ASAP Forum

Posts and Reposts from the Association for the Anthropology of Policy

Readmission Policy and State-NGO-Funder Relations in Malawi
By Rachel Silver
Originally: Anthropology News Online (May 2, 2019)
Temporary link is here

Winner of the 2018 ASAP Graduate Paper Prize.

In her award-winning paper, Silver notes that “anthropological studies seldom explore how relationships of power and authority are shaped and transformed among international development organizations, states, and non-state actors, and how these relationships then influence development policy and practice.” To address that gap, she aims to “examine power in development through one ethnographic case—the 2016 government-led, internationally-funded review of Malawi’s 1993 Readmission Policy, which banned the permanent expulsion of pregnant girls from public schools.” She concludes that “through control of the policy reform process, MoEST officials ensured state control of its outcome, complicating the assumption that African states are simply weakened by the redirection of international aid.”

Notes from the Section Leadership: ASAP in Review and Prospect
By Carol MacLennan and Paul Stubbs (ASAP Co-Presidents)
Originally: Anthropology News Online (March 6, 2019)
Temporary link is here

Provides a review of ASAP by the two incoming co-presidents.

“Our finances remain strong, and we have a healthy surplus that we will put to good use in widening ASAP’s activities and, in particular, supporting graduate students, early career scholars, and attracting those outside academia and those working in disciplines in dialogue with the anthropology of policy to come to the AAA Annual Meeting.”

“In the future, we will continue to expand the activities of ASAP and use every opportunity to reflect on the state of the art of the anthropology of policy, some twenty years after it emerged as a branch of the discipline through the pioneering edited collection by Chris Shore and Susan Wright.”

Situating Policy in an Unsettled World at the 2018 Annual Meeting
By Theodore Powers
Originally: Anthropology News Online (November 5, 2018)
Temporary link is here

Provides a preview of the ASAP panels that will be held at the annual meeting of the American Anthropological Association in San Jose, California. As a set, the panels:

“. . . reflect both human responses to, and the broader social, political, and economic implications of, policy processes in the neoliberal era. The panels engage critically with the political dynamics and exceptional circumstances that ‘authoritarian neoliberalism’ has produced and the different ways that people navigate these in their everyday lives.”

Forecasting Policy Trends
By Kristina Hook
Originally: Anthropology News Online (July 13, 2018)
Archival link is here

Describes opportunities for anthropologists “to inject a human-focused approach” in the area of predictive technologies for public policy questions.

“Future prognostications tend to baffle each successive generation, as familiar technologies and approaches branch off in surprising directions. Predicting the future of anthropological policy studies, including its makings, workings, contexts, agents, and effects, is thus akin to tracing an individual wave during a tsunami.”

“To effectively engage a policy process, we must aim to make our contributions actionable—not just interesting. To do so, while remaining true to our strengths of nuance and complexity, integrated anthropological approaches across our field’s subfields promise sophisticated methodologies for incorporating gradation—a toolkit that is useful even to big data evangelists.”

Notes from the Section Leadership: 2017 Year in Review
By David Haines and Cris Shore
Originally: Anthropology News Online (March 9, 2018)
Archival link is here

Provides a review of ASAP activities in 2017. Discussion is largely about ASAP as a section within the American Anthropological Association but concludes that:

” . . . we are also thinking beyond the AAA. Our aim is to stimulate broader dialogue between anthropology and other disciplines including political science, sociology, organizational studies, and law, as well as between the academic world and that of government officials and policy professionals. The makings, workings, and effects of public policy continue to be central to how the world works—and how it must work better in the future. These are just some of the reasons why policy is, and will continue to be, a key field for anthropological research, analysis, and practice.”

The Neighborhood School Stigma: School Choice, Stratification, and Shame
By Julia McWilliams
Originally: Anthropology News Online (February 15, 2018)
Archival link is here

Provides an abbreviated version of one of the winners of ASAP’s 2017 graduate student paper prize.

“In cities like Philadelphia, the maintenance of two parallel educational systems—one charter, the other district—has also strained budgets and contributed to fiscal crises that have further divested traditional district schools of critical resources. How are youth, teachers, and staff in neighborhood schools responding to these conditions . . .”

