Association for the Anthropology of North America SANA Association for the Anthropology of North America

A Section of the American Anthropological Association

SANA 2015 Conference

Call for Papers: Society for the Anthropology of North America Meeting (April 16-18, NYC)

Register for the SANA 2015 Conference at John Jay College in New York City here. If you plan on attending but are not presenting a paper, please contact with the name of the track you'd like to attend.

Inequality, Equality and Difference

Inequality has recently found its way back into popular discourse. Buffeted by economic and ecological crises and haunted by a welfare-turned-surveillance state, many have come to doubt the ability of the present social system to produce an equitable, sustainable society. This doubt undergirded social movements from the Right and Left, with widely ranging demands, and has in turn been taken up particularly by a liberal economic, political, and intellectual “establishment.” Some see a genuine opportunity to reduce and eliminate inequality while others see a cynical rearguard defense of an unequal system in crisis.

North American anthropologists have historically had a great deal to say about inequality. From bodies to body politics, inequalities can be made highly visible for radical or conservative aims or effaced under other logics of difference and power (e.g. “national security,” “public safety,” “economic growth”). Inequality can be many things: lived experience, social metrics, an administered and organized system of difference, a deviation from an ideal state of equality, a legal criteria, a problem in need of activist or institutional intervention. Inequality, in these definitions, doggedly and systemically persists—as does the belief in an often under-theorized equality. In this vein, we ask:

This conference will be organized into four thematic tracks, listed below. Each track will be comprised of a group of participants who will engage in two days of sustained engagement. The tracks have been selected based on their openness and applicability to a range of potential topics. Each track is open to a mixture of mode of participation: interlocutor sessions, roundtables, panel presentations, in-depth explorations, field trips, performances, etc. Each track has a track editor who has designed the theme and is working with the Conference Chair to design the schedule.

We encourage session and track interactions (circulated papers, thoughts, shared documents, postings, etc) leading up to the conference so as to make conference interactions as substantive and productive as possible. The conference is perhaps best conceived as a kind of collectively produced mini-school where we come to learn from and teach each other. It is a time for intimate and sustained interactions with a consistent group of colleagues dedicated to thinking through particular themes. It works best when participants make connections between sessions and thematic discussions build over the course of the 2-day engagement. To that end, each day will conclude with a plenary discussion to summarize and make links among emerging themes.

Everyone who hopes to participate should choose one of the tracks below in which to participate. (See below for full track descriptions):

  1. Aftermath – This track will connect work synthesizing and interpreting social realities that surface after moments of catastrophe, resistance, or social upheaval. We explore ethnography in the moments following perceived crises or victories and the ramifications for people’s political imaginations. Our track continues the discussion from the last SANA conference of “the end times” by asking what it means to do anthropology in the aftermaths—of welfare as we know it, 9/11, Occupy Wall Street, two terms of a “post-racial” presidency, or other topics. (Editors: Mannissa Maharawal, Mark Porter Webb, Nazia Kazi)
  2. Equality Measures – This track examines both public and private initiatives to reduce inequalities in health, housing, education, criminal justice, and other realms. We welcome papers that explore how (in)equality is measured as well as the measures various actors take to address inequalities, and how evidence is put to use toward equality-making practices. (Editors: Elizabeth Youngling and Emily Metzner)
  3. Anthropology on the Ground – Anthropologists can stand witness. We can accept our social complicity while acting against structural violence. We can enact a direct commitment to be there on the ground as witnesses and actors for change. This track seeks anthropologists and community activists who are engaged on the ground, as witnesses to social justice struggles, as activists, as advocates. We seek submissions from those who share with us the view of “the field,” not as a place for data extraction but, instead, as places of theory formation, praxis, and activist-oriented witnessing. (Editor: Charles Menzies)
  4. Postindustrial Landscapes – We invite proposals that explore the precarity and inequality produced by toxic or sustainable, extractive or revitalizing, transformations of North American landscapes, broadly defined to include sociological, ecological, and ontological spaces. We seek new kinds of community studies that link local events to global networks, bridging rural-urban and human-nonhuman divides. (Editors: Kathryn Dudley, Alexander Blanchette, Chloe Taft, Alison Kanosky, and Rebecca Jacobs)

Submission Information

Anyone interested in participating is welcome to submit a singular proposal or a proposal for a group panel or session relating to one of the tracks above and speaking to the overarching theme. If you are proposing a panel or session, you should have confirmation from each potential participant at the time of application.

