AAA 2017 CFP: “Protest Matters”

*** extended deadline: midnight, Sunday April 9 ***

Excited to be organizing a session and interactive installation for the American Anthropological Association annual meetings, held in Washington D.C. this year. Looking for papers for the panel and people to help set up and run the installation.

Panel CFP: “Protest Matters: The Objects, Art, and Affect of Resistance”

Placards. Whistles. Pink, knitted “pussy” hats. Rainbow flags. Yard signs. Sage bundles. Drums. Pamphlets. Pots and pans. Padlocks. Buttons. Bull horns. Objects created or repurposed for protest have become emblematic of resistance to the Trump administration and related threats to social justice over the past year—in keeping with long histories of protest movements around the world. More than symbols, however, these objects become meaningful to the people who make and possess them—worn or displayed as badges of honor, and public identifiers of political opinion. Washington D.C., host to this year’s AAA meetings and a focal point for recent protests and rallies, is an ideal location in which to consider protest ephemera and the materiality of resistance from an anthropological perspective. We invite submissions of papers that address these broad themes from a variety of theoretical perspectives. Submissions may engage data collected in the United States, or elsewhere. Specific topics discussed may include, for example:

  • the dynamic relationship between art and activism, and feelings and things, in the context of protest;
  • the affective impact of taking part in public rallies and protests;
  • the sensorial experience of protesting and protest objects (i.e. colors, sounds, tactility, smells etc.)
  • how everyday objects can be transformed into political symbols;
  • the use of clothing, buttons, stickers etc. to assert opinions, project identities and/or to build community;
  • how preparation of protest objects (food, banners, puppets, etc.) forges connections between people;
  • how internet-based organizing has (or has not) changed the role of pamphlets, fly posters, zines, etc. in protest organizing and political messaging;
  • the role of anthropologists in documenting—and engaging in—social justice actions.

This panel will accompany and complement an interactive installation, “Protest Matters”, to which visitors are invited to contribute their own objects, and to record short video reflections on the memories and feelings that these artifacts evoke.

Please submit abstracts (250 words max.) for papers to be included on the panel to sm3276 [at] georgetown.edu by midnight, Sunday April 9 [extended deadline]. Notifications of acceptance will be sent out by Monday April 10. Expressions of interest in contributing to the installation are also welcome at the same address.

The Master’s Rhetoric Will Never Dismantle the Master’s Executive Orders

Originally published at the anthropology blog, Savage Minds, responding to their call for short commentaries on “anthropology in the Trump era”.

Screen Shot 2017-03-07 at 6.13.05 PMIn late January, President Trump signed three Executive Orders concerning immigration. The “Muslim Ban” galvanized attention, from protests and Op-Eds to legislative action. Given the patently unconstitutional practices sanctioned by that Order, the maneuvers promised by the other two—including increased agency powers to profile and criminalize immigrants, mass raids, detentions, and deportations—possibly appeared less immediately pressing.

Academics’ responses hint at a more worrying reality. An open letter to the President signed by 43,000+ scholars, including prominent anthropologists, concludes:

“The unethical and discriminatory treatment of law-abiding, hard-working, and well-integrated immigrants fundamentally contravenes the founding principles of the United States.”

The qualifiers here are alarming and counterproductive. Racialized groups of people have been systematically criminalized, exploited for their labor, and marginalized in the United States since its founding. Terms like “law-abiding,” “hard-working,” and “well-integrated,” are furthermore malleable to pernicious ends, and frequently deployed by right-wing voices.

As scholars, teachers, and activists, we must refute, not echo, the “good” vs. “bad” immigrant rhetoric of this (and earlier) administrations. As anthropologists, we must reflect critically on governmental categorizations of people, not take them for granted. We must expose the xenophobic constructions at the heart of each policy statement. As Trump makes good on his promises, we must advocate for all immigrants—regardless of taxes paid, skill sets, or ascribed work ethics; regardless of faith, language, or family ties; regardless of records, status, or papers. Lines drawn in the sand around state-approved “deserving” immigrants will only fortify the foundations of future border walls.

#AnthReadIn at Georgetown

read-in-imageFollowing the call published by the anthropology magazine Savage Minds, my colleagues and I in the Women and Gender Studies Program at Georgetown University will host an #AnthReadIn event on Friday 17 February, 12.30-2pm.

We’ll be reading Chapter Nine from Hannah Arendt’s On Totalitarianism (which you can find here), alongside Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” (which is available here).

Join the conversation on social media under #AnthReadIn.

Why Trump (Or, America In Fragments)

People want answers. On social media timelines, in newspapers and blogs, in private conversations, those who cannot understand how Donald Trump has been elected President of the United States are desperate to make sense of it all. Too many people are accepting easy answers. It was neoliberalism. It was misogyny. It was white supremacy. It was fear. It was Hillary. It was the media. It was the FBI. It was Facebook.

