Open thread on the AAA conference program

Saturday morning, coffee on the couch. Children contentedly playing elsewhere. I browse the AAA conference program and day dream about knockin’ em dead. My paper (not yet written) amazes the discussant and he insists on including it in his upcoming edited volume. Employers come out of the audience wanting to shake my hand.

Then I recall the three children I’m supposed to be watching. The house I’m supposed to be cleaning before company comes. I remember all the papers I need to grade. And the AN column submission I need to return with edits. And the Around the Web entry I need to write. And the guests we’re having over tomorrow. Oh “race” and American Indians paper, I will not forget you!

Back to the program. I see that everything is as it should be with the event scheduling. All the important things I really HAVE TO DO are all scheduled at the same time. Check! At the conference itself we will no doubt find that the best panels are in the smallest rooms and the ballroom panels are sparsely attended. This is a law of nature. We do not challenge it.

Today I look forward to the conference with great anticipation! There is so much potential, the day is there just waiting to be seized! At the actual conference I will probably drink way too much caffeine and alcohol, get lonely and frustrated, and impatiently run out the clock until its time to get back on the plane and come home. I’ll probably get sick shortly thereafter.

But today is today and I’m going back to the AAA’s for the first time since (checks CV)… 2007. Yeah, I haven’t been to the “big one” since DC. So it’s not my favorite conference to be honest, but my friends will be there and SANA will be there and its in New Orleans so that’s a big plus. A major plus actually.

S.M. readers: Here’s an open thread about the AAA’s. Use the comments section too…
-plug your panel
-discuss another panel
-plug a party, event, or other gathering
-discuss the attractions of New Orleans
-network ahead of the conference

What are you look forward to/ dreading about the 2010 AAA’s in New Orleans?

Matt Thompson is adjunct assistant professor of anthropology in the Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice at Old Dominion University and a student in the School of Information Science at the University of Tennessee. He was once cast as a soldier in Andrew Jackson's army in a theatrical production on an Indian reservation.

12 thoughts on “Open thread on the AAA conference program

  1. Friday night I’m starting off at the SANA business meeting. Then I’m going to hit up the Wenner-Gren wine and cheese reception. Following that is the cash bar for indigenous anthropologists and their friends. Then the 40th anniversary party for the ABA, which apparently goes until all the way until 12:30 pm. I haven’t partied that hard since college, but I’m willing to give it a shot.

  2. Please join me at my panel on Saturday, starting at 1:45:

    4-0830 Racial Circuits: Cultural Flows in Belonging, Identification, and the Naturalizing of Difference

  3. Our presentation, Exploring Nowhere is on Wednesday at 5 pm (the panel, Narratives of Struggle, starts at 4). I also volunteered to coordinate the meeting Tweetup, and I’m still trying to figure out a good time and date for it, since we have so many folks coming and going at different times.

    This is my third consecutive AAA meeting as a grad student, and there are a lot of things I am still learning about them. Where are the best places for me to check out? Who is welcome at what gatherings? How do I navigate through about 6,000 people? Will I have any job interviews? Is there really going to be wifi this year? What can I learn from the whole experience?

    NOLA is the attraction for me this year. I’ve never been and am looking forward to seeing that wonderful city, hopefully in the company of a grad friend of mine from the area.

  4. I’m seconding Denice’s questions to more experienced conference goers. I’m a graduate student and it will be my first time at AAA, so any advice on how to get the most of this experience would be very welcome.

  5. OK, I’ll try my hand at giving advice to grads about the AAA’s. Obviously this is not meant to be the final word on the subject. Hopefully someone else will chime in too.

    In addition to being fora for scholarly exchange academic conferences are preeminently political events. This is your opportunity to forge some important alliances both within and beyond your department. The following examples all require some degree of visibility to advance yourself, you can’t be a wallflower every time.

    Go see the papers delivered by fellow grad students and interesting professors in your department. Not only will this show you a new side to their professional lives but its the best way to get them to come see you deliver papers on down the line. It’s also a good way to get to know the people they know.

    If your adviser is speaking you really need to be at their panel too. Part of the adviser/ grad relationship is exhibiting loyalty. As in the above note this is a good way to meet the people your adviser knows: potentially a very important clique for your professional development.

    Speaking of people your adviser knows you might ask if its okay to track down your adviser’s advisers, your intellectual grandparents. The benefit here is casting your adviser in a new light, gaining some insight into where they’re coming from. Expect your grandparents to be politely interested in meeting you, but you’re not really building the relationship with them but with your adviser.

    If you had a really awesome anthropology professor in undergrad this is a great place to catch up. My undergrad mentor was an invaluable resource throughout grad school. By keeping these connections fresh you can call upon them for favors down the road. Seeing your undergrad prof deliver a paper is kind of a mind blowing experience and might completely recast your perception of him or her from what it was when you were a college kid.