Abstracts will be reviewed by the Chair and Conference Committee in coordination with the Track Editors. We will notify participants in mid- to late-February. Information on conference registration will be forthcoming. For any questions about the tracks or the conference please direct emails to

Conference Information

The 2015 conference of the Society for the Anthropology of North America (SANA) will take place April 16-18 at John Jay College of the City University of New York. Under a Progressive inequality-minded mayor, with a police department racked by its own inequality-producing tactics, and a financial district that is a pivot of inequality production and the movement against inequality, New York City is a fitting place for this conference. The conference will be organized around several tracks, each comprising two days of sustained discussion and analysis around issues of key importance to North American society.

Track Descriptions

Aftermath: Political Afterlives and Social Residue

In this track, we will convene scholars whose work synthesizes and interprets social realities that surface after moments of intensification, including catastrophe, resistance, or social upheaval. We ask what it means to do ethnography in the moments following perceived crises or victories and the ramifications for people’s political imaginations. At the last SANA conference at Duke University, participants explored anthropology in the “end times.” Our track continues this discussion by asking what it means to do anthropology in the aftermaths. What happens, for instance, following the decriminalization of marijuana, or the renewal of the PATRIOT Act, economic crises and recessions, or the upheavals related to the Wilson and Pantaleo non-indictments? This dialogue will lend itself to a unique conversation about how we, as scholars, can make sense of the unique political age we find ourselves in as well as methodological concerns about the concept of social residue. Our hope is to open up a remarkable space to collaboratively engage topics of social change, mobility, and transformation.

This topic is ripe for a number of anthropologists of North America. Already-implicit in framings of the “post-9/11 surveillance state”, for instance, or “post-racial” America is this concept of aftermaths. While it is an open theoretical framing, this theme will compel participants to understand their diverse topics around this common thread. As such, participants in our track will be able to connect the temporality of aftermaths to the conference theme of Inequality, Equality, and Difference.

Editors: Manissa Maharawal (CUNY), Mark Porter Webb (CUNY), Nazia Kazi (Richard Stockton College of New Jersey)

Anthropology on the Ground – insiders, advocates, collaborators, and activists

This track picks up the promise of our disciplinary practices through an invitation to explore the various ways in which we have done, are doing, and could do anthropology with a specific focus of being on the ground, alongside of and as witness to the social dramas that make up the quotidian aspects of human life and mark the moments of disjuncture and transformation. Picking up a central concept within indigenous intellectual theory and cultural practice, the act of witnessing, this track calls on anthropologists engaged as insider researchers, advocates, collaborators, and activists to consider the points within which their practice identifies points of inequality and difference while moving toward a just society in which difference is valued and equality is the norm.

In current movements for social justice we–anthropologists—can stand witness and accept our social complicity while acting against structural violence through a direct commitment to be there on the ground as witnesses and actors for change. This track seeks submissions from anthropologists and community activists who are engaged on the ground, as witnesses to social justice struggles, as activists, as advocates. We seek submissions from those who share with us the view of “the field,” not as a place for data extraction but, instead, as places of theory formation, praxis, and activist-oriented witnessing. Within our diversity of approach, focus, and orientations we can find common ground as witnesses to change and struggle. Indigenous movements for justice are at the core of any program for social justice – no redress or realignment of US, Canadian, or Mexican racialized state violence can begin without confronting the underlying act of Imperialist aggression that laid the foundation for subsequent generations of structural and interpersonal violence. That said, no Indigenous movement for social justice can be an island unto itself; tactical and strategic alliance with other social justice movements is necessary.

The track will focus on four key sections or quadrants. This use of four is a deliberate reference to the four directions of the Indigenous medicine wheel. This pan-Indian symbol builds upon the Indigenous intellectual traditions of North America in ways that have contemporary resonance. This also builds upon the recognition that redress to fundamental inequities will not be achieved without reconciling with the original theft and displacement of Indigenous lands. While each section will be focused on one quadrant of the medicine wheel, within each session we will draw upon the four directions to ensure that a balanced discussion and experience arises.

North: movements of domination

South: movements for immigrant rights

West: social justice in the face of structural state violence

East: we are idle no more

Participants are asked to prepare a discussion paper to be circulated in advance. Participants are also encouraged to prepare for display during the conference a poster, a video installation, or a photographic essay that relates to and elaborates upon their paper. The multi-media works will be displayed in a central location (ideally the space that this track occupies) and open to all conference participants.

