that discusses various issues as they arise. Often comments relate to contemporary issues that impact the practice of archaeology by American Indians, but as often other threads of discussion relate to repatriation, ethics, decolonizing the discipline, Indigenous Archaeology, and many other issues. Many of the established archaeologists on the listserv are mentors to the professionally younger archaeologists who participate.

The listserv also serves as an email discussion forum where topics are often subjected to scrutiny. Occasionally discussions become heated, but more often than not such discussions end when the participants have seemingly discussed the issues to completion. It is a support system which has helped young archaeologists who often feel to be on the outside of a general archaeological trajectory.


Why is it important in the context of contemporary American archaeology?

We feel the Closet Chickens is important in terms of contemporary American archaeology in a couple of ways. First, it provides a semi-protected forum for archaeologists whose perspectives tend to mesh with Indigenous ideas concerning the colonialist practices of anthropology and archaeology and who work closely with tribes and First nations and tribal communities. This forum allows members to openly discuss ideas and issues that might be too sensitive for discussion in a truly “public” forum. It also permits younger archaeologists to speak candidly about issues they have or are encountering in their readings, study, and early careers and discuss strategies to address them.

Secondly, and somewhat importantly, the listserv allows for ease of mentoring between those who have been “in the business” for longer periods to help others who are in the early stages of their careers or education tenure. Professional advice, open reading of materials, sometimes controversial discussion on topics, and even internal disagreements help us understand not only what our own perspectives and viewpoints are, but also to understand how our ideas have grown and continue to grow. It sounds a bit corny, perhaps, but it also provides a protected space within which to relax.


What has it accomplished so far and where do you see it going in the next few years? Next decade? Etc.

Its primary focus is on continuing conversations about the impact of archaeology globally on the heritage of Indigenous populations. Archaeology, once known as the handmaiden of colonialism, is continually challenged by Indigenous people to become accountable to the cultural groups whose heritage is under scrutiny. The group allows a safe area for discussion outside of formal academic settings, where students can gamble with ideas and points and where established authors also can openly discuss ideas without fear of retribution or ridicule.

The group has expanded each year since its inception and we hope that, over the course of the next decade, a larger group of younger archaeologists who are attentive to Indigenous concepts of culture will be able to contribute to a more rounded practice of anthropology and archaeology. Members “nominate” others who they feel would contribute to the discussions on the listserv. We have non-Natives, Natives, Australians, Maori, and a generous mix of non-described individuals who contribute to the discussion in numerous ways. The group has had some in-depth discussions about individuals who were precluded from the “flock” after some intense and often heated deliberations. The more established archaeologists try to stay outside of discussions as much as possible (perhaps too much on occasion) as we generally believe the Closet Chickens is a place for younger people to test their wings, but we do chime in as necessary, especially to encourage debate and discussion.

Wenner-Gren March-April Conferences

We’re pleased to announce three new conferences that will be held this Spring!

The “International Conference on the Genetics of the Peoples of Africa and the Transatlantic African Diaspora” will be conducted by the Institute of African-American Research at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. The conference aims to bring together scholars in order to conduct the first comprehensive assessment of genetic knowledge of African-descended groups on both sides of the Atlantic, with an emphasis on how such insights address contemporary health disparities.

March 19-20, Friday Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill


The “European Human Behavior and Evolution Association {EHBEA)” is an annual conference aiming to create an international forum for theorists working on applying evolutionary theory to human behavior, with special emphasis placed on fostering collaboration between research regions (especially outside of Europe). This coming session at Durham University will be the fourth since the association’s founding in 2009 and will feature our own President, Dr. Leslie C. Aiello.

March 28-29, Durham University, UK


“Arts and Aesthetics in a Globalizing World” is a conference administered by the United Kingdom’s Association of Social Anthropologists in collaboration with New Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University intended to explore the shifting relationship between art, aesthetics, and anthropology in their widest contemporary sense and experiences.

April 3-6, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi


For more information on our conference and workshop grants, visit our Programs page.

Wenner-Gren Symposium: The Anthropology of Potentiality

A note on Wenner-Gren’s most recent symposium.

A Wenner-Gren Symposium on “The Anthropology of Potentiality,” was held from October 28-November 4, 2011, near Teresópolis, Brazil.  Organizers of the meeting were Karen-Sue Taussig (U. of Minnesota) and Klaus Hoeyer (U. of Copenhagen). Eighteen scholars from Denmark, China, the United Kingdom, and the United States explored how anthropology can develop our understandings of the medical practices where potentiality is articulated and how such articulations interact with moral notions of humanness. For a complete report on the symposium and a list of participants, please follow this link.