President’s Message

“SWAA President, AJ Faas, doing fieldwork in Fall, 2015, in the areas affected by the 2008 Wenchuan Earthquake in Sichuan Province, China.

“SWAA President, AJ Faas, doing fieldwork in Fall, 2015, in the areas affected by the 2008 Wenchuan Earthquake in Sichuan Province, China.

It is my sincere pleasure and a distinct honor to address the members of the Southwestern Anthropological Association for the first time as President. At this year’s conference in San Diego and for the past several months, I had the privilege to speak with nearly a dozen Past Presidents of the association and to deepen my knowledge of the important history of SWAA. This has not only given me the opportunity to grasp the important role of SWAA in the history of anthropology in America, but has also given me perspective on the priorities of SWAA today and how we might continue to work to ensure the association remains as energized and relevant as ever.

This year’s annual conference in San Diego was a sterling example of the enduring vitality and significance of the work being done by SWAA members. Here, our members alternated between basking in the sunshine and cooling coastal winds and hurrying to present and attend presentations of papers on panels covering a range of compelling topics. Some highlights included several terrific panels on Native American topics and the varieties of indigeneity in America, gender dynamics, human-environment entanglements, health and wellness, frontiers of urban action and experience, identity, migration, and, importantly, several panels on the application of anthropology and teaching and learning. I was very pleased to see contributions from faculty, students, practitioners, and independent scholars from diverse backgrounds contributing a variety of perspectives to the anthropological project. This diversity and the participation of students, scholars, and practitioners has long been one of the great strengths of SWAA and one I am happy to see continue.
We were also fortunate to have a variety of presentation formats this year. We had a total of three sessions of ethnographic films, with topics ranging from the reclamation of Native American remains from British museums to Zapotec and Filipino-American heritage, culture and medicine, and material culture. This year, we were also fortunate to have our Erin Stiles and Hank Delcore introduce a new presentation format to the conference: small, informal “salon sessions” in which panelists presented briefly on narrowly focused topics—“Families in the Field” and “Agency and Surveillance at Work,” respectively—after which panelists and the audience engaged in discussion of the panel topics. This new format was tremendously successful and we look forward to more salon session in future SWAA conferences. Finally, this year marked the first every SWAA Student Poster Competition, which resulted in the expansion of poster presentations into two large sessions. This is just another example of the ways in which we are working to diversify our program and create new opportunities for students and others to participate.
Laura Nader returned to the conference as our Distinguished Speaker for the second time, after having served as Distinguished Speaker in 1972. Her talk on “What the Rest Think of the West,” shared the accounts of the many “wests” encountered by Islamic, Japanese, Chinese, and South Asian travelers, scholars, and diplomats over the past 1500 years. The tales recounted here called on anthropologists to confront the practices of representation that are fundamental to the anthropological project.

Finally, this year was marked by other combinations of continuities and changes at SWAA. After eight years of service on the Executive Board, Erin Stiles concluded her term as Board Chair and stepped down from the Board. I would like to extend my heartfelt thanks to her for all her service to SWAA. We also recognized Past President Teri Castaneda with the Crowley Award for Outstanding Service to SWAA. I would also like to welcome our incoming Vice President and 2017 Program Chair, Hank Delcore, and incoming Board Chair, Jonathan Karpf. I look forward to working with Hank, Jonathan, and other members of the Board as we plan the 2017 conference and craft our program. A heartfelt thanks also to Kathie Zaretsky for her dedication and continued service to SWAA. I would like to extend a welcome to the newest members of the SWAA Board, Violetta Paley, Janni Pedersen, and Bruce Stokes. And, to our members, I invite you to reach out to me and other members of the Board to find out more about joining the Board and some of the rewarding opportunities we have for serving SWAA.

In 2017, it will be my honor to bring the SWAA Conference to downtown San Jose. My home department at San Jose State University also extends a warm welcome to you all. Stay tuned for more details, including the conference theme and venue, in the Summer Newsletter. Until then, enjoy your summers and know that the SWAA Board and I wish you well in all your endeavors.


A.J. Faas, Ph.D.
President, Southwestern Anthropological Association
Assistant Professor of Anthropology
San Jose State University