Making the most of the 2013 American Anthropological Association meeting

UPDATE: Since I posted this, the AAA has released a mobile app for Android and iPhone/iPad users. The AAA Annual Meeting Mobile App replaces the hard copy version of the programme in an effort to help make the event ‘greener’. I will probably give this a go before heading to Chicago later this month.

I’m excited about the 2013 American Anthropological Meeting in Chicago next month. I am presenting a paper as part of the session The Spatial Politics of Enclosure: Creating Persons and Publics.

The session organisers, Barbara Andersen (New York University) and Tate Lefevre (Franklin & Marshall College) of the Melanesia Interest Group, have done a great job in putting together an interesting panel (not just because my paper is in it!) and lining up discussants. Here are my paper details:

Title: Negotiating Space: Hope, development, and a politics of possibility in Kolkata (India) and Lae (Papua New Guinea)

Abstract: Hope is a prominent theme in discourses of development. Through its focus on social change, development provides a way of engaging with a hoped-for future of social justice and equality that is embedded in, but moves beyond, present social, political, and spatial enclosures. In this paper I explore how women living in bastis and settlements in Kolkata (West Bengal, India) and Lae (Morobe Province, Papua New Guinea) negotiate space for themselves, their families, and the wider communities in which they live by participating in grassroots-level development initiatives. I discuss how the various social and spatial arrangements ­ in particular, physical and societal enclosures facilitated by structural inequalities ­ that shape women’s lives in each of these cities simultaneously constrain and provide a basis for their actions. I argue that whether or not they achieve their objectives, such initiatives foster a sense of possibility and movement within and beyond the social and physical spaces these women inhabit.

How to make the most of the meeting?

AAA Meetings are always well-attended with multiple streams of panels running from 8am-9.45pm most days. Based on past experience I know that good planning is essential in order to make the most of my time at the conference. There are a range of new tools available now to help plan everything, including the AAA’s personal meeting scheduler and of course Google Calendar. Kerim has written a useful blog post on Savage Minds combining these two process into one #AAA2013 Google Calendar.

A quick look at the preliminary schedule suggests it’s going to take me a couple of hours to work through everything. The search function of the preliminary schedule seems a bit clunky – for example, looking at the Melanesia Interest Group in the ‘search by section’ function only shows the group’s annual meeting and does not list the session above as we have been sponsored by the American Ethnological Society. Also, because the schedule is only ‘preliminary’ I can’t read many of the abstracts to get an idea of what the papers will be about.

However a couple of sessions run by the Association for Political and Legal Anthropology stand out, this one in particular:

Special Event: Genres of public writing in political and legal anthropology: Addressing Multiple Audiences
Participants: Thomas Hylland Eriksen (,University of Oslo); Ghassan Hage (University of Melbourne); Susan Hirsch (George Mason University); Linda Layne (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute)
Date: Thursday 21 November 2013
Time: 12.15pm
Venue: Chicago Hilton, conference room 4E

I haven’t started planning my time yet and might end up doing so the old-fashioned way with pen and paper on the longhaul flight from NZ to the USA (although this might not be practical with a 20-month in tow). I am keen to hear from others about conference planning – what tools or apps work well, and which should I avoid? If you are going to the AAA 2013 Meeting, how are you planning your time?

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