Why Humanistic Anthropology Matters

Society for Humanistic Anthropology
Helena Wulff
February 22, 2019

Anthropology was a revelation. When I was an undergraduate at Stockholm University, Sweden, my world tumbled as I learned about the range of human diversity. After two weeks in the introductory course, I was hooked, and still am. But it would take many years before storytelling, literature and writing, and dance and visual culture came to the fore in my own research (Wulff 1998, 2007, 2016, 2017a, 2017b). That was the other turning point: when I realized that I could combine anthropology and the arts, my two inclinations—heart and mind—together. Today, writing as the newly elected president of the Society for Humanistic Anthropology (SHA), I’d like to share with you something of how I got here, and why I believe humanistic anthropology remains integral to the discipline.

So, how did an anthropologist from Sweden become the president of a section of the American Anthropological Association? My relationship with the United States goes a long way back. Like many other young Europeans, I traveled across the country by Greyhound bus and by car. I lived in New York City (for fieldwork), and in California for periods of time (Wulff 1998, 2017b). At the invitation of Virginia Dominguez and Jane Desmond, I was visiting professor at University of Illinois. I have family in the United States as well. American anthropology became a major point of reference, and I began participating in AAA annual meetings—first as a graduate student giving volunteered papers, then as a session organizer, and finally as discussant. I appreciated the opportunities for intellectual inspiration that AAA provided, its sizable membership, and its numerous and varied sessions. Still, the sheer scale of the AAA Annual Meeting can be intimidating. This is why active involvement in a section such as SHA is important: it allows one to navigate the breadth of the meetings. I became a member of SHA because I was drawn to its sessions. I felt an affinity there among colleagues and friends who shared my artistic sensibilities and values. We know that artistic understandings can contribute to social change, and that they are craved for—not only in happy times, but when personal and political distress hit, then both for comfort and social analysis.

Now I am pleased and proud to be president of SHA. I wish to thank my predecessor, Jonathan Marion, for being such a committed and skilled president. Marion saw to it that SHA has a hospitality suite at the AAA Annual Meetings, where members and their friends can meet at organized events and spontaneous get-togethers. This I intend to continue. I also hope to work on the idea of organizing mid-year meetings, possibly as webinars. Let me also mention Julia Offen, SHA treasurer who is herself a treasure. Her long-term experience at SHA is invaluable.

SHA is a unique and lively section. It was founded in 1974 at an AAA meeting in Mexico City around Victor Turner and his work on ritual, performance, and theater that, of course, is a staple in the discipline of anthropology. SHA keeps developing these topics in relation to humanistic anthropology. As it says on our website: “Humanistic anthropology involves the recognition that professional inquiry takes places in a context of human value. The humanistic orientation is particularly concerned with the personal, ethical, and political choices facing humans.”

To this end, SHA sponsors posters, individual papers, panels, and other expressive formats in the spirit of humanistic anthropology. In particular, we focus on papers and sessions that challenge the disciplinary boundaries of anthropology as a social science and apply alternative, humanistic approaches ranging from philosophy and history to creative writing and performance. This includes our popular ethnographic writing workshops that are taught by renowned anthropologist-writers.

It is also in this spirit that SHA publishes the bi-annual journal, Anthropology and Humanism, excellently edited by David Syring and Jeffrey Ehrenreich. The journal includes academic articles and book reviews, as well as short stories, poetry, creative nonfiction, drama, and visual imagery.

An annual highlight of SHA are the three awards in writing that are presented at SHA’s business meeting at the AAA: the Victor Turner Prize in Ethnographic Writing, the Ethnographic Fiction and Nonfiction Prize, and the Poetry and Fiction Prize. The winners get to read a piece from their awarded work, which adds flavor to the event.

