ASA18: Sociality, matter, and the imagination: re-creating Anthropology

18-21 September 2018, Examination Schools, University of Oxford

The Association of Social Anthropologists of the UK and Commonwealth’s 2018 conference will be jointly hosted by the School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography (SAME) of the University of Oxford, including the Pitt Rivers Museum, and the Department of Social Sciences, Oxford Brookes University. It will take place in Oxford, based in and around the Examination Schools, the High Street, Oxford, on 18–21 September 2018.

ASA18 largeThe conference invites participants from all areas of anthropology and archaeology, aiming to encourage debate as widely as possible, across socio-cultural, material, visual, biological, forensic, cognitive, evolutionary, and linguistic fields. It also welcomes participants from anthropology, archaeology, and museum studies associations, and will provide a forum to take forward the ASA's proposal for a UK Anthropology Network (UKAN).

One of the major debates within anthropology broadly defined is the question of how to bridge approaches primarily concerned with the social, and those primarily focused on the material, the physical, or the biological. Much recent anthropology, from a variety of theoretical perspectives, seeks to overcome artificial conceptual divisions, either by proposing new (often hybrid) ontologies or simply by pursuing problems that challenge conventional boundaries. ASA2018 aims to address this key question directly. If sociality, matter, and the imagination are reconsidered from multiple perspectives across the discipline, how might we renew and re-create anthropology? What kinds of theoretical, methodological, and ethical concerns are raised by this potential re-creation?  Working with a very broad definition of ‘the material’—potentially including linguistic, biological, genetic, neurological, environmental, and evolutionary factors—the conference aims to advance debates on sociality and matter, the imagination and creativity, and therefore on what it is to be human in a rapidly changing world.

Confirmed keynote and semi-plenary speakers include Melissa Leach (IDS, Sussex), Caitlin DeSilvey (Exeter), Mike Rowlands (UCL), Alice Street (Edinburgh), Anna Grimshaw(Emory), Alessandro Duranti (UCLA), and Rita Astuti (LSE). There will also be a debate on evolution and morality featuring Oliver Scott Curry (Oxford), Charles Stafford (LSE), Soumhya Venkatesan (Manchester), and Jo Cook (UCL).

Ian Hodder (Stanford) will deliver the Firth Lecture on 'The Paradox of the Long Term: Human Evolution and Entanglement'. For the abstract, click here. Rita Astuti will deliver the closing keynote on 21 September. For the abstract, click here.

In addition to conference papers, participants from all fields of anthropology are encouraged to present work in a range of media including film, sound, performance, photography, and drawing. We also aim to include exhibitions, laboratories, and other experimental formats in the Pitt Rivers Museum and elsewhere.

Contributions to the conference will be organized according to the following four themes:

Theme 1: Language and Imagination

Many philosophers argue that the imagination plays a fundamental role in the very conditions of possibility of thinking. Likewise, many anthropological approaches have assumed that without the works of imagination there would be no other forms of cultural work. Click here for more.

Theme 2: Creative Bodies

The human body has long been recognized as a site where the biological, social, and the material converge. Bodies are creative in the sense that they not only grow and reproduce other bodies, but through performances and gestures, they inscribe, manipulate, and communicate ethnicity and gender, health and sickness, vulnerability and resistance. Click here for more.

Theme 3: Environmental Imaginations

Earlier generations of anthropologists tended to focus on human environmental adaptability in a wide range of ecosystems and climates. More recent anthropological research has instead prioritized the spatial possibilities afforded by deterritorialization and globalization at many scales. Click here for more.

Theme 4: Transformation and Time

How do sociality, matter and the imagination transform over time? Whether addressing short- or long-term processes, anthropologists and archaeologists are confronted with questions relating to the temporal nature of the phenomena they analyse. Click here for more.

The conference organizing committee is:

Jason Danely, Senior Lecturer in the Anthropology of Japan, Oxford Brookes University
David Gellner, Professor of Social Anthropology, Head of Department, SAME (Chair)
Chris Gosden, Professor of European Archaeology, Institute of Archaeology, University of Oxford
Elizabeth Hallam, Research Associate, SAME, and Editor of the Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute
Clare Harris, Professor of Visual Anthropology, SAME; and Curator for Asian Collections, Pitt Rivers Museum
Dan Hicks, Associate Professor in the School of Archaeology and Curator of Archaeology, Pitt Rivers Museum
Catherine Hill, Professor of Anthropology, Oxford Brookes University
Jeremy MacClancy, Professor of Anthropology, Oxford Brookes University
Laura Rival, Professor of Anthropology of Development, Oxford Department of International Development
Ramon Sarró, Associate Professor in the Social Anthropology of Africa, SAME
David Zeitlyn, Professor of Social Anthropology, SAME

The Call for Panels shuold go out in November/December 2017; the Call for Papers in February 2018, and registration after that. In the meantime, if you have any enquiries about the conference please contact conference(at)theasa.org.