Category Archives: Conferences

Guest Post: American Anthropological Association Conference 2017 Recap

On Thursday, November 30, 2017 I attended my first ever American Anthropological Association (AAAs) Conference. I’ve been regularly attending professional conferences for over seven years, but the AAAs were both overwhelming, exciting, and unlike any other conference I have been to before. The sheer size alone was almost jaw dropping. There were approximately 6,000 people in attendance (!!), meaning that there were over 40 sessions at any given time between 8am and 8pm – totaling 750 sessions across five days. In fact, the conference was so large that it was held in two adjacent hotels in Washington, DC. Session topics ranged from roundtables on feminist ethnographies to oral presentations on manhoods and masculinities, from presentations on the global refugee and migrant crisis to the rise of 21st century nationalism in Europe and the US. The AAAs are an international conference and presentations focused on diverse cultural issues from an array of locations across the globe.

Dr. Faye Harrison presenting “From Ferguson and Flint to Standing Rock: Resisting Racializing Assaults on Community Sustainability and Human Life” at the 2017 AAAs Annual Meeting in Washington, DC.

This year’s theme was “Anthropology Matters” and numerous sessions focused on diversity, social justice, and the role of anthropology in a politically and socially turbulent world. One of the most intriguing sessions I attended was “Between Visibilities and Invisibilities: Forms of Racism and Anti-Racism in the Twenty-first Century”, organized and co-chaired by Faye Harrison (University of Illinois at Urbana- Champaign), Yasuko Takezawa (Kyoto University), and Akio Tanabe (The University of Tokyo). This panel examined race, racism, and racialization in the contemporary globalized world, juxtaposing transpacific and transatlantic experiences and perspectives. Ultimately, this session aimed to “provide a common platform for interrogating the various forms and mechanisms of racisms where visible and invisible modalities operate in diverse yet connected ways.” Oral presentations included the racialization of social movements in Ferguson, Flint, and Standing Rock (presented by Harrison), a comparison of the transracial and transsexual movements (presented by John Russell – Gifu University), an examination of the “othering” of Eastern Europeans in Iceland (presented by Kristin Loftsdottir – University of Iceland), racial discrimination in Japan against invisible groups like the Burakumin (an outcaste group that generally lives in small rural communes in Japan; presented by Takezawa), and an exploration of how marginalized social groups have been racialized in Odisha, India during the age of globalization (presented by Tanabe). I especially enjoyed Harrisons presentation, “From Ferguson and Flint to Standing Rock: Resisting Racializing Assaults on Community Sustainability and Human Life.” Harrison illustrated how racial subjection and violence have undermined the well-being and human dignity of racially subjugated communities (namely, Black and Indigenous groups) in the Americas. Additionally, she outlined how groups like Black Lives Matter and the Water Protectors are banning together for their rights to ancestral territories, clean water, and other basic human rights.

Jennifer Porter-Lupu, MA, presenting “Sex Workers as a Stakeholder Community in Washington, DC: Incorporating Harm Reduction Philosophies into the Archaeological Praxis” at the 2017 AAAs Annual Meeting in Washington, DC.

The range of diversity at the conference was so refreshing. Over the years, I have become used to being one of the only (or one of a handful of) black scholars at many of the conferences I attend. The disproportionate population of Euro-Americans scholars to Black and Indigenous scholars is well known within the archaeological community and has led to calls of a more inclusive archaeology over the years. But I have noticed that ethnic diversity is still severely lacking at the two to three archaeological conferences I attend or present at each year. Although, Euro-Americans and Europeans are still generally overrepresented in anthropology, Black, Indigenous, Asian, and Latinx scholars were well represented throughout the AAAs. This allowed for a variety of sessions and individual papers to focus on topics that commonly effect marginalized groups like decolonizing institutions (including anthropology and archaeology), health and sustainability for marginalized groups, activist scholarship, and race and racism. Although these topics are not new to anthropology, minority scholars allow for emic perspectives of the issues and fresh ideas for possible solutions to these challenges.

Dr. Kristen Barnett presenting “Archaeology as a DEcolonizing Mechanism: An Indigenous SURVEY and Response to Archaeologists” at the 2017 AAAs Annual Meeting in Washington, DC.