For the 2018 Victor Turner Prize in Ethnographic Writing, the committee evaluated over 75 ethnographies. Here are the winners:

Katherine Verdery receives her Victor Turner Prize for Ethnographic Writing, presented by Helena Wulff at AAA 2018. Jerome Crowder

The prize ceremony in 2018 concluded with an “open mic” for anyone to go up and read a short story or a poem. Perhaps some of what we heard there might be submitted to the writing contests for this year? For an update on deadlines for submitting work for 2019, and for a listing of the other 2018 awardees, see our website. I look forward to working for SHA, and to welcoming new members!

Helena Wulff ([email protected]) is the President of the Society for Humanistic Anthropology. She is a professor of social anthropology at Stockholm University. Her research is in the anthropology of communication and aesthetics, based on a wide range of studies of the social worlds of literary production, dance, and visual arts, and currently, on migrant writing on Sweden.

Rose Wellman ([email protected]) is contributing section editor for the Society for Humanistic Anthropology and an assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Michigan-Dearborn.

Original publication: Wulff, Helena. 2019. “Why Humanistic Anthropology Matters.” Anthropology News website, February 22, 2019. DOI: 10.1111/AN.1098

Posted in Section news | Comments Off on Why Humanistic Anthropology Matters

2019 SHA Ethnographic Poetry Competition

The Society for Humanistic Anthropology announces our annual poetry competition as a means to encourage scholars to use alternative literary genres to explore anthropological concerns. These concerns may be any of those associated with any of the five fields of anthropology: Archaeological, Biological, Linguistic, Sociocultural and Applied.

Deadline: June 1, 2019.

There is no entry fee for this competition. Please email your entry of no more than three unpublished poems as a single pdf document to: [email protected] without the author’s name (anonymized), along with a separate cover page with the following information: 2019:

  • NAME, TITLE, INSTITUTIONAL AFFILIATION (S)
  • CONTACT INFO (ADDRESS, PHONE, EMAIL)
  • POEM TITLE (S)
  • ETHNOPOETRY STATEMENT*

The anonymous entry pdf must include an *ethnographic statement (of no more than 400 words) which connects the poem(s) submitted to anthropology which will be taken into account as the judges make their award selections. Examples of ethnographic statements can be found in the poems published in Anthropology and Humanism: (http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/anhu.12058/full).

Before you submit a manuscript to the competition, please consider exploring the work of the ethnographic poets we have published. We’re drawn to technical virtuosity combined with abundant imagination, vivid imagery, and musical approaches to fresh language, risk-taking, and an ability to convey penetrating insights into human experience. We seek a layer of trust concerning the writer’s experience and perspective as both anthropologist and creative writer, one who is ethically responsible in terms of representing the other, one who is able to locate his or her reader in the context of the ethnographic study and reveal anthropological themes associated with any of the fields of anthropology.

Winning entries and honorable mentions will be recognized at the annual meeting of the American Anthropological Association in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, November 20-24, 2019. The first-place winner(s) will receive a certificate and award of $100. All entries will be considered for publication in the Society’s journal, Anthropology and Humanism. (Note that Membership in AAA or an institutional subscription is required for digital access to the journal and SHA membership with the paid print option is required to receive a print issue.)

JUDGES: Ather Zia, Melisa Cahnmann-Taylor, Leah Zani & Nomi Stone

Posted in Announcements, Calls for papers, Poetry | Comments Off on 2019 SHA Ethnographic Poetry Competition

2019 Call for Submissions: Victor Turner Prize in Ethnographic Writing

The Society for Humanistic Anthropology (SHA) announces the annual juried competition for the Victor Turner Prize in Ethnographic Writing. The late Victor Turner devoted his career to seeking an accessible language that would reopen anthropology to the human subject, and the competition recognizes the innovative books that further this project.

AWARD

A $1,000 first-place, a $500 second place and a $250 third-place prize will be awarded at the annual meeting of the American Anthropological Association in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, November 20-24, 2019.

ELIGIBILITY

Eligible genres include single and co-authored ethnographic monographs, narratives, historical accounts, biographies, memoirs, dramas, creative nonfiction and fiction works, and single-authored collections of essays, short stories, or poems. Book publication year may be 2017, 2018, or 2019 (through the submission deadline). Books may be entered into the competition by authors, publishers, book editors, or colleagues. No formal letter of nomination is needed. Books published in 2017-2018 entered in last year’s competition may be resubmitted this year with the appropriate entry fee.

