ASA March 2011 AN Column
Paul L. Doughty, Contributing Editor and Secretary
The 2010 ASA session in New Orleans was well attended by an average of 40 colleagues throughout a fascinating morning-long encounter. The session, Return to the Natives, featured presenters James Sabella, T Walter Dye, Elaine Kane, Tony Paredes, Alice Kehoe, Susan Kenyon, Maria Cattell, Myrdene Anderson, Barbara Joans and this writer recounting their past experiences in light of their revisits after many years. Analysis of their return visits to research sites around the world provided our perceptive discussant JoAllyn Archambault ample material for discussion and audience participation.
At the annual members’ and business luncheon held at the Monteleone Hotel, outgoing president Tony Paredes started a new tradition as he presented ASA with an historic leather gavel after reviewing issues that concern us (see the February AN column). The now official ASA presidential gavel was passed to our new leader, Herb Lewis, followed immediately by Alice Kehoe’s dramatic delivery of a diploma de honor to our startled ex-president.
Then came the winter holidays with family visits and, living in Florida, we took trips to the Kennedy Space Center and Sea World to assuage our Swedish granddaughter’s curiosity.
It was also the end of a conflicted year from global to local issues, and also in AAA whose apparent reticence in lowering dues for all retired members (regardless of income level) and the blurring of the centrality of scientific research in the discipline has left many disenchanted. ASA will continue to seek dues relief for retirees as other social science associations provide their members.
Consequently I welcomed the opportunity to begin the new year in a positive vein, traveling to Santa Fe for a board meeting of the Chijnaya Foundation. An interesting, eclectic group met there, presided over by Ralph Bolton, its founder, ASA member and the 2010 recipient of the AAA Franz Boas Award. His connection to the altiplano Quechua community of Chijnaya in Puno, Peru began as a Peace Corps volunteer in 1962–65 and was renewed in 2003 when a community member emailed him, asking Ralph to return for a visit. This led to his organizing the foundation which since then has joined with the community in meeting its needs by helping carry out ten projects there and in nine other communities in the Lake Titicaca region, dealing with health, agricultural production, education and water supply (details are available at www.chijnayafoundation.com). How rewarding it is to see anthropological knowledge and skill put to use in an effective way.
All of this served as a reminder that the 50th anniversary of the Peace Corps is this year, marking the innovative and challenging program that provided the vehicle for giving over 200,000 Americans the opportunity to learn first-hand about the diversity of human cultures while working to assist people in 139 countries (77 at present). When I helped evaluate the first PC groups in Peru in 1962–64 my thought was that although the PCVs could accomplish a variety of useful things in their two years, a major impact would be on the volunteers themselves and what they would do upon return. It can be argued that they were the major beneficiaries because for many, these were life-changing experiences leading into the field of anthropology (as happened to Bolton) or entered other social sciences and human service-oriented work. Over the years like many others, I often had former PCVs in class, as anthropology majors. It would be interesting to know how many in our profession entered it via this route. Perhaps we can find out.
In the meantime, ASA Program Chair Alice Kehoe has developed a two-session scenario for the 2011 AAA meeting. You should have received a notice of this on our listserv: one organized by Sue Kenyon ([email protected]) called “First Fieldwork,” the other organized by Leonard Plotnikov (le[email protected]) and Paula Rubel ([email protected]) titled “Mentors of Your Mentors.” We may even qualify in terms of themes, according to the leitmotif of these annual meetings: Traces, Tidemarks and Legacies.
Alas, there are some things we cannot know, but if your questions apply to ASA, please contact President Herb Lewis ([email protected] wisc.edu), past President Tony Paredes ([email protected] bellsouth.net), new President-elect, Paula Rubel ([email protected] columbia.edu), Treasurer Margo Smith ([email protected]) or Secretary/Contributing Editor Paul Doughty ([email protected]).