The first session I attended and perhaps, the one I took the most away from was the “Enhancing the Presence of African Americans in Anthropology: Discussion of the Problem” roundtable organized by Tony Whitehead (University of Maryland). When I walked into the room it was jammed packed with mostly African American graduate students and professors (including Michael Blakey, Faye Harrison, Rachel Watkins, Kalfani Ture, and Anna Agbe-Davies). The roundtable style allowed for an open, honest, and critical discussion of the issues that face Black anthropologists throughout our careers. How can Black anthropologists successfully navigate the persistence of anthropology as White space? Will it ever be possible to establish (or in some cases, reestablish) Anthropology Departments at HBCUs? What is the role of Black anthropologists in social justice movements like Black Lives Matter and Standing Rock? As we worked through these questions, a point that was stressed time and time again was the importance of being connected to uplifting communities, mentors, and groups (like the Association of Black Anthropologists). Graduate school can be very isolating and self-doubt plagues many, but having a community to reach out to will help you navigate through the often turbulent waters of academia and remind you that you’re not alone.

Dr. Joseph Jones presenting “Making Black Lives Matter: Lessons from the New York African Burial Ground” at the 2017 AAAs Annual Meeting in Washington, DC.

Finally, the dual African Burial Ground sessions, “Beyond the African Burial Ground: Anthropological and Trans-Disciplinary Innovations in Theory, Methods, and Technologies” and “Anthropology Beyond the African Burial Ground Project: Epistemologies, Ethics, and Interpreting the African Diasporic and Native American Pasts”, were thought provoking and inspiring. Presentations included with the African American descendant community members at James Madison’s Montpelier (Matthew Reeves – the Montpelier Foundation), the intersection of science and social justice in community-based anthropological investigations (Joseph Jones – William and Mary), the value of Black feminist anthropology (Rachel Watkins), the use of paleogenomics in African Diaspora archaeology (Hannes Schroeder – University of Copenhagen), lessons learned through the Werowocomoco archaeological project (Danielle Moretti-Langholtz), Indigenous archaeology and anthropology for and by Indigenous people (Ashley Atkins Spivey – Pamunkey Indian Tribe), and much more. These oral presentations highlighted the importance of ethical public engagement in anthropology and key takeaways from activist anthropological projects.

AAA President Alisse Waterston presenting her farewell address “Four Stories, A Lament, and an Affirmation”at the 2017 AAAs Annual Meeting in Washington, DC.

Although, I was thoroughly exhausted by the end of the conference on Sunday, December 5th, I really enjoyed my first AAAs and learned a lot. I saw old friends and made new contacts at the nightly mixers. I met a few of my favorite anthropological scholars which allowed me the chance to ask them questions about their research and get advice on my own research interests. It was an invaluable and encouraging experience as a whole.

The next AAAs will be held in San Jose, California from November 14-18, 2018.


About the Author:

 Chardé Reid is a first year M.A./ Ph.D. historical archaeology student in the Department of Anthropology at William and Mary. She received her B.A. in Archaeology in 2009 from the George Washington University. She has a wide range of archaeological field work experience, having worked on archaeological sites in the District of Columbia, Virginia, Maryland, and Athens, Greece. Chardé served as the co-field director of the Shotgun House Public Archaeology Project, Yarrow Mamout Archaeological Project (recipient of a SHA Gender and Minority Affairs Committee’s inaugural Mark E. Mack Community Engagement Award and a 2017 DC Award for Excellence in Historic Preservation), and the Stanton Road Archaeological Project, all in Washington, DC. She is interested in the relationship between landscape and memory in historically Black spaces. Chardé’s graduate research will focus on the intersection between race, identity, cultural landscapes, and materiality through community-based archaeology.

Week 9: #RMDHatWM, or Hacking the System

Let’s be brutally honest for a second: I was exhausted leading up to the Race, Memory and the Digital Humanities Conference (#RMDHatWM). Just last week, I spent three days conferencing at my alma mater, UVA; I went to Hampton Comicon; and I had two papers and presentations due (one of which I only found out about one week in advance, but I digress). All I wanted Thursday after class was my dog, a cup of tea and The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill on repeat. But after hearing about the conference through the Equality Lab last fall, after my teacher moved our class time to accommodate the opening roundtable, and after remembering that I had volunteered to help–I went anyway.

I’m so glad I did.

Liz Losh, my professor, the director of the Equality Lab, and William & Mary’s first official digital humanist, put together an amazing series of roundtables, talks and events featuring some of the coolest scholars I’ve ever met. I was first struck by the fact that the opening and closing keynote speakers were both Black women and they were the epitome of #BlackGirlMagic. Thanks to Liz’s prodding, I ended up with a semi-working relationship with the closing keynote, P. Gabrielle Foreman, whom I came to deeply admire. Situated at the intersections of Literature, History and Black Studies, I was in awe of the way she seamlessly utilized Langston Hughes poetry and historical archive as a lens through which we might understanding her work digital archiving, organizing and activist work through the Colored Conventions Project. As a baby grad student working at the intersections of similar scholarship, it was amazing to have a Black woman model a methodology based not on limitations of the Academy but on the truth she was seeking to tell.

