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Saturday, March 2, 2013

CASCA SESSION PROPOSAL - Anthropology and Aboriginal Activism: A Conversation across Canada and Australia

CASCA Session Proposal
Anthropology and Aboriginal Activism: a conversation across Canada and


Professor Naomi Adelson, York University, Toronto
Dr Gaynor Macdonald, Sydney University, Sydney, Australia

In light of the 'Idle No More' movement which has taken off in Canada as a
peaceful, social-media inspired mode of engagement with government and the
broader Canadian and international community, it seems timely for
anthropologists to enter into conversation with Aboriginal activists. We
invite papers that re-examine tired debates over objectivity vs involved
anthropology, and address whether anthropology has, or should have, a role
in Aboriginal activism. We will be inviting Aboriginal activists from
Canada and Australia to participate as provocateurs/discussants.

Debates about objectivity, science, involved/consultant anthropologists
are familiar in both Canada and Australia, although the criticism of
involvement beyond the academy is expressed differently in these two
settler-nations. Is ?applied? anthropology a vital engagement or is it a
diminishment of the value/possibility of anthropological insight? How is
this expressed in Canada and in Australia? In a conference devoted to the
role of anthropology in unsettling times, how does advocacy in
anthropology unsettle an academic discipline which is part of the system
against which power activists rail.

We would like to encourage lively debate: the final format will be
confirmed once presenters and guests are known. Papers may be kept short
and relatively informal to encourage a range of views from academics,
non-academics, activists and students.

Some possible themes:
Do activists think anthropologists are irrelevant? Are they? Should they
Are there lines to be drawn between applied anthropology, activism, and
academically-valued ethnography, or between who anthropologists work
for/with ? Aboriginal peoples, mining companies, the state?
Is activism reflected in theoretical orientations?
How do we understand, for example, the relationship between identity and
activism, on-line activism, what constitutes bias, who anthropologists do
and do not talk to in the politics of production in neo-liberal
universities and states. What is the anthropology of the 21st century?
What moral, ethical and theoretical frameworks are available to
anthropologists to work out how lines can and should be drawn? Are they
apologists for the people they work with? Should they be?
To submit an abstract for this session please contact Naomi Adelson
( by 8 March, 2013.

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