ASA19: University of East Anglia, Norwich 3-6 September 2019
Theme: ANTHROPOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVES ON GLOBAL CHALLENGES
Following on from conversations in Oxford (ASA2018), ASA2019 asks how, in the context of intense environmental, technological and social change, a renewed anthropology perceives, interprets and responds to the global agendas embedded in the Global Challenges. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which articulates the universal vision of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, advocates a model of sustainable ‘human development’ and social change that reflects on the proposition that there are ‘global’ challenges requiring multilateral response and world-wide academic or ‘scientific’ cooperation. The Agenda has recently seeped into the international research environment through the Global Challenges, a framework for enquiry that compels research to be problem-led, policy-relevant, interdisciplinary and impact-driven, a roll-call of characteristics that jar with the classical theoretical and methodological approach of anthropologists.
Whilst anthropologists work beyond the orbit of development objectives and frameworks and across the diverse cultural contexts of contemporary societies, the Global Challenges raise critical questions and offer new areas of enquiry for the discipline. How, for example, might we explore creative responses to global agendas and new forms of identity and relatedness, and what issues might the global challenges pose to the manifestation/realisation of this creativity? How might we challenge the substantive nature of the Agenda by applying our critical, enquiry-driven approach to its vision of progress?
ASA2019 will provide the forum for discussing these questions to draw out new perspectives on how anthropology might shape and be shaped by global agendas. We would like to open up anthropological debate about dominant imaginaries, social justice, and the hazards of both engagement and disengagement with how pasts and futures are envisaged and materialised. Whether we are concerned with the social, political, material, aesthetic or medical, we aim to stimulate an open conversation about what is going on behind global agendas and research frameworks, and the epistemology, ethical claims and utopian visions of the Global Challenges framework. There is a critical need for us to come together more effectively as a discipline and to think of how a collective and connected Anthropology might engage afresh with global development agendas. We encourage theoretical musings, practical insights and methodological reflections on the role of anthropology and anthropologists in engaging with and affecting these challenges.
We have organised the conference around four thematic areas.
Our first theme will focus on the questions thrown up by considering Global Challenges, and development visions, from multiple locations and positions. It will address new political economies and forms of dependence, and questions of how migration is remaking transnational relatedness and identities, and will examine the multiple scales at which power is embedded in the architecture, vision and implementation of the Global Challenges. Panels will deal with questions of justice and inequality in the context of global political and economic expansion, inviting colleagues to think about the impact of dominant forms of knowledge (scientific, Western) and the historically- and geographically-specific actions that have led to such ‘global’ problems as climate change, environmental injustice, institutionalised poverty, and multi-scalar inequalities and inequities. Within this, we invite panel proposals to stimulate debate on topics such as what the new geo-politics of poverty looks like, how social justice is being refigured by new activisms, and what is happening to rights and the 'undoing' of democratic structures, as well as migration and movement, transnational forms of kinship and labour, populist resurgences, chronic conflict, and the ways in which dominant/patriarchal forms of leadership impact on and initiate response within Indigenous communities.
2. Identities and Subjectivities
The second theme will examine the specifics of knowledges in practice, focussing on the one hand, on the ways in which Indigenous communities, minority groups and diaspora deal with the Global Challenges; and on the other hand, on the ways in which anthropologists have necessarily moved away from the classical model of anthropological fieldwork that is so central to the practice and identity of the discipline. This theme will focus on identities, subjectivities, and capabilities, and on how diverse groups frame futures from their distinctive perspectives and ontologies. Expanded imaginaries and aspirations are enabled through digital engagements and virtual social relations, and inequalities perceived in relation to global others, whilst the well-being of bodies, persons and nature are still experienced in the life-course where health policies, schooling, bodily integrity, environmental relations and political voice remain important components. We invite panel proposals that will generate debate on creativity, knowledge co-design and new forms of social relations, that contemplate new forms of identity and the subjectivities around issues of sustainability, and generate innovative thinking around the methodological contribution anthropologists might make to generate more equal, inclusive and just co-productions of knowledge.
The third theme will examine the temporalities of new global futures in world heritage. As postwar utopias are in a state of ruination, people are mobilised in search of new political formations. But as the global political futures of our world are increasingly challenged, many feel nostalgia for lost futures where the past seems, to many, a better place to be. Anthropology is well placed to study temporalities of loss, return and reclamation that are often embedded in the materialities of political pasts, presents and futures, as indeed debates about ruination and regeneration of global cities have shown. The study of such materialities can inform an agenda for an anthropology of decolonisation as part of a wider range of global challenges. We invite panel proposals that examine the arts and archaeologies of decolonisation, and the anthropology of art and heritage to link the materialities of decolonisation with the making of new futures, often conceived in terms of new spiritualities and socialities.
4. The Future of 'Traditional' Art Practices and Knowledge.
The final theme asks how anthropology might assist in understanding and revealing the challenges for art practices and local knowledge entailed by Global Challenge agendas, including those linked to First World economic constructs and notions of progress. In addition, we ask how might local art practices respond to substantive global issues such as climate change? Proposals for panels, workshops and labs are invited to discuss the challenges and dilemmas faced worldwide. We encourage participation by practitioners, and hope to feature responses by contemporary artists and by craftspeople engaging, first-hand, with the Global Challenges. For example, in the use of low-impact and carbon-free technologies - once considered outdated but now reassessed as modern and responsible.