Editor: Charles Menzies (University of British Columbia)

Equality Measures:  Institutionalizing Equality and Calibrating (In)Equality

This track welcomes scholarship that looks at the ways institutions, organizations, and individuals make and unmake (in)equalities. As Nikolas Rose argues, diminishing disparities has become a moral imperative that both drives and justifies many governmental initiatives in advanced liberal democracies.  At the same time, we recognize that with the retraction of state-initiated programs to reduce certain forms of inequality, much of the work to address social disparities falls to the private sector, a dynamic we see at work in public health, education, social welfare, criminal justice, and other fields.  In addition to the measures that institutions and actors take to address inequalities, our program will explore how equality and inequality are being measured.  For instance, what kinds of data are used as evidence of (in)equality, how are these quantified, and by whom? What effects have the demands of the evidence-based movement and what Sally Engle Merry calls “indicator culture” wrought upon actors addressing inequalities and their practices, and how might these actors use measures in novel or contestatory ways?

We believe this track will be an excellent addition to the 2015 SANA Conference because it builds on themes of the last meeting, “Uncertain Futures,” and brings together both emerging and long-established areas of anthropological inquiry. We expect to draw professional and student anthropologists studying topics as diverse as housing, law and criminal justice, natural resource extraction, national and transnational development, social class formation and inequality, and diaspora and migration, and to engage with activist and non-academic interlocutors as well as anthropologists and other scholars in the social sciences and humanities. We anticipate a collaborative and productive dialogue on the ways in which “equality” and its counterpoints are measured and made in North America in the contemporary moment. 

Editors: Elizabeth Youngling (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign), Emily Metzner (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)

Postindustrial Landscapes

As anthropologists of neoliberalism have argued, postindustrial society is characterized by the growing inequality and precarity that has followed the putative order and stability of Keynesian liberalism.  Yet current trends involving the “reindustrialization” of urban and rural spaces, the renaissance of artisanal craft production, and the post-9/11 expansion of the security state raise urgent questions about this periodization and its real world implications.  Does the concept of the “postindustrial” conceal or reveal the production, reproduction, and restructuring of regimes of power in North America?  Of what, ethnographically speaking, does postindustrialism consist?  The technologies of human and nonhuman labor that drive globally dominant modes of production?  The cultural imaginaries of elites or the marginalized, social groups that benefit from, or are disenfranchised by, the vicissitudes of transnational markets?  Or the materialities of the built environment and toxic landscapes that haunt the unfolding present?

This track explores the forms of precarity produced by postindustrial transformations of North American communities.  Bringing together scholars who examine inequality in North America, we put anthropology in conversation with history, cultural geography, material culture studies, environmental studies, and urban planning in order to complicate narratives of a “progressive” break between the industrial and the postindustrial.  We use the concept of “landscapes” expansively to include social, ecological, and ontological spaces and spatializations in order to theorize new kinds of “community studies” that link local events to global networks, bridging rural-urban and human-nonhuman divides.

Participants will address such topics as “mapping” the relationships between immigration, postindustrial economies, and community fracture; the impacts of “vice-led redevelopment” such as prisons and casinos; intersecting threats to the sustainability of social, economic, and environmental landscapes that extractive industries like “fracking” elucidate; community responses to the economic (re)development and political reorganization that accompany postindustrialism; and the uneven effects of “green” development.

Editors: Kathryn Dudley (Yale University), Alexander Blanchette (Tufts University), Chloe Taft (Yale), Alison Knosky (Yale), Rebecca Jacobs (Yale)



Rooftop Holiday Inn 57th Street New York City

Holiday Inn Midtown – 57th Street
440 West 57th Street
New York, NY 10019

A block of rooms for the SANA conference have been reserved at the Holiday Inn Midtown – 57th Street (440 West 57th Street, New York, NY 10019).

Reservation Procedure: A guaranteed rate of $249 until March 16, 2015. Specific room types are on a run-of-the-house availability basis. Participants should call the Hotel reservations department directly at 212.581.8100 or 800.231.0405 or 1-877-408-4921 to secure reservations. Participants may also book reservations on the hotel website: In order to receive the group rate, all callers must identify themselves as participants of the John Jay Conference for the Society of Anthropology of North America group code XAN.

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