Planned ASA Activities at the 2020 AAA Meeting

Whatever the uncertainties about holding this year’s AAA meeting physically in St. Louis, the ASA has submitted a compelling slate of panels. The program will be announced once the proposals have passed through the evaluation process.

The AAA program committee and staff have been working diligently to accommodate the likelihood that many if not most members will not be willing or able to travel to St. Louis and gather in confined spaces. This applies to the ASA, with its members even more vulnerable to health risks.

So, whether the annual meeting will be a hybrid of physical and online events or completely virtual online, all ASA members are strongly urged to participate.

ASA Activities at the 2019 AAA Meeting in Vancouver

The Association of Senior Anthropologists presented a rich and varied program in Vancouver, with eight distinct events. Five were panels, three of which were traditional paper-sessions, another focused on visual imagery, and one was a celebratory session in honor of First Nation anthropologists. All were intended to challenge any lingering notion of a bounded ethnography or of static visual, historic representations and even of a bounded truth. Three other events were designed to cement the mutuality of interests and concerns of participants in our program: an interactive mentoring session between senior and junior anthropologists that was co-sponsored with the Association for Anthropology, Gerontology and the Life Course (AAGE); a harbor cruise and tour of 15 “labour heritage” sites; and our ever lively business lunch.


Thursday, November 21

“The Lifespan of Ethnographic Reports: The Importance of Revisits (Part 1)” (3-0225)
8:00–9:45 a.m. West, Room 112
Paper Session Presenters: Moshe Shokeid, Mary E. Hegland, Mark S. Mosko, Maria G. Cattell, Stanley Brandes, Myrdene Anderson

“The Lifespan of Ethnographic Reports: The Importance of Revisits (Part 2)” (3-0565)
10:15 a.m.–12:00 p.m. West Room 112
Paper Session Presenters: Erika Loeffler Friedl, Sharon Gmelch, Frederick H. Damon, R. Thomas Rosin, John B. Page.
Discussants: H. Russell Bernard, James Tim Wallace, III

“Association of Senior Anthropologists (ASA) Business Meeting/Luncheon” (3-0645)
12:15–1:45 p.m. Offsite – Rogue Terrace, C –200 Burrard St

“Harbour Cruise and Tour of BC/Vancouver Labour Heritage Sites” (3-0990)
2:00–6:00 p.m. Offsite – BC Labour Heritage Center

Friday, November 22

“Anthropology in and of the Life Course: An ASA & AAGE Mentorship Event” (4-0800)
2:00–3:45 p.m. East Room 12.
Organizers: James T. Wallace III, Celeste Pang

“Honoring First Nations’ Anthropologists” (4-1185)
4:15–6:00 p.m.
Paper Presenters: Jay Miller, Lucy Fowler Williams, Margaret Seguin Anderson, Marianne Ignace, Sergei Kan, Alice Kehoe

Saturday, November 23

“Conversations Across Generations: Photography Over the Years” (5-0785)
2:00–3:45 p.m. West Room 122
Presenters: Pablo Landa, Jeffrey Ehrenreich, Anita Spring, Malcolm Collier, Stanley Brandes, Sofia Pinedo-Padoch, Herbert Lewis

“INFORMATION / DISINFORMATION: The Shaky Ground of Knowledge Production” (5-1155)
4:15–6:00 p.m. West Room 118
Paper Presenters: Robert Marshall, Patricia Antoniello, Jonathan M. Marks, Susan Trencher, Stephen Reyna.
Discussants: Louise Lamphere, Maria-Luisa Achino-Loeb


The two-part Thursday paper session, “The Lifespan of Ethnographic Reports: The Importance of Revisits,” picked up a theme that has been close to the heart of ASA members: the provisional nature of ethnography, given the ever changing condition of social life, hence the need for return visits to the field to enlarge our parameters of observation as much as possible. The papers themselves were the work of “veteran anthropologists” who have done just that: gone back to the field, observed the changes, and altered their conclusions and, perhaps, their perspectives.

Friday’s sessions included a mentoring workshop and a celebratory session reminding us of the work of earlier anthropologists. “Anthropology in and of the Life Course: An ASA & AAGE Mentorship” paired senior scholars whose work focuses on issues connected to aging and the life course with junior scholars in the same field, even graduate students. It was set up as a “speed-mentoring workshop” with pre-selected mentors and mentees sharing ideas and rotating to different participants. The object of the workshop was to help create networks taking advantage of the life/work experience of senior scholars and the novel ideas/interests of junior scholars.