“This research not only questions how market stratification impacts access to quality public education but also how school choice shapes students’ attachment and belief in their schools as places of hope and promise as the term ‘neighborhood school’ becomes increasingly deployed as a slur.”

Blue Children and All Shades of Responsibility
By Ema Hrešanová
Originally: Anthropology News Online (January 8, 2018)
Archival link is here

Provides a review of One Blue Child. Asthma, Responsibility, and the Politics of Global Health by Susanna Trnka.

“Trnka’s methodological approach culminates in rich findings of broad explanatory power that extend from phenomenological analysis of the asthma experience, through patterns of social relations in families and healthcare ‘total institutions,’ to broader structural and political issues related to ethnicity, gender, and poverty in the two societies.”

“Where I see an especially important contribution of Trnka’s work is her call to justly reflect not only on the many downsides of the neoliberal policies—so vastly and so well discussed in anthropology—but also on the numerous positive effects that such policies may have on some patients.”

Policy Matters
Originally: Anthropology News Online (November 1, 2017)
Archival link is here

Provides a preview of the ASAP panels that will be held at the annual meeting of the American Anthropological Association in Washington, D.C. Note that a list of the panels is also available as a previous ASAP post, the durable link for which is here.

The Anthropology of Policy Emerges
By Judi Pajo and Theodore Powers
Originally: Anthropology News Online (July 24, 2017)
Archival link is here

Provides an overview of current directions in the anthropology of policy.

Includes comments by Cris Shore, David Haines, Bill Beeman, Carol MacLennan, Jennifer Hubbert, Rebecca Peters, Paul Stubbs, and Samuel Shapiro.

In the Loop and Off the Record: Power and the Washington Establishment
Negar Razavi
Originally: Anthropology News Online (September 19, 2017)
Archival link here

Provides an abbreviated version of the 2016 ASAP prize-winning graduate student paper.

“Meanwhile, mobility into the inner circles requires individuals to engage in certain affective and social practices to signal that they belong to these increasingly influential groups. Many do this signaling in their workplace.”

“By attempting to circumvent the traditional networks of trust, symbolic trade, and insider knowledge that have long sustained Washington—without fundamentally upending the power structures that sustain the policy elite—the President and his advisors have succeeded only to push themselves further out of the loop and into the light of public scrutiny.”

Presidential Elections in Austria and Rise of the Far Right
By Cansu Civilek (University of Vienna)
Orginally: Anthropology News Online (March 2, 2017)
Archival link is here

Reviews the Austrian presidential election with emphasis on the mixed views of Turkish immigrants on the right-wing, anti-immigrant candidate.

“Moreover, [right-wing candidate] Hofer’s religious references seem to be paying off. People find him to be a believer who fears God, which makes him a more honest candidate. A business owner said, ‘Hofer takes God beside him, like Erdoğan.'”

“It appears that the easier answer for some citizens with migration backgrounds has been to disregard their own past struggles, and submit to strong leaders and their policies of socioeconomic ‘stabilization and strength.'”

Reflections on Minneapolis from the Section Leadership
By Cris Shore and David Haines (ASAP Co-Presidents)
Originally: Anthropology News Online (February 14, 2017)
Archival link is here

Provides a review of ASAP sessions at the AAA meeting in Minneapolis and some initial ideas for sessions at the AAA meeting in Washington, D.C.

Notes from the Section Leadership: ASAP Yearly Report
By David Haines and Cris Shore (ASAP Co-Presidents)
Originally: Anthropology News Online (January 25, 2017)
Archival link is here

Provides a review of ASAP activities in 2016.

“Our aim remains to examine policy in all its formulations, implementations, and effects in order to better understand the complex social relations and cultural worlds that different policy assemblages create. That holistic and analytical approach to policy will be sorely needed in the years ahead.”

Making Sense of Nuclear Waste
By Judi Pajo (Pace University)
Originally: Anthropology News (November/December 2016, p. 40)
Archival link is here

Reviews two sequential paradigmatic ways in which nuclear waste was assessed in the U.S. media, thus highlighting the way policy is shaped by the public discourse about an issue.

