Call for Abstracts:

“Why Anthropology Matters: Making Anthropology Relevant and Engaging a Larger Public Audience through Pedagogy”

Proposed Executive/Invited Session

American Anthropological Association 2017 Meetings

Washington, DC

Nov 29-Dec 3rd

If you are interested in participating, please send a tentative title and 250 word abstract to Audrey Ricke, [email protected], by Feb 9.

PROPOSED SESSION : “Why Anthropology Matters: Making Anthropology Relevant and Engaging a Larger Public Audience through Pedagogy”

One of the main venues through which anthropologists regularly reach a larger general audience over a sustained period of time is through teaching. In a given academic year, individual faculty may work with between 120 to 800 students. Many of these students will not become majors but all will care for, design for, assist, or work with people from many different backgrounds. Yet, in the minds of some students and the larger public, anthropology often indexes vague ideas about Indiana Jones, “other cultures”, and even just-so stories that really do not have an equal place in scientific inquiry.

As Cathy Davidson writes in her 2017 article, The Future of Higher Education is Now, “we must radically reform higher education to meet the most pressing needs of our age.” What role does and should anthropology as a discipline have in these changes? What does this mean for the way that anthropologists’ approach teaching? In thinking about how anthropology matters, how do we make anthropology matter to our students?  How can we optimize our teaching to reach out to students and the communities in which they belong to help them understand why anthropology matters and more importantly how collaborative work with anthropologists can be relevant for obtaining their goals?

This session seeks to address these questions through critically investigating innovative and practical pedagogical strategies that draws on feedback from students, local communities, institutions, and administrators.

  • What skills and concepts is anthropology uniquely positioned to contribute in the context of current political and educational shifts?
  • What are the best ways to communicate and make relevant key concepts from the discipline, such as cultural relativism?
  • What strategies prove effective in promoting both critical thinking skills and an understanding of social processes, such as the production of structural inequalities?
  • How can service-learning and interdisciplinary collaboration be effectively incorporated into the application of anthropology in introductory and upper division courses?
  •  In what ways can social media be used to support pedagogical and public outreach originating from educational settings?
  • What are some innovative models/approaches for integrating current events into class discussion and assignments?

We invite papers from all fields and subfields of anthropology that investigate these and other related questions


Davidson, Cathy. 2017. “The Future of Higher Education is Now.” Anthropology News 58(1):13-16.