Conversations in the Lobby 2014: Anthropossibilities: What Can Amazonianists Bring to the Conversation?
What is our work good for? Not, what purpose does it serve for scholarship and South American people and causes, but: what is our work good for, in the collective human project of crafting a better future? This question grows from a sense that Amazonian anthropology is positioned to recognize our relevance to some of the biggest questions on society’s agenda. One factor is Amazonia’s centrality in the global carbon cycle. Another is our insights into more-than-Western life-ways and histories. In a recent essay, Joel Robbins (JRAI, September 2013) traces how, since the 1980s, anthropology’s central concerns shifted from the “savage slot” to the “suffering subject,” from a focus on cultural differences to a focus on human oppression, poverty, pain, and vulnerability. Robbins sees another shift coalescing around an “anthropology of the good,” which focuses renewed attention on cultural differences as a resource to think critically about alternative paths toward a healthier, more equitable future. Amazonianists have deep expertise on the savage and the suffering. Can we take these insights further, into public conversations about the world in which we would like to live?
This is the second iteration of the Conversations in the Lobby in SALSA Sesquiannual meetings. This event was created in warm memory of Steven Rubenstein, whose habit it was to sit with younger colleagues and students in conference venue hotels and provide often valuable (and sometimes merely memorable) counsel on and insights into personal and professional aspects of our lives as anthropologists. The format calls for a twenty-minute talk and a longer discussion with much public participation.
–Beth Conklin (SALSA President), Carlos D. Londoño Sulkin (SALSA 2014 Academic Program Chair), Jeremy Campbell (SALSA Secretary-Treasurer-Webmaster), and Carlos D. Londoño Sulkin (SALSA President-Elect)