In truth, there is no single person, group, ideology, or media moment to “blame”. Ignore the thousand Think Pieces telling you otherwise. No one “let” this happen; there is not one “cause”. Desire for straightforward answers reveals only the depth of denial we face in the United States today. The voting public chose this. Across income levels, across numerous states. We chose this. That is how democratic society works. We are all complicit.

People are asking the wrong questions. “How did Donald Trump win marginally more support in three particular U.S. states?” “Why were pollsters wrong?” “Did Democrats choose the wrong candidate?” The question we are too afraid to ask is simple: “What is our society, such that Donald Trump could be President?” But this is the question we must ask as we plan the necessary fight back.

The answers, like the United States of America, can only be understood in fragments. Continue reading

Responsibility to respond to racism on campus

I teach at two schools in Washington, DC. One has taken recent action to stop celebrating the legacies of former slave traders, held a series of events and dialogues intended to open spaces to debate ongoing racial prejudice on campus, and elevated of African American Studies from Program to Department status. These moves are welcome, but ongoing efforts to inspire lasting cultural change are still required . The other institution has recently been the site of racist abuse on campus. Students are rightly outraged, and leading calls for meaningful action. The administration is responding, treading a similar path as other U.S. universities, by announcing plans for improved trainings for faculty, staff, admissions teams and students; improved support for relevant student services; and required courses on African American history for incoming undergraduates.

Screen Shot 2016-10-11 at 11.08.53 AM.png

Twitter coverage of a recent anti-racism rally at American University

As teachers, we must support these efforts and continue to make space in our classrooms for honest, open dialogues on pressing social issues, including but not limited to racism. We must respond visibly and vocally when members of our student body face discrimination, and fell let down by their institutions.

At a recent on campus rally calling on the administration to act definitively, a student held aloft a placard that read, “Silence is Violence.” This Open Letter to Students of Color At American University is intended to let our students know that we, the faculty, will not be silent. I, along with the other signatories, intend to carry this message into our classrooms and faculty meetings, taking tangible steps to making our campus welcoming to all.

Post-Ph.D., back to work

Screen Shot 2016-08-27 at 11.36.01 AMOn June 7, 2016, just under five years since I moved to Washington DC to start my Ph.D study, I successfully defended my doctoral dissertation. It is entitled (in an admittedly straightforward but accurate and easily searchable manner): “LGBT Asylum Seekers and NGO Advocacy in the United States”.

Although the defense itself was predictably a little nerve-wreaking, I was grateful for the opportunity to present and discuss my work and found the conversation to be productive—a unique forum in which to think through and rearticulate my choices, analyses and conclusions. Asked by my committee only to add a few paragraphs to my conclusion, I was able to complete revisions swiftly and with pleasure. In fact, the entire experience of preparing for, carrying out and then writing up my research was on the whole enjoyable—at turns challenging and draining, but always stimulating. My interlocutors, mentors and colleagues helped ensure that was the case, and I’m extremely glad that I had them alongside me during various stages of the process.

Continue reading

Responding to #PostRefRacism

I’m generally not one for “listicals” – those “ten things…” articles that, in our post-Buzzfeed age, are shared widely and more often than not stride confidently over the thick line distinguishing informative content from clickbait. Post-EU Referendum, however, I wrote one, prompted by a notable rise in violently xenophobic and racist actions across the UK. Or, to be more precise, prompted by the shock and despair expressed by friends in response to those actions.

Commentators’ suggested ways to oppose and combat xenophobia eschewed structural analyses and instead focused on individual and reactive gestures: one popular (and justifiably derided) campaign encouraged people to wear an empty safety pin on their lapels, ostensibly to signal that were pro-immigrant and anti-racist. Others blamed “little Englanders” and reckless politicians for fueling hate, willingly overlooking Britain’s history of and ongoing battle against institutional racism.

So, despite my dislike for the format, I put together a link-filled list of practical and proactive things people in the UK can do to combat racism and xenophobia (along with a few other intersecting and co-constituting oppressions). The full article is posted at Red Pepper, replete with further information and contact information for relevant organizations. Here’s the abridged version, and the closing paragraph:

1. Support anti-fascist organisations
2. Support pro-immigration organizations
3. Recognize and resist structural racism
4. Support and celebrate local communities and marginalised voices
5. Intervene and report attacks — when it is safe to do so
6. Proactively contest hate speech and prejudice
7. Know who – and what – you are voting for
8. Advocate for workers’ rights
9. Recognise your complicity – and refuse to perpetuate oppression
10. Be ready to critique the EU

“Overall, we must not forget that if the Referendum result had been different, racism and xenophobia would still exist in the UK—and throughout Europe. Far Right parties have been gaining traction for over a decade, and popular European governments have enacted startlingly racist and xenophobic laws. The Referendum has only opened eyes to prejudices that were previously closed to a long-standing reality. To fight back against them we have to be in the fight for the long haul.”

Photo of Refugees Welcome protest in London. Credit: The Weekly Bull