ASA March 2010 AN Column

Anthropology News • March 2010 • Volume 51 • Issue 3
Paul L Doughty, Contributing Editor

As I think about writing an abstract for the 2010 Annual Meeting on our session topic, “Old Friends: Revisiting Field Sites, Decades Later,” the horrific events in Haiti snap my attention back to other earthquakes in El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, Nicaragua and Peru that involved my work and disciplinary perspectives. Like many of us, my experiences were inadvertent events that caught me at the “right” place and moment. Given the nature of much anthropological work however, this is not surprising, nor should such episodes be foreign to our professional awareness and knowledge. Indeed, sociocultural breakdowns may occur in the aftermath of such catastrophes producing important cultural and political changes, as Anthony Wallace has thoroughly demonstrated. In cases like the Haitian tragedy, there are major consequences in the offing that will affect several nations, not only the Haitians. What is to be done?

President Virginia Dominguez quite rightly put out a statement calling attention to some of our connections and professional roles that could develop in response to these occurrences. As it happens, anthropologists have long had a relationship with Haiti, including the pioneering Haitian anthropologist Jean Price-Mars, Melville J Herskovits, Roger Bastide, Zora Neale Hurston, Katherine Dunham, Sidney Mintz, Remy Bastien, Richard Schaedel, Alfred Metraux, Paul Farmer and my Florida colleague Gerald Murray, among many others. Virginia Dominguez calls for us to become professionally involved in this vast and complex disaster. Murray pointed out to me that very few in the discipline have the ability to apply their science as such in the immediate context of the cataclysm. In the long-term recovery, however, a broad spectrum of problematic conditions will inevitably require the kind of input we can supply, if we are so moved to go beyond the academic sphere. I, for one, hope that we will accept these challenges because we can make important contributions. To put this in a larger context, as of this submission (January 15) none of our “sister” associations in sociology, political science, psychology or geography had issued a statement like that by Dominguez.

Here we go again! We will continue to build upon our increasingly popular invited sessions at the annual AAA meeting, this year in New Orleans. Our innovative program chair, Alice Kehoe, is putting together a session sure to capture the interest of dozens of members. If you are interested, contact Alice at akehoe@ or 3014 N Shepard Ave, Milwaukee WI 53211-3436 (414/962-5937) by the March 15 deadline.

Meanwhile, your hard-working, fast emailing, in-touch officers have been following through on our well-attended annual business meeting decisions. Meeting in a “sumptuous” private room in a fine Philadelphia restaurant, we agreed to forward our concerns over the high dues rates charged emeritus and retired members as a resolution to the Section Assembly, which has subsequently agreed to forward it to the AAA Executive Board. With all the “whereases” aside, we agreed: “Be it resolved that emeritus and retired members be encouraged to continue their roles in the AAA recognizing their status in a manner that includes a significant reduction in yearly dues commensurate with those of other professional organizations.” We await the board’s action on this matter.

Meanwhile, our vigilant treasurer, Margo Smith, reported that we now have the most members ever, 169, an increase of 18% since last spring! This increase is the result of a concerted effort by “this administration” to bring in as many of the hundreds of retired and emeritus AAA members out there. Be reminded that there are no age or retirement criteria for membership, however, and attendance at our annual meeting reflects a broad interest. Plan to join us to help anthropology keep the past in contemporary context.