    Seek out a section or interest group to become active in. Look on the schedule for the “business meeting” for the group you’re interested in, they’re usually around lunch time — don’t worry you don’t have to be a member to attend. At the business meeting you might hear about other interesting panels, you might get invited to a reception or private party, or find out how to join a committee. Too many folks shy away from section group committee business because they think they’re too busy or are too intimidated to come forward. I did this for several years for SANA, it wasn’t that much work plus you get invited to the board meeting (more meetings!) and it looks great on your CV.

    A word of caution. Some section and interest groups are disfunctional, don’t provide what you want to get out of them, and serve mainly as the personal fifedoms of constantly sparring faculty. Sorry! Others are too big or too vague in their mission. But you won’t know until you go, so try it out.

    Regardless this reception is consistently great:
    4-1075 Sat 5:00 PM-7:00 PM — Joint reception for SLACA, ALLA, ABA, AFA, SAW, SANA, SOLGA

    More advice: notice the great variety of events going on at the AAA’s. The bulk of the program is taken up by panels of professionals and grads delivering papers based on their research. These can be inspirational, a good way to make connections with someone in your area, and on rare occasions a way to meet people who share your field site. They can also be terrible, so its a mixed bag. Terrible papers are always a great example of what not to do.

    However there are many more things to do than just panels. In fact I prefer to go to workshops and discussions that focus on professional development (writing a grant, getting a job, improving teaching). The receptions and parties are important too and if you’re a broke grad student snoop around and you’ll find some have free food.

    Whatever you choose to do, don’t just single mindedly go from one thing to the next, stop to talk and socialize with your colleagues. The relationships you build are going to serve you better than that panel on Deluze or the big talk by Mr. Famous Professor.

    Finally take it all with a grain of salt. The AAA’s is not the only conference out there. There are also regional conferences, section group conferences, interdisciplinary conferences, and conferences put on by departments at money schools. There’s differing amounts of prestige associated with each and arguably the AAA’s is the most prestigious, but by no means is the AAA’s the most fun or the most useful.

  6. I’m on a session discussing Avatar and Anthropology (as in, the movie!) on WEDNESDAY as well. We need to organize a ‘small but might’ Wednesday group to get together and commiserate about our suboptimal time slots!

  7. Some excellent advise from Matt! Thanks.

    Someone years ago told me (and not just for grad students – really for any of us!) they have a rule that they pick one session that has nothing directly to do with their areas of interest, and they go sit through the whole thing without paper-hopping. Can be hit or miss, obviously, but I have found to be a great exercise in my thinking through the range and scope of this enterprise we call anthropology.

    Grad students – I would also encourage, don’t be shy about telling your advisers, other profs and even other grad students that you want to make a point of meeting some certain people while there (in advance, if possible, or while there). We all get overwhelmed and forget what is going on in those settings, and they may fail to make those connections without having it explicitly put out there.

    Sorry I can’t commiserate this year on the poor program placement (been there, though, and send my sympathies!) – I’ll be in a double panel Friday afternoon called “Business Encounters: Fieldwork Conversations”. I see my paper title didn’t format correctly, its supposed to be “Services 2 [as in, squared]: Performing Anthropological Labor in Business”. “Paper” may be an overstatement. The organizers (Morean from Copenhagen Business School and Malefyt from BBDO) have put this together in a somewhat more dialogical way.

    In response to the “lonely and frustrated” (add to that, alienated, overwhelmed, unsure, bored, etc…) that is known to creep in at times, I find the ongoing movie showings a great place to sit in the dark and yet be stimulated. Always surprises me they are in some god-foresaken far off spot, but worth finding!

    And don’t forget the book display! That is good for several rounds!

    Peter, thanks for the notice on a very cool sounding panel.

  8. In terms of plugging, let me put in one for our Wednesday night panel:
    VIRTUALITY, SIMULATION, AND SOCIAL LIFE
    http://www.aaanet.org/mtgs/dev/viewDetail.cfm?itemtype=session&matchid=6133

    Also, on Avatar, which appears will be invoked on a number of panels this year, my officemate Michael Carpentier is going to present an excellent paper on it (AVATAR AND INDEXICALITY) as part of the Wednesday panel:
    CONFIGURING INDIGENEITY: FROM FANTASY TO PRACTICE
    http://www.aaanet.org/mtgs/dev/viewDetail.cfm?itemtype=session&matchid=6655

    Should there be a Savage Minds Meet/Tweet up? I’m all for commiserating about the Wednesday slots.

  9. A favorite attraction of New Orleans: Bryan Lee, Miss Maggie & the Jumpstreet Five at the Old Absinthe House! Last saw them over two decades ago, though, so I’m thinking they’re probably not still “a thing.”

    Panel plug: papers on milk, booze, and coffee—as well as non-beverage items like comics, iPods, and Lycra—at Richard Robbins’ panel on the Anthropology of Stuff.
    http://www.aaanet.org/mtgs/dev/viewDetail.cfm?itemtype=session&matchid=5879

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