The  two overarching paradigms were “an optimistic and future-oriented conceptualization that focused on benefits of exploitation for peace and prosperity, contrasted by a  litigious and sanctioning conceptualization of nuclear waster as primarily a source of harm.”

“I may best describe my key aim to have been the formulation of an understanding of nuclear waste discourse that would be anthropological in terms of its sensibilities and contributions, and at the same time scientific in the sense of detailing the empirical research process . . .”

Between Tradition and Modernity: Politics and Policy in Cameroon
By Numvi Gwaibi (University of Pretoria)
Originally: Anthropology News Online (November 2016)
Permanent link is here

Assesses the effects of political decentralization in a crucial African country.

“However, national political forces undermined the autonomy of local political dynamics by reinserting themselves in the local political/policy development process.”

“. . . where pressures to decentralize are not to the liking of recipient governments, the process . . . risks becoming a charade.”

Speaking Ethnography to Policy: Interdisciplinary Conversations on the Affordable Care Act
By Jessica Mulligan (Providence College) and Rebecca Peters (Syracuse University)
Originally: Anthropology News Online (July 2016)
Permanent link is here

Reviews the ways in which anthropologists of policy can interact with mainstream policy studies, with emphasis on a specific dialogue between the two at the Maxwell School of Syracuse University.

“While anthropologists are right to be concerned with communicating their research to policy makers proper, we propose here that the anthropology of policy should also be concerned to communicate its knowledge to the interdisciplinary community of policy scholars.”

“These research findings framed several questions: Will the social stratification that the law both mirrors and recreates undermine its ability to expand social protections? How do households make sense of insurance and are they equipped to manage the new risks and responsibilities mandated by the ACA?”

Notes from the Section Leadership: ASAP Sessions at the IUAES in Dubrovnik (May 2016)
By Paul Stubbs, Cris Shore, and David Haines
Originally: Anthropology News Online (June 2016)
Permanent link is here

Reviews three ASAP sessions at the IUAES meeting in Dubrovnik, Croatia dealing with (a) translating policy in the semi-periphery, (b) migration and displacement, and (c) academic changes caused by pressures of a competitive global knowledge economy.

“[These sessions] highlight the value of international and interregional comparison per se and the importance of international venues in pursuing them [and] suggest that an anthropology-of-policy focus resonates more broadly for anthropologists seeking better understanding of how their individual academic interests align with more practical involvements.”

Living with Debt
By Kenneth Bo Nielsen (University of Bergen, Norway)
Originally: Anthropology News Online (May 2016)
Permanent link is here

Reviews the book Navigating Austerity: Currents of Debt along a South Asian River by Laura Bear.

“By tracing the strategies through which people negotiate altered public-sector policies, the book shows how debt, circulation, conduct, and time work in austerity economies.”

“For informalized shipyard workers and their families, all labor should be for the generation and amplification of life and sociality, and ties between people at all levels should be marked by affection and trust. This, Bear says, is a totalizing and cosmopolitical ethic that places economic activity inside its social calculus. “

Refugees: Reflections on an Anthropology-of-Policy Exploration
By David Haines (George Mason University)
Permanent link is here

Reflects on ASAP’s first social media theme during March and April 2016.

“Another [difficulty] is how to maintain morale in the face of much current negativity. To do so, it becomes necessary to keep linkages alive beyond one’s own research and practice and, indeed, beyond the discipline.” 

“Proportionately in terms of country size, Canada had thus accepted 250 times as many Syrian refugees as the United States. Here lies a glaring contrast in policy outcomes that begs for additional analysis.”

Notes from the Section Leadership: ASAP Yearly Report
By Janine Wedel, David Haines, and Cris Shore (ASAP President and Co-Presidents Elect)
Originally: Anthropology News (March/April 2016; pp. 28-29)
Permanent link is here.

Reviews ASAP activities during 2015 and provides a synopsis of ASAP panels at the 2015 AAA meeting in Denver.

“… the invited roundtable ‘Studying Through’ … provided tips, tools, and strategies for emerging policy scholars. The panel yielded strong consensus on several issues, including background research, tracking of key developments, being involved, following up (including with reciprocity), and the continuing importance of individual personality and sometimes sheer luck.”

