13th Annual Public Anthropology Conference:

Creating Dialogues between Social Movements & Academia

American University’s Department of Anthropology established the Public Anthropology Conference (PAC) as part of its long-standing commitment to centering public anthropology in the service of social justice.  In honor of the 13th PAC, the Department of Anthropology invites students, staff, faculty, alumni and the community at large to participate in a series of panels, presentations, conversations, films, and workshops focused on the theme “Creating Dialogues between Social Movement & Academia”.  This year's theme seeks to explore opportunities for collaboration between academia and social movements of all kinds to advance movements and related forms of advocacy and activism. Participants and audience members are encouraged to share insights about the concrete ways in which activists and academics can strengthen collaborative efforts to combat social inequalities and injustice, discrimination and oppression, and violations of basic human rights.  Taking place just weeks before the U.S. presidential election amid a dramatic rise in social movement activism in recent years, the conference provides a space to self-critically reflect on the contributions of and relationship between academia and movements.


Date: Saturday - Sunday, October 8 - 9

Location: Mary Graydon Center (MGC): Rooms 203-205, 245, 247 and the Butler Boardroom

Saturday, October 8          8:30am-9:00am

Breakfast and Registration

9:00am-10:30am – Session One

Models of Public Anthropology                                                         MGC 203-205        

Public Anthropology is a wide field that encompasses a range of approaches. In this panel and discussion we will explore how different practitioners of public anthropology have designed and executed their work and how they have understood and engaged various publics. The panel will be comprised of American University students enrolled in Public Anthropology who are actively exploring the possibilities and contours of the field. After the presentations, we will have an open discussion that will include discussion of semester-long projects the AU students are engaged in regarding housing issues in DC. Join Michael Polson and the students of ANTH 542!

Methods Hive Mind                                                                        MGC 245

For this interactive workshop, led by Dr. Annie Claus, participants are invited to bring their ethnographic methods questions to a group of individuals engaged in ethnographic research. Confirmed faculty participants include anthropologists and a sociologist who work at the intersections of food, environment, and social justice, but in this panel all barriers between audience and panelist are broken down as we collectively problem-solve. Attendees will actively participate in this panel by bringing their emerging ideas for conducting research and/or contributing to thinking through potential problems and opportunities for proposed methodological approaches. Anyone who would like to participate is invited to bring a 2 sentence summary of their proposed method, the general outline of how that method will be used, and the research questions and problems they hope to solve by using that method; along with a question they have about using that method. Then the hive mind will contribute to making it more robust.

Activism through Visual Media and Technology                                        MGC 247

Zoe Middleton                The Screen as a Field

Shatoya Williams         Hacktivism: A 21st Century Approach towards Social Justice

Bridget Alichie                “’Rebellious’ social movements and the Nigerian state: Fostering

reflective ‘town and gown engagement’ through emerging digital

advocacy and activism

Joshelyn Smith        Emancipating a Nation: How John Legend Exercises the Power of Visual

Advocacy to #FreeAmerica

9:00am-11:30am – Session One

“Journey into Europe” film screening with Dr. Akbar Ahmed                Butler Boardroom

Ambassador Akbar Ahmed, a world-renowned anthropologist, Islamic scholar, and filmmaker, explores Islam in Europe and the place of Islam in European history and civilization in this unprecedented study. In the film shot across the continent in countries such as Germany, the U.K., France, Spain, and Bosnia, we hear from some of Europe's most prominent figures, including presidents and prime ministers, archbishops, chief rabbis, grand muftis, heads of right-wing parties, and every-day Europeans from a variety of backgrounds.



10:45am-12:15pm – Session Two

Let Us Return! A Strategy Session to Assist the Chagos Refugees                        MGC 203-205

The Chagossians are a group of little-known refugees who have been living in exile for nearly fifty years. The Chagossians were forcibly removed from their island homes in the Indian Ocean in the late 1960s and early 1970s by the U.S. and the British governments. In the Chagossians’ place, the U.S. and U.K. built multi-billion dollar U.S. military bases on the island of Diego Garcia. Since their expulsion, the Chagossians have been struggling for their right to return home through protests, petitions, and a series of often successful but still inconclusive lawsuits. Both governments have almost entirely abdicated responsibility for their crimes.  American University’s Chagos Refugees Public Anthropology Clinic is assisting the Chagossian struggle in collaboration with the Chagos Refugees Group, the AU Washington College of Law’s UNROW Human Rights Impact Litigation Clinic, a multinational team of lawyers representing the Chagossians, and other Chagossian supporters. During this session, Chagossian leader Sabrina Jean and members of the Public Anthropology and UNROW clinics will lead a strategy session to discuss how Chagossian supporters in the United States can best advance their struggle.