“Honoring First Nations’ Anthropologists” then turned our gaze to the beginnings of anthropology on the North American continent, describing the substantive contributions of First Nations’ scholars, their role as consistent eyes on the ethnographic observation of life in this continent, and as interlocutors with anthropologists from elsewhere, notably Boas. Participants in this session lamented the oblivion to which the work of First Nations’ anthropologists has been relegated: hence the incentive for this celebratory session as “homage” to their forgotten work.

Saturday’s sessions included a heavily visual session, “Conversations Across Generations: Photography Over the Years,” intended to trace the changes in visual representation on which we have come to rely. Participants in this session presented images that made comparisons between early and current use of photography in the field and how it has changed even within each anthropologist’s career. Issues of technological change, globalization, and the consequent changes in field relationships and in the politics of representation were considered.

The second session, “INFORMATION / DISINFORMATION: The Shaky Ground of Knowledge Production” focused on the thorny, often disingenuous distinction between facts and interpretations. The central concern here was to consider ways to distinguish between the real, thoughtful existence of differing interpretations and the fabrication of “alt-facts” for self-interested purposes. Spanning biological, medical, and cultural anthropology, as well as the fields of linguistics and philosophy, these papers exhibited a common sentiment. We need to hold on to our trust in the importance of “relative truth” while not falling prey to the sentiment occasionally surfacing that truth is negotiable.


The ASA organized a field trip that was different from years past—a boat cruise through the historical heart of the wonderful city that is Vancouver. Participants learned about Vancouver’s history from the comfort of a paddle wheel boat, the MVP Constitution.

The boat was filled to capacity for a fascinating two-hour excursion into Vancouver’s rich and diverse labor history. Accompanied by guides from the British Columbia Labour Heritage Center, the tour followed the Burrard Inlet between downtown and North Vancouver. Sites visited are of significance to the workers’ heritage and working class struggle that commemorate the importance of labor unions, individuals, collective actions, and much more. Each story reflects the political, economic, and social conditions of the time. Many link interrelated events or illustrate causes that span decades, such as the labor movement’s efforts to prevent injury and death on the job.

The tour looked beyond the headlines to explore little-known details about important events, such as the Depression era “relief” Camps that generated the On-to-Ottawa Trek of 1935. Hundreds of unemployed workers climbed aboard freight trains on the Vancouver waterfront to take the demand of “Work and Wages!” to the federal government in Ottawa, Ontario, and were charged by Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers. Government unemployment insurance and other programs for workers owe much to the On-to-Ottawa Trek and numerous other collective actions in British Columbia’s labor history, including the earlier role of First Nations’ longshoremen in forming one of the first waterfront unions in 1906. Tour participants learned about workplace disasters such as the 1945 S. S. Greenhill Park explosion and the 1958 collapse of the Second Narrows Bridge, which shaped the fight for workplace health and safety; and epic labor struggles such as the Northland Navigation fight against injunctions.

Themes of division, racism, sexism, scab workers, violence, and vigilante mobs, run through the events introduced in the tour. Places seen related to social justice, celebration, art, ceremony, storytelling, and adventures, revealing the resilience and tenacity that permeate those events. They remind us that the causes and values Canadians stand for are steeped in their past, and provide us all with lessons of caution, strategy, and inspiration for contemporary struggles.

The guides told these stories, with historical photos on hand to bring the events to life. They also discussed the overall evolution of the waterfront from a largely industrial landscape (sawmills, canneries, etc.) to the primarily recreational space it is today.

The tour also was a journey through Canada’s “Gateway to the Pacific”—the Burrard Inlet—passing close to many of Vancouver’s most famous landmarks, such as Stanley Park, the busy cruise ship terminals, the spectacular city skyline, historic Gastown, the breathtaking North Shore Mountains, and more. Although forewarned that Vancouver weather in mid- November is often cool and drizzling, tour participants enjoyed a sparklingly clear afternoon and inspirational sunset.

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Photos from the ASA 2011 Montreal Meeting – People and Events