Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Biological Anthropology Section's statement to the AAA Executive Board

Many thanks to the executive board of the Biological Anthropology Section of the AAA for officially expressing the widely-shared concern about the new wording of the AAA Statement of Purpose.

Karen Strier, the new chair of the BAS, sent an email to the BAS membership to let us know of this statement and made some great, results-oriented suggestions to increase the profile of biological anthropology within AAA. With permission, I share the email here for BANDITs who do not belong to BAS:

Dear BAS Members,

I am writing as the new Chair of BAS, having just replaced Darna Dufour, who deserves recognition and appreciation for her service as BAS Chair these past two years. I had been expecting to slowly ease into the job at the close of the AAA meetings in New Orleans, but alas, the news about the AAA Executive Board's (EB) revisions to the Mission Statement hit my desk right after I returned from the meetings and, well, here we are.

Briefly, for those who haven't seen any of the emails or blogs, the concerns pertain to the revised rewording in the AAA's mission statement from the long range planning committee. The revision excludes the word "science," which we think sends the wrong message about anthropology in general and the place of biology in it, in particular. The revision also refocuses the emphasis from being about advancing "anthropology as the science that studies humankind..." to be about advancing "the public understanding of humankind.".

I am writing to assure you that the Executive Committee of the BAS is among the many representatives from many sections that are challenging these revisions. Our message to the President and EB of the AAA has been submitted, and a copy of it has been posted on the BAS website.

We are confident that the AAA statement will be re-evaluated and subsequently revised as a result of the objections it has generated. Therefore, I hope that you will all stand by BAS during this time. It is especially important that we have the strength of our membership numbers behind our voice right now.

This is also an opportune moment to encourage you to increase your participation in BAS and the overall presence of Biological Anthropologists in the AAA. Here are a few of the ways you can do this:

1. Nominate worthy books for the 2011 W.W. Howells Book Award.

Deadline is Feb 1, 2011; nominations should be sent to Sara Stinson:

2. Organize a session or volunteer a paper or poster presentation at the 2011 AAA meetings, which will be in Montreal. Deadlines for abstracts are in the early spring; watch for the call from AAA.

3. If you are a student or know an eligible student, consider entering in the 2011 BAS Student Prize competition when it is announced.

4. Vote in our upcoming BAS election. We are preparing a slate of amazing candidates for the 2011 elections.

5. Self-nominate, or tell someone else that you would like to be nominated, for future BAS positions and/or committees of the AAA. The more representation we have on the latter, the more we can shape the Association to represent ourselves.

6. Attend the 2011 AAA meetings. Our 2011 Distinguished Lecture will be given by Jonathan Marks.

7. Send any news you may have for publication in AnthroNews to the BAS Newsletter editor, Virginia Vitzthum:

8. Send any news or updates (e.g., field schools, summer programs, etc.) for the BAS website to our webmaster, Kate Pechenkina:

More information about BAS activities can be found at our website. We are in the process of updating the website, so please be patient. If you can't find what you're looking for, please let us know.

Thanks to all of you for your continuing support of BAS.

Best wishes,

Karen Strier

Chair, BAS


  1. Montreal sounds like a great place for some primatological trouble making!!!!

  2. Thanks for all your coverage! Just added this one to the list - a great addition.

  3. Thank you for posting this -- it really gives me hope that the statement will get changed after the 2011 meetings. I hope the BAS and other sections mobilize around that goal.

  4. Thanks Anonymous! I think there is very exciting potential for discussion and change as a result of these actions. I'm hoping that the "kerfuffle" actually encourages biological anthropologists to participate in the upcoming AAA meetings. Submit symposia both with other bio types and across fields. Go to talks far outside your comfort zone to challenge your thinking about sociocultural research. Attend the BAS business meetings. I think there's a way to turn this into a renaissance of sorts.

  5. Julienne, I think you make a great point here. Part of me wants to flee from the AAA after this mission statement, and I certainly don't have the money/time to invest in yet another conference... but at the same time I think there is something to be said for us making the effort to, as you put it, re-invest our time and try to increase our presence at the AAAs. I hope this conversation continues, online and in our departments, in the coming months, and maybe at the AAPAs we can actually all talk in person about it.

  6. One idea that came up in my session at AAA was a joint AAPA/AAA symposium on biocultural and international research. I know someone who is brainstorming this idea and will let you know as I learn more. But something like this could be an explicit way to forge a link between the two associations without requiring attendance at both meetings.