Call for Papers

SWAA 2018 Call for Papers

Humans: The Mediated Species

It is my honor to invite scholars, practitioners, and students to the 89th Annual Conference of the Southwest Anthropological Association at the DoubleTree by Hilton in downtown Fresno on May 4 and 5, 2018.

We have grown accustomed to thinking that there is something momentous about the way our lives are mediated by information and communication technology. The running joke, ”Oh is that what the kids are calling it?”, has become, “Oh is that what the kids are using” (text, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat…). We assume these developments carry wide and deep implications for youth, for the rest of us, and for society as whole. We also increasingly recognize that anthropologists rightfully turn their attention to the practices and meanings associated with these technologies. Indeed, in recent years, the Southwestern Anthropological Association conference has been a rich forum for scholars sharing emerging work on the mediation of human sociality through digital means, from online gaming to trolls and virtual technologies.

Contemporary humans certainly are a highly mediated species, but the fact is: we always have been.

Here is where our anthropological heritage demands more. As a discipline, we have the conceptual and methodological tools that should help us remain critical, even when everyone else seems to think they have found the “right” answers. Hence, when it comes to mediation, we are called to navigate between the poles of technological determinism (“the Internet will change everything!”) and bland statements about plus ça change (the more things change, the more they stay the same).

On one hand, long before virtual worlds, digital communication, and social media, we were mediated by our complex brains, by our upright gait, by language, by fire and stone tools. In other words, our abilities to interact, communicate, pass on complex learned behaviors, and much more, depend on the mediating forces of our evolutionary history and its present-day legacy, the human genome. Further, the expression of every human capability and drive is mediated by the shared, contested, power-ridden thing we call culture, understood as a historical product of human agency in tension with political economy.

On the other hand, we do live in an age when virtual communication is everyday lived social experience. We live in a world where fake news can spread contagiously, channeling social anxieties and even swinging an election, and where doxing and trolls can combine to make life, both virtual and actual, unbearable or even deadly. Anthropologists are exploring the reality of the digital with increasing vigor.

Since our current situation is neither unique nor (by any stretch) uninteresting, it is my pleasure to invite your submissions to SWAA’s 2018 Annual Conference, Humans: The Mediated Species. Join us to explore how we are mediated by our evolutionary history, our genes, our diseases. Explore with us the mediations of the past – and the meaning of that past, either seen through the lens of archaeological discourse or indigenous cosmology. Join us to explore the many mediations of meaning, symbol, language, discourse, and yes, information and communication technology.

We welcome students, scholars, and practitioners from all anthropological subfields and allied disciplines to contribute papers, posters, and films that explore the many mediations of human life. Abstracts for papers and posters will be accepted via submission on our website beginning November 1, 2017, until February 1. Stay tuned for more information and I look forward to seeing you all in Fresno!

Papers accepted into the program are eligible for inclusion in the conference Proceedings. If you are interested in this option, please consult the Proceedings Author Guidelines for more information.