SUBMISSION: FEE

For authors who are already or become SHA members, the entry fee is $25/book. For authors who are not SHA members, the entry fee is $75/book. (Publishers: for all books you submit, please check with authors first to discover whether they are current SHA members and please encourage authors to join SHA). The fee may be paid either online here (log into Anthro Gateway to get the SHA member rate of $25), or by check (made out to the American Anthropological Association) with the Submission-Fee-Form sent to:

Kathy Ano, Controller
American Anthropological Association
2300 Clarendon Blvd, Suite 1301
Arlington, VA 22201-3386
Phone: 703.528.1902 ext. 1161
Fax: 703.528.3546

SUBMISSION: BOOKS (a total of 4 copies)

Send one copy of the book to be entered to each of the four judges:

Victor Turner Prize
c/o Emma Tarlo
3 Edis Street
London NW1 8LG
United Kingdom

Victor Turner Prize
c/o Professor Sarah Strauss
Department of Anthropology
University of Wyoming
1000 E. University Ave, Box 3431
Laramie, WY 82071
USA

Victor Turner Prize
c/o Professor Neni Panourgiá
Prison Education Program
409 Schermerhorn Hall
Columbia University
New York, NY 10027
USA

Victor Turner Prize
c/o Julia Offen
1986 Paquita Dr.
Carpinteria, CA 93013
USA

SUBMISSION: COVER LETTER

All submitters to the contest must also send a cover letter to [email protected] with the following four items of required information:

  1. book title, publication year, and publisher;
  2. author’s contact information including mailing address, all telephone numbers and e-mail address;
  3. author’s biographical sketch (1-2 paragraphs) including highest degree awarded, discipline, and institution;
  4. current affiliation (university or otherwise).

Biographical information will be used for presenting the winners and publicizing the results of the competition and will not be used for judging the quality of the entries. Entrants may also include an optional short statement about intellectual training/ orientation, and the circumstances surrounding the research/ writing of the book.

The deadline for receipt of all required materials is April 1, 2019.

All inquiries should be directed to Dr. Neni Panourgiá, prize coordinator, at [email protected]

Posted in Announcements, Calls for papers | Comments Off on 2019 Call for Submissions: Victor Turner Prize in Ethnographic Writing

Call for Submissions: Society for Humanistic Anthropology 2019 Ethnographic Fiction and Creative Nonfiction Competition

The Society for Humanistic Anthropology is pleased to announce that we are opening our annual writing contest for Ethnographic Fiction and Creative Nonfiction. We celebrate the use of creative literary prose genres to explore anthropological concerns, and we encourage you to share your work with us.

As a guideline, ethnographic fiction and creative nonfiction use literary elements to bring stories to life and engage the reader. Whether fiction or nonfiction, these creative prose pieces reflect insights about the real world seen through an anthropological lens or reflecting an anthropological sensibility (related to any field of anthropology).

Submissions should not exceed 20 pages typed double-spaced, and need to work as stand-alone stories. There is a limit of one submission per applicant.

We do expect contestants to be affiliated with the field or practice of anthropology and/or ethnography in some manner. There is no entry fee for this competition.

Submission deadline is June 1, 2019. Submissions must be previously unpublished and not currently under consideration elsewhere.

Please email your entry as two pdf documents to: [email protected]

The entry should consist of two files:

  1. Your story (double spaced) with title but without the author’s name (anonymized), PLUS an extra final page with a statement of no more than 400 words that answers the question: “How is this piece anthropologically informed and in what ways has your background in the field contributed to it?” This statement will be taken into account as the judges make their award selections.
  2. A separate cover page with your full name, title of your submission, mailing address, email address, and institutional affiliation (if applicable).

