AAA 2014 Sustainability Panel [CFP]

Published: March 24th, 2014

Category: Conference/Symposium Opportunities

Elena Wilhoit of Northwestern University is organizing a panel for the 2014 AAA meeting. The theme is “Producing a Four Fields Anthropology of ‘Sustainability’”. To submit your paper to the panel, email the team. The deadline for all AAA submissions is April 15, 2014. The panel’s abstract and submission guidelines are thus:

As people around the world face growing challenges including social inequality, climate change, food insecurity, and disease, discourses over ‘sustainability’ have come to dominate policy and some social science work on such issues. This session brings anthropologists into conversation around the uses and meanings of sustainability in anthropology to create an understanding of the concept that attends to cultural, historical, and environmental contingency. Each subfield offers unique insights into questions of ‘sustainability’: archaeologists examine past societies’ responses to environmental challenges, including the implementation of creative, sustainable practices, or devastating failures to do so; cultural anthropologists are investigating the potential for ‘sustainable development’ by incorporating the interaction between social, economic and environmental concerns and the work of social movements in demanding food security and market reform; linguistic anthropologists document language shift and revitalization, ethnobotanical knowledge and registers of scientific expertise; and biological anthropologists critically investigate the effects of stressors on well-being and of the effects of intergenerational transmissions of externally and socially-influenced health disparities.

The goal is to draw concrete, practical connections between past and present practices and challenges, including but not limited to climate change, food insecurity, social/economic inequalities, shortcomings of industrial agriculture, and their associated health concerns such as growth, nutrition, and unequal distribution of disease risk.  Achieving a new framework for discussing sustainabilities requires uniting the strengths of anthropologists with different methodological and theoretical toolboxes.  This session seeks papers from across the subfields to re-examine and reformulate meanings of sustainability in the field, and to produce a vocabulary for understanding this concept at both the scholarly and public levels. Uniting strengths to construct a detailed vocabulary for the critical analysis of so-called ‘sustainable’ practices in a given place and time, anthropologists of all stripes can positively contribute to the discourses surrounding this common political buzzword.

Questions might include: What political and economic factors impact the potential for various past and present ‘sustainabilities?’ How are these shaped by political structures and identity politics? How can a semiotic approach that takes sustainability as a lexical sign, register, or emblem yield new insights into social differentiation? How can investigations of growth, nutrition, reproduction and immunity incorporate deeper attention to history and culture in seeking long term social, economic and environmental sustainabilities? What has been ‘sustainable’ in the past, for whom, and for how long?  Can formerly ‘sustainable’ practices speak to policy? What chronotopic framings accompany sustainability talk, whether in juxtaposition to those of climate change, in post/colonial context, or regarding indigenous rights?  Can community-level insights be scaled up to the global?


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