The same can be said for Jessica Marie Johnson. Her work transcended space and time as if those principles never existed anyway. In her talk, she moved us from Puerto Rico to New Orleans, cited Black Code Studies and New Orleans folklore, utilized audio to contextualize the sound of Black screams and pain as well as animated videos featuring everyone’s favorite song, “Formation.” I’ve never seen how someone’s mind can move so fast, folding together layers into a cohesive and extensively cited project.

Overall, this conference was valuable because I got to see diverse scholars address issues I’ve been grappling with the whole semester. They asked: How does this lead to transformative action? Where is our scholarship situated? What tools can DH offer us in our goals to dismantle systems of oppression?

The answers I got, for the first time, were satisfying. There is no one way to do DH, therefore there is no one solution. The goal should not necessarily be to find a solution, but to engage in a process with your work that is ethical, intentional, and empathetic. This will lead to transformative work because if you are engaging in such a way and constantly returning to questions of power, privilege and access, you will cite ethically (CITE BLACK WOMEN. GIVE US CREDIT FOR OUR WORK!), you will have reciprocally beneficial relationships with community partners, and you will build infrastructures to encourage this kind of work.

The time that I was able to spend with incredibly brilliant scholars was equally valuable. From advancing Professor Foreman’s slides for her keynote to getting hugs from Jessica Marie Johnson and Marcia Chatelain–I even got to spend a few priceless moments with Jessica, Marcia and Tacuma Peters at the end of the conference. I was so excited to meet them: Black scholars thriving in their fields, and they were also happy to meet me–another face in the crowd, a baby scholar on the come up. They fueled me with stories about how grad school was great (or not), how being a professor was great (or… not), and how to value each phase in my journey through the Academy. They told me not to downplay my work: finishing my Masters is a big deal. They told me to take advantage of my freedom as a graduate student. And they also gave me cards and contact information, which was stunning and so appreciated. I left the conference feeling loved, supported and newly secure in my roles as scholar, activist and creator.

We hack the system by writing ourselves in, creating archives for ourselves and citing POC, WOC, queer authors, indigenous scholars. We do it by working together, valuing the work of everybody–and I mean everybody–involved, and creating communities and infrastructure both digitally and physically. We hack the system by caring for each other and lifting as we climb.

This is how we hack the system. This is how we hack ourselves into the system.

This conference was just what I needed. I needed a model for how to be a caring participant of society as I move through the Academy and thankfully I got an entire room full.

This is how we hack the system.


In honor of modeling the amazing citation practices I saw at #RMDHatWM, I want to take a moment to shout out people that I learned from this conference, and whose ideas greatly inspired this synthesization of three days worth of rigorous intellectual work:

Gabrielle Foreman

Jessica Marie Johnson

Liz Losh

Angel Davis Nieves

Marisa Parham

Amanda Phillips

Kelli Moore

Fiona Barnett

Jacqueline Wernimont

Roopika Risam

Samantha Callaghan

Alexis Lothian

Catherine Steele

Week 8, or Conferences, Monologues, and Comicons, Oh My!

I’ve known for a while that this week’s blog post would be pretty packed because in the last four days, I went to Charlottesville for a conference on Slavery and Public Memory, saw the third annual Black Monologues, and attended my first Comicon in my first attempt at cosplaying, going as Ororo Monroe, better known as Storm.

I still don’t know which part to write about– it was all so incredible. However, it’s still worth the time to just reflect on each event, even if just for a little while.

The conference began with a keynote by Daina Ramey Berry on the Domestic Cadaver Trade and what she calls soul value. That talk was valuable for me because I have recently found myself exceedingly taken with Black studies and the lives of Black people, and while I felt I comfortable in my knowledge of the lives of the enslaved, Dr. Berry informed me that for a lot of Black people, the abuse didn’t end in death. Their bodies could potentially be snatched up and used as cadavers for medical school. It never occurred to me that abuse of Black bodies could extend beyond the grave, at least not in this form. It’s harrowing, but necessary, to think about.