JUDGES: Julia Offen (Fiction and Creative Nonfiction Editor, Anthropology and Humanism), John Wood (Professor, University of North Carolina Asheville), Katrina Daly Thompson (Professor, University of Wisconsin Madison), Caitrin Lynch (Professor, Olin College), and Helle Bundgaard (Associate Professor, University of Copenhagen).

Winning entries and honorable mentions will be recognized in a ceremony at the annual meeting of the American Anthropological Association in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, November 20-24, 2019.

The first-place winner will receive an award of $100 and publication in the Society’s journal, Anthropology and Humanism. The second-place winner will receive $75. And the third-place winner will receive $50. All winners will receive a certificate of their award.

Posted in Announcements, Calls for papers | Comments Off on Call for Submissions: Society for Humanistic Anthropology 2019 Ethnographic Fiction and Creative Nonfiction Competition

Announcing the winners of the 2018 SHA writing awards

2018 Victor Turner Prize for Ethnographic Writing

The Society for Humanistic Anthropology is delighted to announce the winners of the 2018 Victor Turner Prize for Ethnographic Writing. We are grateful to the work and commitment of the book prize committee: Julia Offen, Helena Wulff, and Anna Tsing. The committee evaluated over 75 ethnographies for their originality, innovative methods, experience-near approach, quality of writing, presentation and engagement with humanistic anthropology and anthropological scholarship in general. We chose the ethnographies that we found to be exemplars of the best ethnographic writing, the ones destined to make a significant impact on the doing and writing of ethnography. The winners exemplify the broad and deep diversity of anthropologists’ approaches to their craft.

1st Place: Katherine Verdery, My Life as a Spy: Investigations in a Secret Police File. Duke, 2018

2nd Place: Piers Vitebsky, Living without the Dead: Loss and Redemption in a Jungle Cosmos U Chicago 2017

3rd Place: Ellen Wiles, The Invisible Crowd Harper Collins HQ 2017

Honorable Mention: Susan Helen Ellison, Domesticating Democracy: The Politics of Conflict Resolution in Bolivia Duke 2018

SHA Ethnographic Fiction and Creative Nonfiction Contest

1st Place: Annalisa Bolin “A Ghost Map of Kigali”

2nd Place: Helle Bundgaard “Much Ado about a Ladies Bicycle”

Honorable Mention: Jesse Cheng “Why This Killer Should Live”

Honorable Mention: Xenia Cherkaev “St. Xenia and the Gleaners of Leningrad”

Honorable Mention: Rima Praspaliauskiene “Lenin”

SHA Ethnographic Poetry Contest

1st Place: (tie) Darcy Alexandra “Extrajudicial Killing, San Salvador, 1991;
Ruta de la Malintzin;
Is it More Ordinary to Forget or to Remember?”

1st Place: (tie) Iza Kavedžija “worlds apart, or two fieldsites [by Iza Kavedžija and Harry Walker]; (no longer mine) view of Utsubo park”

2nd Place: William M. Cotter “56 Seconds”

Honorable Mention: Wesley Brunson “Cultivating Boredom”

Honorable Mention: Cassie Smith-Christmas “Virginia Place”

Posted in Announcements, Poetry, Section news | Comments Off on Announcing the winners of the 2018 SHA writing awards

Submission deadlines extended for SHA poetry and prose competitions

Still writing? Summer bringing out your muse? We’ve extended the deadlines for the SHA poetry (July 1) and prose (July 2) competitions. Submit something today! Or next month!

 

Posted in Announcements, Calls for papers, Poetry | Comments Off on Submission deadlines extended for SHA poetry and prose competitions

Call for Submissions: Society for Humanistic Anthropology 2018 Ethnographic Fiction and Creative Nonfiction Competition

The Society for Humanistic Anthropology is pleased to announce that we are opening our annual writing contest for Ethnographic Fiction and Creative Nonfiction. We celebrate the use of creative literary prose genres to explore anthropological concerns, and we encourage you to share your work with us.

