ASA15: Symbiotic anthropologies: theoretical commensalities and methodological mutualisms

Events and meetings

Monday 13th April

14:00-15:30  Welcome and the ASA's Firth lecture, Alumni auditorium, The Forum

In the midst of disturbance: symbiosis, coordination, history, landscape
Anna Tsing

“Symbiotic anthropology” - the subject of this conference - has both metaphorical and material objects, and I aim to address both in drawing attention to earthy botanical symbioses as these create landscape assemblages.  (Yes, there will be mushrooms.)  Honoring the legacy of Raymond Firth, I will show how field observations can be the basis of theory building - including the creative transdisciplinary exercises necessary to rethink the human within multispecies worlds.  Firth’s legacy can take us, too, to formalist-substantivist debates in contemporary biology, in which neoDarwinism and “ecoevodevo” contest the meaning of symbiosis as “rational choice” or “symbiopoiesis,” respectively.  Such debates challenge us to watch symbiosis in action, as it assembles more-than-human socialities.  Drawing on Matsutake Worlds Research Group fieldwork in the anthropogenic woodlands of southwest China and central Japan, I will attempt to conjure landscapes in the friction of symbiosis, coordination, and history.  Landscapes are social-natural enactments of world-making.  Following their emergence opens a symbiotic anthropology that builds theory from the details of everyday life.

Anna Tsing teaches anthropology at the University of California, Santa Cruz.  She is also Niels Bohr Professor and co-director of Aarhus University Research on the Anthropocene (AURA).  Her new book will be published by Princeton University Press this year: The mushroom at the end of the world: on the possibilities of life in capitalist ruins.

18:15-19:45  Welcome drinks reception, The Street, The Forum

Delegates are invited to gather in the lobby after the plenary ends to have some wine and canapés to celebrate the opening of ASA15 with colleagues.

Tuesday 14th April

09:15-10:45, 11:15-12:45, 14:00-15:30  Film, audio and multimedia programme: symbiosis: sound, vision and the senses (P40), Room 2, The Forum

This year's film, audio and multimedia programme will raise issues about the relationship between ethnography, sight and the other senses, aiming to stimulate a discussion on sensory symbiosis as both an object of anthropological research and a realm of creativity in ethnographic representation. In what ways are contemporary anthropologists engaging with media technologies to generate data and present their findings? What symbiotic roles should text play in an era of growing multi-media potential and possibility? Click for details.

13:05-13:55  Apply meeting, Room 1, The Forum

The ASA Network of Applied Anthropologists is holding an informal meeting to discuss network activities and new ideas. All are welcome to attend whether on the Network mailing list or not! Priority will be given to those attending this meeting, in the canteen lunch queue.

14:00-15:30  Laboratory: Dream literacy workshop, Room 12, The Forum

Convenor: Iain Edgar (Durham University)
One of the two laboratories launched this year at ASA15, this workshop will facilitate researching and working with dreams across cultures, using imaginative methods. The lab offers researchers the opportunity to sensitise themselves to indigenous dreamworlds, core dream interpretative traditions and the role of their own dreams. Note that the second session will be on 15th April, 14:45-16:15. Click for details.

18:00-18:30  Berghahn Books reception, Berghahn Books stand, The Street, The Forum

Celebrating 21 years as an independent publisher, Berghahn Books is delighted to hold a Reception at its stand - all delegates welcome!

Wednesday 15th April

13:05-14:40  The ASA's Annual General Meeting, Alumni Auditorium, The Forum

All members of the ASA are invited to attend the association’s AGM. Come and have your say in ASA business. In the canteen lunch queue priority will be given to those attending the AGM. Download the draft agenda, Chair's report, Treasurer's report and annual accounts ahead of the meeting.

14:00-15:30  Session 2 of Dream literacy workshop, Room 12, The Forum

Convenor: Iain Edgar (Durham University). See above.

19:30-21:30  Conference dinner, Great Hall, Devonshire House

This will be a three-course vegan/vegetarian meal served with wine and coffee. Tickets for the conference dinner needed to be booked in advance when registering.

21:45-23:30  Conference party, Great Hall, Devonshire House

The entrance to the conference dance party is free for all delegates! The party will start after the conference dinner at the same location, the Great Hall. There will be a cash bar for drinks; Dakar Audio Club will be performing and more dance music will be provided by Beats and Bass Society's DJs.
Dakar Audio Club are an Afro-fusion band who play songs in Bambara, Wolof, French and English. Their sound is a mix of traditional Malian Blues, Soukouss, Highlife and Reggae. The band is formed around husband and wife songwriters, Nick and Fatou. See their website, Soundcloud and Facebook page.
Beats and Bass is the University of Exeter's dance music society, offering the chance to enjoy music from student DJ’s, playing a range of music from Drum and Bass to House, Hip Hop to Dubstep and everything in between.

Thursday 16th April

09:15-10:45  Laboratory: Mutual anthropologies: developing some reciprocal approaches to research, Room 11, The Forum

Convenors: Joy Hendry (Oxford Brookes University), Yuko Shioji (Hannan University), Will Tuladhar-Douglas (University of Aberdeen)
Building on the proposition that anthropologists working in each other's home areas demonstrate a relatively equal form of scholarship in a discipline that suffers from accusations of hierarchy, we seek now further to understand and share the variety of approaches applied from our locations of study. Click for details.

13:05-14:00  Anthropology of Britain meeting, Room 2, The Forum

The ‘Anthropology of Britain Network’ meeting is open to ALL. At this meeting Hannah Rumble (University of Exeter) will present an aspect of her work on death in Britain.  Priority will be given to those attending this meeting, in the canteen lunch queue.

Far from dead and buried: introducing creative engagement with death and thinking anthropologically to unemployed 17-25 year olds in Bristol
Given that this year’s ASA conference theme is ‘Symbiotic anthropologies: theoretical commensalities and methodological mutualisms’ and one of the key questions asked is: What can-or should-anthropologists do and with whom?” I felt it apt, as an anthropologist who has conducted most of her fieldwork in Britain to screen a 12-minute film that documents a project I ran with a community artist in Bristol in 2013 called Dead and Buried. A project that creatively engaged young people, between 17 and 25 years old, identified as ‘Not in Education, Employment or Training’ (NEET), with places of death (a natural burial ground, cemetery and crematoria) over an intensive 10 weeks, culminating in a public exhibition of the young people’s creative output. In this presentation I will reflect upon the symbiosis and unexpected outcomes of this innovative, creative collaboration between contracted anthropologist, self-employed community artist and 10 unemployed young people.

13:05-14:00  Heads of Departments meeting, Room 1, The Forum

ASA invites the Heads of Departments and their representatives to the annual meeting. All those planning to attend should notify the organisers by email to secretary(at)