“The Anthropology of Cannabis Policy demonstrated how complicated policies can be because of their internal constraints (e.g., regulating a program that is legal at the state level but illegal at the federal level), and because of the overlap between different kinds of policy, especially the health consequences of marijuana use and the labor implications of changing from illegal to legal distribution mechanisms.”

Stemming Refugee Flows, Warehousing Refugee Souls
By Maurizio Albahari (University of Notre Dame)
Originally: Anthropology News Online (March 28, 2016)
Permanent link is here.

Focuses on the recent EU-Turkey agreement on refugees with an eye to the kinds of policy research it suggests.

“In the soggy limbo of Idomeni, in the trenches of Calais, and in Italian holding facilities, some refugees are convinced that they have to sew their lips shut in order to be listened to.”

“How do we, realistically and pragmatically, reconcile colliding existences and ideologies, within the outspoken cacophony of this refugee impasse?”

A Vital Anthropology of Foreign Policy
By Janne Bjerre Christensen (Danish Institute for International Studies)
Originally: Anthropology News (November 2015)
Permanent link is here

Reviews the book Drugs, Thugs, and Dipolomats by Winnifred Tate.

“…[a] powerful book on the invention, implementation and repercussions of US policymaking in Colombia.”

“… uncovers what policymakers bring to the table, their numerous, often contradictory motivations and intentions – power plays among Democrats and Republicans; previously failed or succeeded endeavors in Latin America – which are largely detached from realities on the ground in Colombia.”

Anthropology’s Contributions to Training in the Policy Professions
Edited by Rebecca Warne Peters (Syracuse University)

Reviews an ASAP roundtable on anthropology’s contribution to training in the policy sciences. It has now been published in PoLAR (38[2]: 356-364) and is available through AnthroSource. We are trying to obtain rights to post it directly on the ASAP web site since it has a very useful range of views on the topic.

From the editor’s introduction: “Panelists demonstrated the wide variety of ‘policy worlds’ anthropologists may wish to engage, provided valuable examples of having done so successfully, and raised concerns about the appropriateness of such engagement.

Includes separate commentaries by Keith Brown, Maia Green, Susan Hyatt, Robert Rubinstein, and Ronald Stade.

Anthropology of Energy, Waste and Health Policies
By Judi Pajo and Theodore Powers (ASAP Column Editors)
Originally: Anthropology News (February 2015)
Permanent link is here

Reviews ASAP panels at the 2014 AAA meeting and suggests new anthropology-of-policy directions.

“Focusing on the emergence of policy, health systems and community-based health outcomes, the anthropology of health policy offers important new insights on how best to link socio-political activities across institutional scales.”

“People engaged in production or consumption of energy and waste, generate abundant and diverse ideas that are often overlooked in the policy process. What is raw and messy at the local level, is cooked and processed as it makes its way through meetings in towns, counties, and states.”

Multiculturalism Korean Style
By David Haines (George Mason University)
Originally: Anthropology News (November/December 2014; p. 37)
Permanent link is here

Considers multicultural policy in South Korea based on an awards program for youth.

“In policy terms, perhaps the crucial element is the overall emphasis on children and youth in an education context as being at the heart of the public policy construction of multiculturalism and diversity in South Korea. This is where the state must step in.”

“But there is also a general methodological point that policy as an arena for reconceptualizing societal relations may be seen in a more fluid guise in less formal and less fully governmental activities.”

Co-operative Coca Reduction in Bolivia
By Thomas Grisaffi (University College London)
Originally: Anthropology News (July/August 2014; pp. 29-30)
Permanent link is here

Assesses policies – effective and ineffective – for reduction of coca production in Bolivia.

“This development model was flawed because alternative crops such as coffee or cocoa beans take several years to mature. Thus farmers were often left with no income whatsoever and were forced to replant coca.”

“The coca growers’ war cry used to be ‘long live coca, death to Yankees!’ but at one federation meeting I attended a leader shouted out ‘now we are not just cocaleros, but also bananaeros [banana growers], long live bananas!'”