Sabrina Jean, Chagos Refugees Group UK

Ali Beydoun, AU Washington College of Law

David Vine, AU Department of Anthropology

Members of the UNROW Human Rights Impact Litigation Clinic

Chagos Refugees Public Anthropology Clinic

New Methods in Anthropology and Activism                                         MGC 245

Orisanmi Burton        Breaking through the wall: Correspondence as a Method of Engaged

Prison Ethnography

Brittany Webb                Towards a Public Anthropology of Arts and Culture

Emily Steinmetz        Teaching Across Prison Walls: Using Critical Pedagogy to Build

Inside/Outside Solidarities

Jaime D. Sykes         Towards a Public Forensic Anthropology

Critical Medical Anthropology, Praxes, & “Going Public”: Exploring Ethnography’s Impact on Healthcare                                                                                MGC 247

The role of critical medical anthropology has been a point of contention among scholars in defining how this anthropological perspective can be applied in collaborations within the intuitional walls of the U.S. healthcare system.  This is where the concepts of system-challenging and system-correcting praxes (Singer 1995) continue to remain relevant in the contemporary work of anthropologists with the institutional shift occurring in health policy, medical education, and developments of new clinical treatments.  The dichotomies in both of these approaches raises the question of how scholars manage the balancing act between providing academic critique, transforming their work to reach different audiences, an d making their work practically relevant.  This panel explores these concept through ethnographic work conducted with and within different structural levels of biomedicine including oncology clinics, emergency medicine, and front line health workers.

Seiichi Villalona        Clinically Applied Anthropology in Emergency Medicine: Strategic Praxes

and Tactfully “Going Public”

Kanan Mehta                Nutrition, Self and Health among Cancer Survivors

Ryan Logan                Public Engagement and Policy Change: Critical Medical Anthropology,

Community Health Workers, and Collaboration


Lunch, Location: The Tavern

1:30pm-3:00pm – Session Three

Keynote Address, Location: MGC, The Tavern

Roundtable Discussion on #BlackLivesMatter and the Movement to End Gun Violence featuring:

Marcia Chatelain, Georgetown University

Chelsea Parsons, Vice-President, Guns & Crime Policy, Center for American Progress

Elizabeth Banach, Executive Director, Marylanders to Prevent Gun Violence

Moderator: Angela Stuesse, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill



3:15pm-4:45pm – Session Four

Against Insularity: National Nurses United-American University Care and Inequity Certificate Programs at the Crossroads of Movement Knowledge                                MGC 203-205

By critically examining structural factors that contribute to health disparities, Health Inequity and Care courses exemplify a broadly engaged vision of public anthropology that extends beyond university walls and across disciplinary boundaries. The online programs, rooted in social justice advocacy as well as rigorous social scientific and humanistic analysis, bring together undergraduate and graduate university students with Registered Nurses in virtual classrooms. Through critical attention to technological restructuring, the under-theorized context shaping conceptions of health and healthcare provisioning across the world, the program enhances nurses’ structural and cultural competency at the bedside while introducing traditional students to growing movements that seek to eradicate health disparity.  Courses utilize a socio-political lens that moves between and beyond the specificities of the health care sector.  Presenters: National Nurses United Educators in conversation with Dr. Adrienne Pine

Approaches to Facilitating Minority Solidarity                                        MGC 245

Henry Lee Heinonen        When Fieldwork is Fluid: The Negotiated Role of Ethnographer in Hong

Kong Migrant Activism

Irem Alatas                Re-introducing Self: Battling Fear through Food and Forum

Savannah Shange        Do You Hear Yourself?: Willful Defiance as Black Feminist Methodology

Shariq Siddiqui        Philanthropy & Religious Education in the U.S.: Islamic Schools in the U.S.

