ASA February 2011 AN Column
Paul L. Doughty, Contributing Editor and Secretary
ASA enjoyed an excellent 2010 session in New Orleans—interesting papers, strong attendance and a business luncheon. We plan to repeat this pattern in Montreal and to that end ASA Program Chair Alice Kehoe welcomes your ideas. Please watch our website at www.aaanet.org/sections/asa/index.cfm for plans and details. At the business meeting our new president, Herb Lewis, carefully accepted the historic gavel photo from Tony Paredes who reviews his term as president and disciplinary concerns below. An interesting history of our official gavel is found on our website.
Good-bye and Fare Well
By J Anthony Paredes
It’s been an invigorating two years as president. Thanks to the efforts of many, ASA has done a lot: (1) tidying up our bylaws; (2) makeover of our website (www.aaanet.org/sections/asa/index.cfm); (3) establishing a discussion list ([email protected]); (4) compiling a (near complete) list of past officers over our 20-year history; (5) superb annual meeting sessions; (6) nurturing ties to the Association of Indigenous Anthropologists and National Association of Student Anthropologists; (7) securing a publisher (University of Alabama Press) for the Kehoe and Doughty edited collection of ASA papers, Expanding Anthropology, 1945–1980: A Generation Reflects; (8) delicious luncheon business meetings; (9) dramatically expanded membership to more than 200 members. ASA also received a substantial gift from Philip Singer to support the collaborative project, The Final Participation Observation: Cultural Anthropologists Confront Their Mortality. It will produce several 60–90 minute videorecorded interviews to be donated to AAA. Contact [email protected] for more information.
There have been disappointments, too. Despite our efforts and Section Assembly (SA) support, we did not persuade the AAA Executive Board to restore across-the-board retiree membership dues. For now, the ASA executive committee will see what comes of the EB’s review of the whole dues structure, prompted in part by our 2009 retiree-dues resolution.
Speaking of the SA, as a first-time section president I was surprised to see just how much they do. Having recently served on the AAA EB, I knew the SA is a significant force in AAA governance. Yet I still thought of the section system as a somewhat recent addition to AAA, despite being nearly 30 years old. From the inside, it is clear that the SA is an arena for many worthwhile debates. It may reflect the expanding bureaucracy of AAA, but a certain amount of bureaucracy is necessary as any organization grows and becomes more complex.
Along with that bureaucratization, I’ve been personally disturbed by the trend toward corporatization that I see in anthropology today. I took to heart President Eisenhower’s farewell address warning of the dangers of “the military industrial complex.” AAA seems laudably ever-alert to the “military” side of the equation: witness the AAA response to HTS. But, with its various partnerships and sponsorships, AAA sometimes seems to be slipping into the thrall of the industrial side—which nowadays resides as much in apps on your cell phone as in smokestacks along the skyline; witness AAA collaboration in EPIC.
Let me own up to my greatest failing as ASA president. I should have made a much bigger stink about the proposed changes to the AAA long-range plan deleting such words as “science,” “ethnological” and “human problems,” approved by the AAA Executive Board in November 2010. It turned my stomach. My only excuse is that the SA did not learn of this impending debacle until October 2010. I fired off a quick comment to the SA but assumed that there would be plenty of opportunity for open, spirited debate among the membership at large. How wrong I was. There is cause for hope. Some years ago after a similar fiasco in the Society for Applied Anthropology, we restored that organization’s original statement of purpose, crafted by the likes of Margaret Mead.
A final hopeful note: I’ve just finished reading two brilliant, erudite but blunt essays by our new president Herb Lewis (see our website and archive) documenting the dissembling, dismembered degeneration, dissolution, and dissipation of anthropology (my words, not his) during the past 45 years. Despite it all, Herb ends with an optimistic tone. Perhaps with Herb’s leadership ASA can help restore anthropology to its legitimate historic place as “the science of human differences and similarities” and along the way reclaim our moral center.
Thank you for the opportunity to serve ASA.
Tony ([email protected]) now graduates as an ordinary member of the ASA board to accompany President Herbert Lewis ([email protected]); President-Elect Paula Rubel ([email protected]); Treasurer Margo Smith ([email protected]); and Secretary and Editor Paul Doughty ([email protected]).