Call for Papers

SWAA 2019 Annual Conference
April 19-20, 2019 in Garden Grove, Orange County, CA

Legibility: Practice/Prospect in Contemporary Anthropology
The concept of legibility is not new to anthropology. Scholars have understood it as a project of high modernism – a project of making state-subjects legible and thus decipherable and easy to manage (Scott 1998). Other scholars have explored the concept in terms of the legibility of state bureaucracies (Das and Poole 2004) or the “legibility effect” of governance that classifies and regulates collectives of people (Trouillot 2001). The 2019 SWAA Annual Conference takes on the task of expanding and thinking through legibility with original and critical anthropological and anthropology-allied research. It also expands upon the concept of legibility to address the prospects that exists within it.

Inspired by a recent call for “ethnography attuned to its times” (Fortun 2012) and the possibilities that exist in and through collaborative relationships (See Hamdy and Nye 2016), this conference speaks to the moment we are living in now. If legibility is about decipherability and clarity, how do we make our research legible through scholarly production and pedagogies? How do we make our discipline legible to a broader public through collaboration and other means? This conference seeks to think through legibility as a concept to help us better understand what it means to decipher and make something legible be it communities, individuals, multi-species relationships, economic processes, an archaeological site, evolutionary history, the human genome, our primate relatives, or the archaeological record.

I encourage those submitting 2019 SWAA Annual Conference abstracts to think about the ways in which legibility engenders the possibility of making communities and their respective positions comprehensible. This may come in the context of spectacular violence, resistance movements, everyday life, infrastructure or the structural inequalities that manifest across race, class, gender, sexuality, disability, and education. Posters, films, organized sessions, and other paper submissions that take up the task of unpacking this concept are encouraged.

This conference provides a great opportunity for scholars across the many fields of anthropology and allied disciplines to present original research on what legibility is in your respective fieldsite(s) and how the concept may be employed whether you are a cultural anthropologist, archaeologist, biological anthropologist, ethnographer or something in-between. We also encourage submissions that explore specific questions about anthropology’s legibility – must it be legible, and for whom – and “salon session” submissions that foster undergraduate and graduate student engagement. Organized sessions around public anthropology, pedagogy, and advocacy are especially welcome.

We ask students, scholars, and practitioners from all anthropological subfields and allied disciplines to contribute. Abstracts for all submission types will be accepted on our website beginning January 1, 2019 until February 15, 2019.

Works Cited

Das, Veena and Debra Poole, eds. 2004. Anthropology in the Margins of the State. Santa Fe: School of American Research Press.

Fortun, Kim. 2012. “Ethnography in Late Industrialism.” Cultural Anthropology 27(3): 446–464.

Hamdy, Sherine and Coleman Nye. 2016. “Creative Collaborations: The Making of “Lissa (Still Time): A Graphic Medical Ethnography of Friendship, Loss, and Revolution”. Somatosphere, May 13.

Scott, James C. 1998. Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Trouillot, Michel-Rolph. 2001. “The Anthropology of the State in the Age of Globalization: Close Encounters of the Deceptive Kind.” Current Anthropology 42(1): 125-138.