2015 SANA conference

Call for Track Proposals: Inequality, Equality, and Difference

Call for Tracks and Track Organizers

The 2015 conference of the Society for the Anthropology of North America (SANA)  will take place April 16-18 at John Jay College of the City University of New York with the theme “Inequality, Equality, Difference” (see below). The conference will be organized around several tracks, each comprising two days of sustained discussion and analysis around issues of key importance to North American society.  We are now seeking proposals from individuals and groups to lead and develop tracks, which should relate to the overall conference theme.

Track Editors will each design two days of programming that creates opportunities for 15-45 conference participants.  They will work closely with SANA leadership, as they recruit some submissions based in their own networks and reserve slots for submissions solicited through a forthcoming Call for Papers.  We encourage themes that are broad enough to speak to an array of thinkers but specific enough to foster deep and coherent inquiry.  In addition to standard paper panels, track organizers are invited to explore alternative formats for sessions such as: roundtables; response panels to previously-circulated papers; interlocutor sessions with informants or activists; keynote talks; keyword sessions; and field trips.  Track editors may want to encourage pre-conference interactions (e.g., circulated papers, thoughts, shared documents, postings, etc.) so as to make conference interactions as substantive and productive as possible.  The conference, perhaps best conceived as a kind of mini-school, is cumulative.  It works best when participants make connections between sessions and thematic discussions build over the course of the two-day engagement.  Each track should conclude with a meeting to identify emerging themes, keywords and observations that can be shared with all conference participants at the closing session.

Proposals are accepted from everyone from graduate students to senior faculty and should include:

  • Track Justification (200-300 words): Present the themes’ breadth and depth and relevance to North American anthropology.
  • Program Ideas and Preliminary Structure (200-300 words): A proposal (as specific as possible) about the exact form of the two days of programming (roughly two 6-hour days).  Priority is given to novel organization and potential for active involvement of all track participants.
  • Recruitment Strategy: (150-200 words): As specific a plan as possible for recruiting participants, including names and abstracts of potential/confirmed participants.  Please remember: several slots will likely be added once abstracts are received from the general Call for Papers.  Priority is given to inclusive proposals that welcome a range of participants.

Proposals should be submitted as an attachment and in-line text in an email to Michael Polson, Conference Chair, at [email protected] by November 14.   Questions may also be directed to this email.  Decisions will be made shortly after the AAA conference in December after which a Call for Papers will be circulated.

Conference theme: Inequality, Equality and Difference

Inequality has recently found its way back into popular discourse.  Buffeted by economic and ecological crises and haunted by a welfare-turned-surveillance state, many have come to doubt the ability of the present social system to produce an equitable, sustainable society.  This doubt undergirded social movements from the Right and Left, with widely ranging demands, and has in turn been taken up particularly by a liberal economic, political, and intellectual “establishment.”  Some see a genuine opportunity to reduce and eliminate inequality while others see a cynical rearguard defense of an unequal system in crisis.

North American anthropologists have historically had a great deal to say about inequality.  From bodies to body politics, inequalities can be made highly visible for radical or conservative aims or effaced under other logics of difference and power (e.g. “national security,” “public safety,” “economic growth”).  Inequality can be many things: lived experience, social metrics, an administered and organized system of difference, a deviation from an ideal state of equality, a legal criteria, a problem in need of activist or institutional intervention.  Inequality, in these definitions, doggedly and systemically persists—as does the belief in an often under-theorized equality. In this vein, we ask:

  • When does inequality become legible and illegible?  Through what discourses, practices, and logics? To whom? Toward what end?
  • Who makes interventions to address inequality? How do these articulate with or oppose systems of rule? What rules, rulers, and rulings stabilize unequal conditions and deliver equality?
  • How do frames of “inequality” and “equality” differ from other frames of difference and power, like those that separate humans from the natural world, citizens from non-citizens, states from people, able-bodied and differently-abled people, and propertied from non-propertied?
  • Why do some forms of inequality—gay marriage, drug laws, healthcare and food systems—seem amenable to a degree of rectification while other systems of inequality production—voter laws, immigrant rights, redevelopment, trade pacts, intelligence capacities, racialized policing—seem impervious to redress?
  • Can conditions of inequality be something other than oppressive?  How do people re-signify inequality?
  • Where and what is equality?

In this conference, we aim to ferret out how anthropologists frame inequality, equality and difference, how these frames inhere in society, and what realities they reflect and refract.