SCA Student–Faculty Workshops at the 2013 AAA Meeting

The Society for Cultural Anthropology is pleased to announce its 2013 Faculty–Student Workshop luncheons at the AAA meeting this November in Chicago. This year marks the sixth time that the SCA has brought together students and faculty from different institutions to discuss their work informally over lunch. We are pleased to be able to offer four workshops lead by a prominent group of anthropologists:


Queering Anthropology? Facilitator: Mary L. Gray (Indiana University/Microsoft Research)  

(Waiting List) The Anthropology of Becoming. Facilitator: João Biehl (Princeton)  

(Waiting List) Anthropology of Infrastructure. Facilitator: Julia Elyachar (UC Irvine) 

(Waiting List) Anthropologies of Socialism and After. Facilitators: Bruce Grant (New York U) and Nancy Ries (Colgate U)    

Descriptions of each workshop theme can be found below.


The SCA is also sponsoring:

The "Dissertation Completion Bootcamp" and "Preparing for a Happy, Fulfilling, Non-Exploited Career in the New Economy" workshops by Gretchen A. Bakke. See the bottom of this page for details.

A workshop on Ethnographic Writing with the American Ethnological Society, facilitated by Carol Greenhouse and Hirokazu Miyazaki. See for details.


Each of the luncheon workshops will be limited to five students and will take place at a restaurant near the conference hotel during the 2013 AAA meeting in Chicago. The workshops are free to all participants and open to SCA student members currently enrolled in Ph.D. programs. Lunch is provided. Workshops will run from 12:15 to 1:30 to match the AAA's programmed lunch sessions (on either Nov. 21, 22, or 23. Actual dates of workshops to be confirmed.) 

Participants will be invited to contribute a short write-up about their workshop to the SCA’s Fieldsights blog.  


To join one of these workshops, you must submit a 250 to 300 word description about your research project. You are encouraged to include within the description a statement relating your work to the theme of the workshop, and specific questions for the workshop leader(s) and for the group as a whole to consider. Descriptions will be shared with fellow workshop participants in advance of the meeting.


Selection is on a first-received first-considered basis, with preference given to post-fieldwork Ph.D. candidates whose work has a clear relevance to the workshop theme. Applicants to workshops facilitated by faculty from their home institutions will not be considered. Any applications received after the initial five slots are filled will be placed on a waiting list. Applications will be accepted beginning immediately, until all workshops have been filled.

Final notification of acceptance will be given by October 31, 2013.  

How to apply:

Please submit your description at:

E-mail Grant Otsuki ( with any questions.  

Workshop Descriptions  

The Anthropology of Becoming. Facilitator: João Biehl (Princeton)

Philosophers tell stories with concepts. Filmmakers tell stories with blocks of movements and duration. Anthropologists, I would say, tell stories with instances of human becomings: people learning to live, living on, not learning to accept death, resisting death in all possible forms. Our characters are those who might otherwise remain forgotten, and they want to be represented: to be part of a matrix in which there is someone else to listen and to think with and through their travails. With our empirical lanterns, we must attend to the ways that people’s own struggles and visions of themselves and others create holes in dominant theories and interventions and unleash a vital plurality: being in motion, ambiguous and contradictory, not reducible to a single narrative, projected into the future, transformed by recognition, and thus the very fabric of alternative world-making.  

This workshop on the Anthropology of Becoming is oriented around the following questions: How can we ethnographically apprehend these worldly fabrications and the lives therein, constituted as they are by that which is unresolved, and bring this unfinishedness into our storytelling? How are long-standing theoretical approaches able to illuminate these political/economic/affective realities on the ground? How can the lives of our informants and collaborators, and the counter-knowledges that they fashion, become alternative figures of thought that might animate comparative work, political critique, and anthropology to come?  

Anthropology of Infrastructure. Facilitator: Julia Elyachar (UC Irvine) 

In recent years, there has been a rush of work in anthropology organized around the theme of infrastructure. What accounts for the rise of this body of work at this particular moment? What themes have emerged, and what lines of inquiry seem most fruitful for a next generation of graduate students to pursue? Some exciting work focuses on flows of water, electricity, and traffic. Other work focuses on places where those flows stop: at ports, borders, and traffic lights. We have also seen analysis of less obvious kinds of infrastructures: financial infrastructures and social infrastructures are two cases in point. Much of this work has been ethnographically driven in countries where the collapse of infrastructure has long been a matter of daily concern. But research carried out on water infrastructures on the African continent, for example, is proving to be of direct relevance in studies of water infrastructures in a water-starved American Southwest. The implications of theorizing infrastructure at a more general level of mediation at a remove, or the link of infrastructure to the question of public goods, pose other kinds of questions for emergent social analysis of infrastructure. In the workshop we will discuss these and other emergent issues of concern to those carrying out ethnography informed by the concept of infrastructure.   

Anthropologies of Socialism and After. Facilitators: Bruce Grant (New York U) and Nancy Ries (Colgate U)  

More than twenty years after the end of the Soviet bloc, what are the key ethnographic missions in an anthropology of postsocialism? It what ways does a shared history of state socialism still matter for the communities with whom we work today? What combination of social or spatial factors (trading networks, shared historical and religious ecumenes, ideas of a "common European home," Eurasia) manifest through fieldwork in the region today? Where do we see new departures, new directions, new frames of reference? While many rightly argue that postsocialist circumstances oblige us to question, in turn, the commonplaces of late-capitalist life, might this also hold us back from seeing socialism as its own cognitive organization of the world? In this workshop, we invite a range of ethnographic work in the current and formerly socialist world. What, ultimately, are the key frames of collective reference for the societies formerly under socialist sway? We particularly encourage reflection on the work that participants expected to find when they entered this field, on findings that came unexpectedly, and on visions for work ahead.   

Queering Anthropology? Facilitator: Mary L. Gray (Indiana University/Microsoft Research) 

What does it mean to think of “queer” as a verb and to deploy it to queer anthropology? This workshop will explore the value of applying the generative critique of normativity found in queer and feminist studies and its role in the analysis of the cultural construction of social identity categories. Sometimes those cultural notions of self are sexualized and gendered in entangled ways; other times, “queering” a cultural norm like “immigration status” may, on the surface, have little to do with sex or gender. We will talk about how to queer mainstream anthropological practice and its well-established scholarly tradition in the field, how to navigate queer bodies (our own and others) in the field, and the value of the burgeoning fields of transgender studies and digital media to queer anthropology.  


Workshop 8609: Dissertation Completion Bootcamp

Time/Date: Thursday, November 21, 2013: 8:00 AM-11:00 AM

Workshops Abstract: This workshop is for students who feel impossiblyentangled in the dissertation writing process. We will cover common writing problems and detail some techniques for overcoming these; discuss how dissertations are structured and expectations about what they should include; and work through problems specific to writing up from ethnographic data. The workshop will be tailored to the needs and worries of participants and will provide a range of techniques students can use throughout their writing lives.

Organizer:  Gretchen A Bakke (McGill University)

Workshop 8608: Preparing For a Happy, Fulfilling, Non-Exploited Career In The New Economy

Time/Date: Saturday, November 23, 2013: 10:30 AM-12:30 PM

Workshops Abstract: It is hard for current and recent PhDs to figure out how to steer themselves toward an enjoyable and well remunerated life. The workshop is designed to both recalibrate what counts as success (and failure) given the current job market and to help attendees make wise decisions about employment options. The workshop will be tailored to the specific needs of participants and will focus on conjoining intellectual fulfillment with job security and a living wage!

Organizer:  Gretchen A Bakke (McGill University)