AAA Meetings in D.C. & San Jose


I’m planning for the American Anthropological Association annual meeting in Washington, D.C. later this year, and it struck me as unusual to hold it in that city again since the meeting was last there only three years ago. Next year, it will be held in San Jose, which was the host in 2006. I then got curious when the last time the meeting was held in Boston or New York, since I can’t remember the meeting ever being held in the northeast. Just for fun, I wondered if the AAA has preferred particular cities over its long history, since its first meeting in Pittsburgh in 1902. So, I made a heat map.

According to the AAA website, the city to host the meeting most frequently has been Washington D.C. (22 times, including this year), followed by Philadelphia (13 times), Chicago (11 times), New York City (10 times), then San Francisco/ San Jose/ Berkeley (9 times). 

However, things have shifted recently, with some cities not hosting for decades. The original host, Pittsburgh, has not been home to the meeting since 1966, while New York last held the meeting in 1971. Boston lasted hosted in 1955, and Los Angeles in 1981 (coinciding with Fernandomania). Several cities hosted only once, including my hometown of Providence, R.I. in 1910.

By comparison, since 1990 New Orleans has hosted three times and San Francisco/ San Jose six times.

The midwest, aside from Chicago, and the southeast have been largely overlooked. Saint Louis is due to host in 2020. I’m curious why Florida has never been the host. I thought they grew convention centers there, not to mention the warm weather, since the meeting is usually in late November.

The meeting has also been held outside of the U.S. five times — Mexico City and Toronto twice each, and Montreal once. Vancouver, B.C. will host in 2019 for the first time.  

Anyway, this was all just out of curiosity.

Heat Map of AAA Meetings (the map is zoomed in too close to see Mexico City, which has hosted twice).

5 thoughts on “AAA Meetings in D.C. & San Jose

  1. I got a message from a friend at the AAA explaining some of the criteria that go into deciding where to hold the annual meeting. They gave me permission to copy and paste their words here:

    ” Some general factors that go into our site selection:

    1. The Annual Meeting now hosts nearly 7000 attendees, too big to accommodate in hotels any longer. Most attendees get some portion of their travel expenses reimbursed, on the condition that their name appears on the program. We try to accommodate this by maximizing the number of simultaneous sessions, which means a large number of “break out” rooms in use at the same time.

    2. So we look for convention centers with nearby hotels where possible.

    3. We now book up to seven years in advance, to lock in favorable hotel rates for attendees, and lower convention center costs for the Association.

    4. For a city to be on the list for consideration, its convention center has to be available during our dates, generally the week before the American Thanksgiving, although we are flexible about that.

    5. This time period used to be a “slow” time for hotels and convention centers, and we could negotiate effectively on behalf of affordable rates for attendees and exhibitors. No longer – as many other groups have moved to this time period, and it is now in greater demand.

    6. We have committed to using social justice criteria in site selection, the most prominent of which is a preference for facilities staffed by unionized workers. This makes it difficult to find suitable sites in so-called “right to work” states, especially across the Sunbelt.

    7. We have tried second-tier cities (in population size), like Denver and Minneapolis, in response to member requests to keep meeting travel/lodging costs as affordable as possible. Attendance fell far short of projections in both cases; while people say they prefer $149/night to $229/night, they also vote with their feet and don’t attend when the meeting is held in these other cities. I sometimes think people want San Francisco’s visitor experience at San Jose’s prices, or Chicago’s visitor experience at Minneapolis prices.”

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