Grassroots Organizing and Community Activism                                        MGC 247

Charlotte Blair                Working Towards Radical Change: (In)security and Neighborhood

Organizing in Colonia Pedregal de Santo Domingo, Mexico City

Melissa Archer & Benjamin Fleury-Steiner

Gentrification and Resistance as Racial Projects: Can Scholarship on Race

and Racism Aid Activists in an Anti-gentrification Struggle?

Davis Shoulders        Walk the “Pike” versus Writing the “Pike”

Cameron Rines        “The Baltimore Unrest, the Rights to City, and Baltimore’s Union


Rachel Tyree                Incorporating Activist Research and Grassroots Labor Organizing Models:

Challenges and Possibilities

“Sent Away Boys” advance film screening with Dr. Harjant Gill                Butler Boardroom

What happens to families in the absence of sons?  What happens to land in the absence of farmers?  What happens to communities in the absence of men?  Sent Away Boys weaves together stories of individual ambitions and family biographies from Punjab (India) to chronicle the gradual transformation of agrarian landscape and patriarchal traditions through ongoing transnational migration.  As the promise of a secure future in agriculture grows increasingly uncertain for young men across the region, escaping India to join the low-wage labor in countries like Canada and USA become their sole aspiration.  In rural Punjab, being a successful man now entails leaving their village traveling abroad, and sending money home.  Through interviews with men preparing to undertake often risky journeys and women awaiting the return of their sons, brother and husbands, Sent Away Boys show how young men’s decisions to emigrate implicate families and communities across north India.  

Sunday, October 9                        8:30am-9:00am

Breakfast and Registration

9:00am-11:30am – Session One

Ethnography and Advocacy across Categories                                        MGC 203-205

How can one reconcile the role of the ethnographer, which traditionally strives for objectivity, and the activist/advocate, which is consciously subjective? This dialogue session will explore how one, in the course of ethnographic labor, could tell the story of multiple groups in friction with one another, while also inhabiting the role of advocate for one or more of those groups. We will also examine the broader question of what forms advocacy can, or perhaps should, take in the context of anthropological work. Each participant will begin by discussing the ways in which their own work a) functions across or among cultural categories or groups and b) either intentionally or unintentionally does the work of advocacy for one or more of those categories or groups.

Haley Bryant, George Washington University

Emily Cain, George Washington University

Dr. Hugh Gusterson , George Washington University

Chloe Ahmann, George Washington University

Scott Ross , George Washington University

Shweta Krishnan, George Washington University

Emma Backe, George Washington University

Maria Lee, George Washington University

The Politics of Labor and Organizing at American University                        MGC 245

This discussion and workshop will explore stories of Labor and Organizing at American University. Inspired by the recent and historic National Labor Relations Board ruling that allows graduate students at private universities to form unions, the audience will hear from representatives of recently formed unions on campus and the efforts of other groups, like term faculty and graduate students, currently working to organize unions on campus. We will discuss the ways that organizing efforts are part of broader social movements, including economic justice efforts, such as the Fight for $15 and living wage efforts, and racial justice efforts such as Black Lives Matters movements and efforts to ensure that people of color, and women of color in particular, are represented and valued at AU and in society in general. The discussion will incorporate the audience to learn about their experience with union organizing and work through what union organizing means for the broader AU community.

Laura Jung, American University

Connor Gadek, American University

Dr. Adrienne Pine, American University

Advocating for the Environment                                                        MGC 247

Cecelia Walsh-Russo                Local Governments in the U.S. and Climate Justice Groups

Sydney Lang                        Colonial Violence and Corporate Illusions: The Performance of

Accountability in the Canadian Mining Industry



10:45am-12:15pm – Session Two

How the AAA raises the profile of social movements with/in anthropology        MGC 203-205

Anthropologists often see themselves as agents of social change, working to serve the common good. This discussion will demonstrate how anthropologists address issues beyond the discipline—illuminating contemporary problems as well as encouraging public conversations about them with the goal of fostering social change. Topics include: (1) Increasing the presence of anthropology in secondary schools as a component of progressive educational change; (2) Creating public dialogues that challenge public perceptions; (3) Broadening participation through “alternative” scholarly publication; (4) Capturing the public’s attention and communicating in a way that is compelling and accepted.  Learn how anthropology can contribute to the public understanding of social matters more effectively and broker a more informative—and accepted—dialogue between academia and social movements.

