About the Society

The Society for Cultural Anthropology (SCA) was formed in the mid-1980s as a section of the American Anthropological Association. It was created to be 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 SCA’s 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 both its members and its diverse constituencies a platform for experiment and innovation in addressing anthropological questions. Through its journal, website, conferences, and wider programming, the SCA promotes creative research through fieldwork, 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 sustains the ethos of the journal by encouraging submissions “that will say something unexpected yet generative.”

The SCA website has grown from providing supplemental materials and teaching tools for journal articles to being an important publishing venue in its own right. A contributing editors program, open to graduate students anywhere in the world, supports the website. The site hosts curated collections of past articles, 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 a photo essay section; our popular AnthroPod podcasts; and the Visual and New Media Review, a curated blog that features the current work of anthropologists, artists, and other scholars working at the intersection of ethnography, visual studies, and digital media.

The Culture@Large panel is the SCA’s signal contribution to the annual meeting of the American Anthropological Association, along with our invited sessions. This panel features an author-meets-critics format, in which anthropologists interact with interlocutors from outside the discipline. Among the scholars we have hosted are Dorion Sagan, Isabelle Stengers, Michael Hardt, Gerald Torres, John Guillory, Susan Buck-Morss, George Lipsitz, and Lauren Berlant. The 2016 Culture@Large session will feature sociologist Javier Auyero in a discussion on “Engaging with Inequality and Affective States.”

The SCA has long had the largest contingent of graduate student members of any AAA section. 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 futures, the SCA created the Cultural Horizons Prize, which goes to the best essay appearing in Cultural Anthropology in the previous year. The prize recognizes work that a jury of doctoral students who are SCA members considers indicative of where the discipline should be headed. In 2016, Nicholas Shapiro won the Cultural Horizons Prize for his article “Attuning to the Chemosphere: Domestic Formaldehyde, Bodily Reasoning, and the Chemical Sublime.” In 2009, the SCA inaugurated the Gregory Bateson Book Prize, which is decided by an interdisciplinary jury. The 2016 prize went to Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing for her book The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins.

Last, and by no means least, the SCA holds its biennial meeting in the spring of even-numbered years. The meeting features workshops, films, and plenary speakers organized around a theme, along with a larger number of volunteered panels. The SCA extends travel stipends to students to ensure a broad mix of participants. The conferences are intentionally small—often housed in older, comfortable hotels—and unfold over two days at a relaxed pace. The 2016 spring meeting on “Collaboration” was organized by Hirokazu Miyazaki and was held on May 12–13 at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. The David Schneider Lecture took the form of a panel discussion among Kim Fortun, Douglas Holmes, Alberto Corsín Jiménez, George Marcus, and Annelise Riles.

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 what you are up to! Our goal is for all members to participate actively and to contribute to the rich life of the SCA.

Robert J. Foster
SCA President (2015–2017)