Equally as important was the talk I attended after the keynote. I slipped away afterwards to find my former professor, Claudrena Harold, who was giving a talk in the Rotunda. A few mishaps and awkward conversations later, I found myself seated a dinner table surrounded by first year RAs, but listening to Professor Harold give a history of Black students at UVA. She is always so passionate about her work– the students she investigates, the stories she tells about them, the critical thought attached to the message– and the form her work inhabits (she’s been into film for the last 5 years.) It reminds me that I can do this grad school thing and be me. It reminds me that I can go to class, write those critical essays, because they matter, but I can also work with undergraduates and blog my thoughts and experiences and write fiction because all of these forms are a part of me. She reminded me that sometimes writing a critical essay isn’t going to adequately communicate a particular story, sentiment, or idea– and that it’s a blessing to be able to use different methods to work through various problems.

That is how you do intersectional work.

You allow yourself to tackle one problem, you allow yourself to see as many sides as you can, you evaluate it, and then you decide which of your tools is best suited to address this particular monster. Sometimes it’s an essay, sometimes a blog post, or a photoessay, or a film. Sometimes it’s talking through difficult feelings with undergraduates, sometimes it’s yelling yourself hoarse at a protest. Intersectional work is not limiting yourself based on the arbitrary parameters of the Academy.

I took this revelation with me as I moved through the rest of the conference– sitting in panels about confederate monuments and student activism, the lives of descendants of the enslaved and memory in the South; meeting everyone from undergraduates to professionals; reuniting with friends, professors, and loved ones. I made it my mission to do work for the Lemon Project while I was there. I wanted everyone to know who we were and what we stood for, because that was what felt right. So I chatted and gave out business cards, took extensive notes, and live tweeted almost the entire conference, which helped grow our small following on twitter from 180 to 230 followers just in the course of a few days.

When I wasn’t working, I was reuniting, slipping out to see everyone I had to leave when I graduated– my second mother, my dear budding academic friend, a former resident, and a couple of the best friends I’ve ever known. One such excursion involved me, my soul sister and her actual sister, and one stage that I’ve come to love with all of my heart.

Yup, I went to see Black Monologues.

I’m not sure how it happened, but the magic was back. I was enraptured. The show spoke to me again, held me comfortably in its arms, and I felt so loved once again, as if I had never left that stage, never left that theater at all. My heart ached so badly that tears started falling before I could stop them, I laughed so hard the tears started again and my stomach started to ache. The struggles were real– they responded to the August 11-12 demonstrations, they related the difficulty of choosing to be an activist or a scholar because it feels so often like you can’t be both, they spoke of Black love, trust and hope. They tapped in to the fear of losing a loved one to police brutality, the fear of admitting your mental health was declining, the fear of putting your trust in the wrong people. There was disappointment and guilt, but so much pride. As they performed Master Jefferson and For Your Entertainment, my heart swelled with pride because Ed had truly left his legacy at UVA with those pieces. When the cast told us where they had come from, it was all I could do not to break down sobbing.

The sobbing came later when two of the actresses from the first year of doing the show ran up to me afterwards, telling me how they’d seen me and tried not to make eye contact because they knew they’d laugh or smile, radiating happiness and love, and I fell into them, crying, because in that moment, I was home again.

I carried all of this love and hope with me as I moved through my last day at the conference, and finally home to Williamsburg, where I prepared myself for my next adventure, Comicon.

I had a whole adventure before we (my friend Adrienne and I) even left as I’d been so exhausted the last three days that I’d passed out before I remembered I had to go get spray on hair dye to turn myself into Storm for the convention. I ran around all morning, picking up a pair of black jeans here and dye there. By 10 AM, I was a dead ringer for Ororo Monroe, so we left, Storm and Ms. Marvel, for the festivities.

Admittedly, it wasn’t as fun as I had imagined. It was small and cramped with a lot of people. The panels weren’t particularly organized nor did I just decide chat with anyone. I did however get to look at a lot of cool stuff, including amazing, nerdy woodworkings, a lot of comics, and a ton of art. Most of my fun was looking through all of the artists’ portfolios and getting to chat with them about their work. I eventually picked up a Black Panther poster from an artist, along with an X-Men patch, then Adrienne (who had accumulated similar goodies) and I decided it was time to go. We took some really fun pictures outside of the convention center before we hit the road back to the Burg.

All in all, it was an enormously fun four days. It just speaks to the fact that I refuse to be stuffed in a box that I attended a slavery conference, a show on Black experiences and a Comicon in less than a week. This has been me living my best life. I want to continue to be moved in all kinds of directions, and find somewhere to land no matter which path I take. I want to continue to believe in my ability to decide which form speaks to my thought the best. I want to continue to be unapologetically me as I move through grad school and into a career– and to do that, I have to accept my complexity.
I’m never going to be just one thing and I take pleasure in knowing my future will be very complex, very multi-dimensional, and thus very, very rich.