From the President

Understanding Our World, Shaping a Better One

Alex Barker

The American Anthropological Association is the world’s largest and most diverse organization representing our discipline.  It embraces both the full range of anthropological specialties, as well as the full range of contexts of practice, comprising scholars and practitioners from every corner of the globe.

In an age of polarization and polemic, of bottomless doubt and endless division, anthropology offers a lens that’s needed now more than ever before. It helps us to view our world with greater depth, empathy, and nuanced understanding, to accept and welcome the myriad ways of being human, now and in the past, and to explore alternative paths toward a more just and sustainable future for all.

That’s doubly important now, because at the same time the world has become more polarized it’s also become profoundly more interconnected, making it ever more critical that people everywhere better understand and learn from one another.  The global challenges defining and shaping our world—from climate change to disease, cultural heritage preservation and endangered language documentation to migration and displacement, the role of artificial intelligence to the delivery of healthcare—can only be understood in a holistic, human context.  

Our ongoing role is to bring together practitioners, scholars, educators, students and the public to strengthen anthropology and deepen its role in our world, convening anthropologists of all specialties and practice settings to exchange ideas and bring new insights forward

And we walk the walk.

AAA is working with multiple partners to develop its new World on the Move: 250,000 Years of Human Migration exhibition in collaboration with the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, and the National Geographic Society, and our extremely successful RACE: Are We So Different? exhibition has completed its national tour and found a permanent home in North Carolina. Our task forces continue work on critical issues including Anthropology and the Proliferation of Border and Security Walls and Racialized Police Brutality and Extrajudicial Violence in the United States, and we’re training anthropologists to be more effective public scholars through AAA’s Op-Ed project, with published results already helping inform popular discourse.

This past year we launched the Open Anthropology Research Repository, aimed at accelerating the discovery and dissemination of anthropological work presented at disciplinary meetings worldwide in any language.  An open access platform available to all anthropologists around the world without charges of any kind, our goal is to level the playing field for all anthropologists, and provide a resource that different scholars and practitioners can use in different ways to best serve differing regions, topics and communities of practice. We also added an important new title, Feminist Anthropology: The AFA Journal, to our portfolio of more than 20 peer-reviewed scholarly journals. Global issues, global responses.

We organized our first joint meeting with the Canadian Anthropology Society/Société Canadienne d’Anthropologie, and I am grateful to them and to AAA staff, volunteers, program committee members and section program editors, as well as Program Chairs Nicole Peterson of AAA and Martha Radice and Pamela Downe of CASCA, for making the Vancouver meetings such a resounding success.  We also piloted a virtual meetings option, which we hope will inform future virtual meeting planning in coming years. Keeping AAA as inclusive and welcoming to everyone as possible, we did all that while lowering the membership costs for our most vulnerable members. 

What we do matters, because people matter.  And no discipline or area of practice is more focused on the human condition than ours. Join us in our efforts to showcase the work and wisdom of anthropologists everywhere so that more people can benefit from all that we as a discipline (and a species) have learned, to champion both substantive, scholarly research and evidence-based approaches in the human sciences, and to amplify the voices of anthropologists and the insights anthropology affords to address critical issues in our world. 

Join us to expand anthropology’s impact, and ensure AAA’s future as a continuing force for good.