About the Society

The Society for Cultural Anthropology (SCA) emerged in the mid-1980s as a section of the American Anthropological Association (AAA). Its creators imagined it as a forum for discussing and debating all aspects of anthropology connected with the key concept of culture; David Schneider, Clifford Geertz, and Annette Weiner were among the first officers. Since then, the SCA has evolved into a forward-looking project for critically assessing anthropological knowledge—its production and consumption—as well as its contested and shifting locations within the academy and beyond. The SCA offers its members a platform for experimentation and innovation in addressing anthropological questions to diverse constituencies. Through its journal, website, conferences, and wider programming, the SCA promotes creative research, provocative conversations across disciplinary borders, and timely engagement with events unfolding in the world.

The principal activity of the SCA is our widely respected journal, Cultural Anthropology. SCA members support the bold initiative in academic publishing undertaken in 2014 to make Cultural Anthropology an open-access journal, delivered through the SCA’s website to anyone with a connection to the Internet. Launched thirty years ago under the editorship of George Marcus, the journal has become an important tool for changing the form and content of anthropological thinking and writing through the efforts of its successive editors: Fred Myers, Dan Segal, Ann Anagnost, Kim and Mike Fortun, and Anne Allison and Charles Piot. The current editorial collective of Dominic Boyer, James Faubion, and Cymene Howe has sustained the ethos of the journal by encouraging submissions “that will say something unexpected yet generative.” A new team of Brad Weiss, Heather Paxson, and Chris Nelson will begin charting the journal’s future as of January 2018.

The SCA website has grown from providing supplemental content and Teaching Tools for journal articles to being an important publishing venue in its own right. A Contributing Editors Program, open to graduate students and postdocs anywhere in the world, supports the website. The site hosts Curated Collections of articles from the journal’s backfiles, with added introductions and commentaries. An editor-reviewed series of short essays, Hot Spots, explores significant global events, while Theorizing the Contemporary takes up current topics of intellectual debate. The site also hosts the journal’s experiments in visual anthropology, including our photo-essay collaboration with the Society for Visual Anthropology, Writing with Light; our popular AnthroPod podcasts; and the Visual and New Media Review, a curated blog that features the work of anthropologists, artists, and other scholars working at the intersection of ethnography, visual studies, and digital media.

Every year the SCA sponsors a Culture@Large panel at the annual meeting of the AAA, along with our invited sessions. This panel features an author-meets-critics format, in which anthropologists interact with interlocutors from outside the discipline. Scholars we have hosted include Dorion Sagan, Isabelle Stengers, Michael Hardt, Susan Buck-Morss, and Lauren Berlant. The 2017 Culture@Large session featured philosopher and postcolonial theorist Gayatri Spivak.

The SCA has long benefited from a large and dedicated contingent of graduate student members. We are especially pleased with the success of the student–faculty workshops that we sponsor at each year’s AAA meeting, where small groups of faculty and graduate students gather to discuss their shared research interests. In order to acknowledge the crucial role of graduate students in shaping our disciplinary futures, the SCA created the Cultural Horizons Prize, which goes to the best essay appearing in Cultural Anthropology in the previous year. A jury of doctoral students awards the prize, selecting the piece they consider most indicative of where the field should be headed. In 2017, Kristina Lyons won the Cultural Horizons Prize for her article “Decomposition as Life Politics: Soils, Selva, and Small Farmers under the Gun of the U.S.–Colombia War on Drugs.” In 2009, the SCA inaugurated the Gregory Bateson Book Prize, which is awarded by an interdisciplinary jury. The 2017 prize went to Susan Lepselter for her book The Resonance of Unseen Things: Poetics, Power, Captivity, and UFOs in the American Uncanny.

Last, and by no means least, the SCA holds its biennial meeting in the spring of even-numbered years. Intentionally small and held a relaxed pace, the meeting features workshops, films, and plenary speakers organized around a theme, along with a larger number of volunteered panels and the keynote event, the David Schneider Lecture. The 2018 spring meeting will explore new frontiers in participation by taking place as a virtual gathering. Addressing the theme of “Displacements” and cosponsored by the Society for Visual Anthropology, it invites people to connect from anywhere around the globe to and gather at local nodes for conversation and collaboration. Please join us in this new experiment!

The SCA benefits immeasurably from the hard work of our outstanding executive board. On behalf of the board, let me say that we welcome the opportunity to meet you and hear from you. Please say hello, share your thoughts, and let us know your suggestions. We invite the active participation of all members, and hope that you will contribute to the rich collective life of the SCA.

Peter Redfield
SCA President (2017–2019)