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).

Anthropology & the Art of War

When the elephants fight, it’s the grass that suffers.” 

Last week, the American Anthropological Association held its annual meeting, this year in the beautiful city of Montreal (for a couple of summaries of the conference, see here and here). Rahul Oka, from the University of Notre Dame, asked if I would like to be one of two discussants for his session (co-chaired with Nerina Weiss) “Traces of Violence and Legacies of Conflict,” and I agreed. The session was full of very erudite presenters who spoke on a range of topics related to the anthropology of conflict and violence.

But in preparation for the session, I have to admit to some trepidation because nearly all of the presenters were  ethnographers or archaeologists. And as a biological anthropologist, I felt out of my element.  The presentations were also quite diverse in geography, time period, theoretical perspective, and outcome variable, ranging from structural violence and undocumented border crossings from Mexico into the United States, to skeletal trauma in Neolithic Europe, to Kurdish survivors of torture. I found it hard to discuss the various papers with much sophistication and detail while also finding commonalities among them (and all in fifteen minutes, no less). I tried, but finally concluded that it probably wasn’t going to happen. Therefore, I decided to do a rather broad analysis of the papers, which I read ahead of time. But there was always the risk of zooming out too far, thereby making any analysis overly simplistic and virtually meaningless.

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