Leslie Walker, American Anthropological Association

Natalie Konopinski, American Anthropological Association

Jeff Martin, American Anthropological Association

Daniel Ginsberg, American Anthropological Association

Drone: A Book Talk and Q & A with Dr. Hugh Gusterson                                MGC 245

In this session, anthropologist Hugh Gusterson will discuss his recently released book, Drone (MIT Press 2016), and engage the audience in a Q&A on the subject. In the book, Gusterson shows how drones are changing the conduct of war. Deployed at presidential discretion, they can be used in regular war zones or to kill people in such countries as Yemen and Somalia, where the United States is not officially at war. Advocates say that drones are more precise than conventional bombers, allowing warfare with minimal civilian deaths while keeping American pilots out of harm’s way. Critics say that drones are cowardly and that they often kill innocent civilians while terrorizing entire villages on the ground. In this book, Hugh Gusterson explores the significance of drone warfare from multiple perspectives, drawing on accounts by drone operators, victims of drone attacks, anti-drone activists, human rights activists, international lawyers, journalists, military thinkers, and academic experts.  Gusterson examines the way drone warfare has created commuter warriors and redefined the space of the battlefield. He looks at the paradoxical mix of closeness and distance involved in remote killing: is it easier than killing someone on the physical battlefield if you have to watch onscreen? He suggests a new way of understanding the debate over civilian casualties of drone attacks. He maps “ethical slippage” over time in the Obama administration’s targeting practices. And he contrasts Obama administration officials’ legal justification of drone attacks with arguments by international lawyers and NGOs.

Social Transformations through Justice Movements                                MGC 247

Derek P. Siegel        Critical Abortion Studies: Clarifying the Stakes of the Reproductive Justice


Friederike Mieth        How can transitional justice contribute to social transformation?

Steven Tran-Creque         Warrior Cops, Armed Protesters, and Racist Liberals: Policing and

Resistance in America in the Era of Black Lives Matter

Transcending Historical Oppression and Injustice through Agents of Change and Imagination from Palestine to Colin Kapernick to American University
                                                                                Butler Boardroom

This dialogue will feature several young trailblazers in various social movements of today working on prominent issues such as mass incarceration, racial injustice, environmental injustice, and gender biases. These budding agents of change will discuss their paths from safe spaces of pre-defined narratives to their discovery of being able to create their own and new narratives for society. Whether it is through protests, rallies, public art, or holistic living they are working to develop a new society established on justice that is restorative, reparatory, and distributive for all peoples despite ethnicities. The dialogue will continue with the audience as an exchange of information and inquiry made to engage the college student community in a more public space of changing narrative. In addition per recent events the discussion will continue with recent college racist incidents and why these should be challenged as a element of historical injustice whose time has come to pass.

Joy Mary El Azzi, Georgetown University; Journalism Student

Nathan Brandlie, University of MD College Park, Organization of Prison Abolitionists

Ihkeem Maat, Founder; Braveheart Entrepreneurial Youth Camp, Ward 8 Literacy Organizer

Vaimoana Niumeitolu, Spoken Word Artist/Muralist

Alexandra Warren, American  University Alumni; DCRAPP, Pre-Law Student

Moderator-Tomiko Shine; Student Research Anthropologist, University of Maryland Baltimore County, DCRAPP (Release Aging People in Prison)



1:30pm-3:00pm – Session Three

Subsistence Fishing in the D.C. Waterways                                                MGC 203-205

The Anacostia and Potomac Rivers run along the shorelines of many national parks located in the National Capital Region of the National Park Service. These two rivers and their tributaries bring local residents of the Washington metropolitan area to the parks to fish. In the first field season, the research team challenged assumptions of class, race, and ignorance of subsistence fishermen. The purpose of the three year joint study between the National Park Service and the University of Maryland is to understand who is fishing and why by documenting the cultural aspects, motivations, and uses of fishing. The data and resulting analysis of the 2015 and 2016 field seasons will provide quantitative and qualitative baseline data for park managers and public officials to make policy decisions. This presentation will focus on ethnographic methodology and key themes from the first and second field seasons: food security, sharing networks and communities, policy implications, and risk assessment. As last year, we will invite members of the community, in various non-profits, activist, and user groups that are involved with fishing and urban waterways who will add to the discussion with their insights.

