About the Society
As scholars today face all sorts of possibilities - as well as the impositions of a great many restraints - the Society for Cultural Anthropology is ever aware of the challenge of providing innovative, provocative, but also substantive benefits for its membership, for the academy, and for the many publics with whom we seek to engage. This has been an enduring concern since 1983, when this section was founded by figures like David Schneider, Clifford Geertz and many others. Then, as today, SCA endeavors to put anthropology in conversation with the related humanities and social sciences - and, today, emerging perspectives in the sciences - and in so doing to think critically about the received categories, as well as the established ethnographic genres that shape so much of anthropological knowledge. The ethos of our journal, conferences, and wider programming is still in keeping with that spirit, bringing scholars together, reaching across borders, and fostering shared human understanding.
The principle project of the SCA is our widely respected journal, Cultural Anthropology. Inaugurated under the editorial guidance of George Marcus in 1986, the journal has made an evermore significant impact within and beyond our discipline under the stewardship of its successive editors: Fred Myers, Dan Segal, Ann Anagnost, Kim and Mike Fortun, and - today - Anne Allison and Charles Piot. The journal continues to expand the form and content of anthropological thinking and writing in a great may ways. The vital web-presence of the journal now provides a host of new offerings, from supplemental materials like extended interviews with the authors of the essays published in each issue; to Virtual Issues that collect essays from previously published materials, enhanced with more author updates; to "Hot Spots" that bring together brief pieces by leading scholars for anthropological assessments of pressing issues of the day. The print version now also features a book review section in which anthropologists and other scholars respond to each other's work.
In addition to our invited sessions, the SCA makes a signal contribution to each year's AAA with its "Culture at Large" session. This panel features an author-meets-critics style format, where anthropology invites interlocutors from outside the discipline. We have recently hosted Dorion Sagan on "the Human," Isabelle Stengers (Free U Brussels Philosophy of Science), on current work in STS, Michael Hardt (Duke Literature) on sovereignty and empire; Gerald Torres (UT Austin Law) on critical race theory; John Guillory (NYU English) on ethnographic writing; Susan Buck-Morss (Cornell Government) on postsocialist political theory; and George Lipsitz (UC Santa Barbara Black Studies) on race, New Orleans, and the logic of response to Hurricane Katrina. This year's session will feature Lauren Berlant, (Chicago), who will speak "On Biopolitics and the the Attachment to Life."
The SCA has long had the largest contingent of graduate student members of any AAA section. We are especially pleased with the recent success of the faculty-student for a we sponsor at each year's AAA, where small groups of faculty and graduate students gather to discuss their shared research interests. The SCA created the Cultural Horizons Prize, which goes to the best essay appearing in Cultural Anthropology in the previous year, to acknowledge the place that graduate students have in shaping our futures. Decided by a jury of doctoral students, the prize recognizes work that members consider emblematic of where the discipline should be headed. Jessica Cattelino won this year's prize for her article on the Double-Bind of Native American Sovereignty. In 2009, the SCA inaugurated the Bateson Book Prize, which is decided by an interdisciplinary jury. The 2011 prize goes to David Graeber (UCL) for his book Debt: The First 5000 Years (Melville House).
Last, and by no means least, the SCA enjoyed an excellent biennial Spring Meeting last May, which featured workshops, films, and plenary speakers around a theme, along with a larger number of volunteered panels. The SCA extends travel stipends to students to create a broad mix of participants. The conferences are intentionally small, housed in older, comfortable hotels, and unfold over two days at a relaxed pace. The 2012 spring meeting on "Life and Death: A Conversation" organized by Jennifer Cole, Peter Redfield, and Danilyn Rutherford, was held May 11-12, 2012 in Providence, RI. The David Schneider Lecture featured a conversation between Joao Biehl (Anthropology, Princeton) and Vinh-Kim Nguyen (Social and Preventative Medicine, Universite de Montreal). Our plenary speakers included: Laura Bear (LSE), Erica Bornstein (U Wisconsin Milwaukee), Lawrence Cohen (U.C. Berkeley), Eric Fassin (Ecole Normale Sup屍ieure), Gillian Feeley-Harnik (U Michigan), and Ilana Feldman (George Washington U).
SCA benefits immeasurably from the hard work of our outstanding board, including Anne Allison and Charles Piot (journal editors), Jessica Cattelino (treasurer), Jennifer Cole, Cori Hayden, John Hartigan, Brian Larkin, Grant Jun Otsuki (student member), Peter Redfield, Deb Thomas (our new secretary), and Kath Weston. Speaking on behalf of the board, let me say that we welcome the opportunity to meet you, so please say hello, and let us know about your work. Our goal is for all who belong to SCA to see themselves as members as well as subscribers.
Brad Weiss, SCA President, November 2012