Roundtable - Executive Session Status Awarded
Sponsored by: AAA Executive Program Committee
Of interest to: Practicing and Applied Anthropologists, Teachers of Anthropology in Community Colleges, Students, Those Involved in Mentoring Activities
Primary Theme: Resistance
Secondary Theme: Ethics
In 2018, it would be hard-if not impossible-to find an anthropologist who would disagree with the idea that we should be communicating our research to a broader public. This, by now, seems to be a mainstream idea in anthropology. Indeed in 2017, the AAA issued guidelines for how to evaluate public scholarship for promotion and tenure. And yet, how one should write for a public, and to be frank, even if one should do it remains a fraught issue. For example, a specific problem of public scholarship in anthropology is the continuing dismissal of it by some scholars as being minor, anti-intellectual, or not constituting "real" scholarship. In this formulation, public writing is for less-than-capable scholars or, more positively, for those who have already proven themselves as able scholars and thus earned some sort of right to turn to public writing. It can be a source of humble claims by colleagues that it takes a certain sort of (other) temperament or interest to do it, and at times, an unspoken but audible sense that writing for a public is not as intellectually important or rigorous as is writing for scholars. Resistance to public writing takes other forms too: Sometimes people are just confused about how to "count" it-is it scholarship? Service? Something else? Alongside counting are questions of representation and responsibility. Positionality and power influence who may feel responsible for speaking to and with publics, especially when that "public" is the community one comes from. This commitment to public scholarship and writing from those who are marginalized is sometimes penalized or viewed as less valuable in the discipline. Finally, what happens when your work becomes entwined with a larger controversy? What are the risks involved in putting your work outside of the academy?
On this roundtable, a group of scholars who all write for both public and academic audiences-and sometimes for both at the same time-will discuss this lingering dismissal of and confusion about public writing in the discipline. We welcome all to this interactive conversation, focused on how we might address this resistance while continuing to insist on the ethical and scientific necessity of communicating with audiences including, but also before and well beyond, academic ones. Roundtable participants include Gabriella Coleman, Jason De León, Tanya Luhrmann, Carole McGranahan, Gina Athena Ulysse, David Vine, and Bianca C. Williams.