Dr. Shirley Fiske & Noel Lopez, University of Maryland, College Park

Davis Shoulders: Use Communities and Policy Implications

Amber Cohen: Sharing and Community-building in the Field

“Keywords” as Movement-based Intellectual Strategy                                 MGC 245

Language remains a central terrain of struggle in both movements and in the academy. In Keywords (1976), Raymond Williams devised a “vocabulary” of culture and society that reflected the vast social transformations marking the post-war period. Although these transformations could not be perceived directly or all at once, Williams revealed how they could be grasped by investigating changes in word usage and meaning. Following Williams, the contributors to Keywords for Radicals (2016) ask: what vocabulary might illuminate the social transformations marking our own contested present? How do these words shape the political imaginary of today’s radical left? And how might the skills developed in the academy be marshaled to help uncover the answers? In this panel session, contributors to the Keywords for Radicals project with ties to both movements and the university will assess the value, but also the challenges, of overcoming the Social Movements–Academia divide.

Heather Hax, York University, Toronto

Maia Ramnath, Penn State University.

AK Thompson, Fordham University

“Bush and Obama: Age of Terror” documentary film screening with Dr. Peter Kuznick

MGC 247

Historian Peter Kuznick will screen and discuss an episode from the 12-part documentary film series that he co-authored with filmmaker Oliver Stone, The Untold History of the United States.  The documentaries present an in-depth analysis of the history of the American empire and national security state.  The documentaries, 10 of which aired on the Showtime network in the U.S., have been playing around the world and viewed by score of millions of people.  In this session, Dr. Kuznick will show Episode 10 (“Bush and Obama: Age of Terror”).  This episode covers the period of 9/11 through Obama’s 2012 reelection.  It analyzes the neocon influence on Bush’s disastrous “War on Terror” and shows that Obama has continued the drive for empire, successfully institutionalizing many features of Bush/Cheney policy without the heavy-handedness of his predecessors.  The implications for contemporary organizing from the antiwar movement to the occupy movement are clear.    

1:30pm-3:15pm – Session Three        Butler Boardroom

“City of Trees” documentary film screening followed by panel discussion with the film's producer, Lance Kramer of Meridian Hill Pictures. Moderated by AU filmmaker-in Residence Nina Shapiro-Perl.

Since 1990, nonprofit Washington Parks & People has tried to reduce poverty and violence in Washington, D.C. neighborhoods by improving parks. At the height of the recession, the organization received a stimulus grant to create a "green" job-training program in communities hardest hit. What sounds like a simple goal — putting people back to work by planting trees — becomes complicated by a community’s distrust of outsiders and a fast-approaching deadline before the grant money runs out.  Filmed in an unflinching and compelling verité approach over the course of more than two years, City of Trees thrusts viewers into the inspiring but messy world of job training and the paradoxes change makers face in urban communities every day. Directed by Brandon Kramer, Meridian Hill Pictures.

3:30pm-4:00pm                                 Department of Anthropology, Hamilton Building

The Department of Anthropology would like to invite you to join us for a tribute honoring Dr. Joan Gero.  Professor Gero inspired generations with her intellect, wisdom, creativity, charisma, and generosity. Professor Gero joined the Department of Anthropology in 1997. She is described as a “pioneer of archaeological theory,” dedicating her career to exposing inequality and drawing attention to gender, where she spotlighted issues of feminist concern within the current practice of archaeology.  Professor Gero retired from AU in 2007.  Throughout her tenure, Professor Gero remained an active mentor and valued colleague. Colleagues remember that her office door was always open, and her wit, sage advice, passion, and enthusiasm for anthropology never faded. Professor Gero was devoted to making this a better world.