From the Executive Director

Our Commitments – Making A Difference

Ed Liebow

Looking back over the many things that we have accomplished together in 2019, one thing is crystal clear: the future is rushing towards us at breakneck speed, presenting opportunities and challenges for adapting to change that test and strengthen our resilience as an organization. What does our future look like from this vantage point?

Our future is interconnected We are hard at work strengthening our partnerships around the world and in the US. We collaborated successfully with the Canadian Anthropology Society / société canadienne d’anthropologie (CASCA) in holding Annual Meeting. The Open Anthropology Research Repository (OARR) was launched thanks to the policy guidance of our international / interorganizational advisory group and the technical support of our publishing partner, Wiley-Blackwell. We hosted a summit in collaboration with 14 anthropological associations committed to preventing sexual harassment and assault in the profession. And we continue to work with the National Humanities Alliance, the Consortium of Social Science Associations, the Coalition for American Heritage Preservation, the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s Coalition on Science and Human Rights, and Scholars At Risk, among others, on advancing public support for research and scholarship, protecting heritage resources and heading off threats to academic freedom.

Our future is “open” The repository’s launch is just one step on the pathway to an open future. “Open” includes access to published research findings for all who wish to see them (in a sustainable way that preserves quality and the breadth of content), and also open data (if you have the data available and can share them, we want them to be shared), open collaborations (which will propel us forward with our ambitious diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility aspirations), open practices (as someone once said about sunlight, transparency through our beefed-up Anthropology Information Central works well as a disinfectant), and open recognition (when we celebrate our members’ accomplishments and recognize their service, we all gain by association).

Our future is “hybrid” We are convinced that technological affordances can help us build a hybrid suite of meetings and conferences program, and thanks to nudging from key sections and the student members of our programmatic advisory and advocacy committee, 2019’s Annual Meeting featured a Board-supported pilot test of a virtual attendance option. The potential for extending affordable access to members who might otherwise not take part is promising, as is the potential for reducing the annual meeting’s carbon footprint. Virtual is not a substitute for face-to-face interaction when it comes to the meeting’s central focus on scholarly exchange and professional development, but it shows sufficient promise as a valuable addition to our overall offerings and the Board has approved an expanded pilot for 2020. 

Our future is the embodiment of excellence We will continue to be guided by the highest expectations for scholarly rigor, innovation, and relevance. In 2019, we supported members who are interested in bringing commentary informed by research and scholarship to broader audiences, and will expand the Association’s involvement in The OpEd Project again in 2020. Our public education initiative has found a long-term home for the third version of the RACE: Are We So Different? exhibition, and plans for a 2021 launch have advanced considerably for World on the Move: 250,000 Years of Human Migration, in partnership with the Smithsonian, the American Library Association, and the Goethe-Institut. 2019 has affirmed how people count on us to set standards for quality and responsible professional conduct, helping to sort through the cacophony of loud, polemical voices. Whether the question is one of how to understand and shape equitable behavioral and institutional change when faced with infectious disease outbreaks for which there are no proven medical therapies, learning the lessons of resilience and adaptation when faced with slow-onset hazards driven by global environmental change, highlighting how practically everyone has a migration and/or displacement story somewhere in their family history, advocating for the protection and preservation of cultural heritage resources, or reinforcing with our scholarship of how “race” is the child of racism, and not the other way around – we have shown time and again how to walk the talk of excellence. In 2019, we have used our convening power to bring department leaders together to share promising approaches to advancing the field, and will do so again in 2021. 

In brief, we have been actively working to be prepared to meet the future as it rushes towards us, more convinced than ever that anthropology, through our research, scholarship, and application, can be a force for good in the world. We are equally convinced that the Association has an important role to play in advancing the field. And we are ever grateful for the support that you, our members and supporters, provide through your service, advice, and financial contributions. Please accept my thanks and best wishes for the coming year.