As a guideline, ethnographic fiction and creative nonfiction use literary elements to bring stories to life and engage the reader. Whether fiction or nonfiction, these creative prose pieces reflect insights about the real world seen through an anthropological lens or reflecting an anthropological sensibility (related to any field of anthropology).

Submissions should not exceed 20 pages typed double-spaced, and need to work as stand-alone stories. There is a limit of one submission per applicant.

We do expect contestants to be affiliated with the field or practice of anthropology and/or ethnography in some manner. There is no entry fee for this competition.

Submission deadline is July 2, 2018. Submissions must be previously unpublished and not currently under consideration elsewhere.

Please email your entry as two pdf documents to: [email protected]

The entry should consist of two files:

  • Your story (double spaced) with title but without the author’s name (anonymized), PLUS an extra final page with a statement of no more than 400 words that answers the question: “How is this piece anthropologically informed and in what ways has your background in the field contributed to it?” This statement will be taken into account as the judges make their award selections.
  • A separate cover page with your full name, title of your submission, mailing address, email address, and institutional affiliation (if applicable).

JUDGES: Julia Offen (Fiction and Creative Nonfiction Editor, Anthropology and Humanism), John Wood (Professor, University of North Carolina Asheville), Katrina Daly Thompson (Professor, University of Wisconsin Madison), and Caitrin Lynch (Professor, Olin College)

Winning entries and honorable mentions will be recognized in a ceremony at the annual meeting of the American Anthropological Association in San Jose, CA 11/14/2018 – 11/18/2018.

The first-place winner will receive an award of $100 and publication in the Society’s journal, Anthropology and Humanism. The second-place winner will receive $75. And the third-place winner will receive $50. All winners will receive a certificate of their award.

 

Posted in Announcements, Calls for papers | Comments Off on Call for Submissions: Society for Humanistic Anthropology 2018 Ethnographic Fiction and Creative Nonfiction Competition

2018 SHA Ethnographic Poetry Competition

The Society for Humanistic Anthropology announces our annual poetry competition as a means to encourage scholars to use alternative literary genres to explore anthropological concerns. These concerns may be any of those associated with any of the five fields of anthropology: Archaeological, Biological, Linguistic, Sociocultural and Applied.

Deadline: July 1, 2018. There is no entry fee for this competition.

Please email your entry (no more than three unpublished poems) as a single pdf document to: [email protected] without the author’s name (anonymized), along with a separate cover page with the following information by the Deadline of July 1, 2018: • NAME, TITLE, INSTITUTIONAL AFFILIATION (S) /• CONTACT INFO (ADDRESS, PHONE, EMAIL) /• POEM TITLE (S) / • ETHNOPOETRY STATEMENT*

The anonymous entry pdf must include an *ethnographic statement (of no more than 400 words) which connects the poem(s) submitted to anthropology which will be taken into account as the judges make their award selections. Examples of ethnographic statements can be found in the poems published in Anthropology and Humanism: (http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/anhu.12058/full).

Before you submit a manuscript to the competition, please consider exploring the work of the ethnographic poets we have published. We’re drawn to technical virtuosity combined with abundant imagination, vivid imagery, and musical approaches to fresh language, risk-taking, and an ability to convey penetrating insights into human experience. We seek a layer of trust concerning the writer’s experience and perspective as both anthropologist and creative writer, one who is ethically responsible in terms of representing the other, one who is able to locate his or her reader in the context of the ethnographic study and reveal anthropological themes associated with any of the fields of anthropology.

Winning entries and honorable mentions will be recognized at the annual meeting of the American Anthropological Association in San Jose in November 14-18, 2018. The first-place winner(s) will receive a certificate and award of $100. All entries will be considered for publication in the Society’s journal, Anthropology and Humanism. (Note that Membership in AAA or an institutional subscription is required for digital access to the journal and SHA membership with the paid print option is required to receive a print issue.)

JUDGES: Melisa Cahnmann-Taylor, Nomi Stone, & Ather Zia

Judges’ bios:
Melisa “Misha” Cahnman-Taylor, Professor of Language and Literacy Education at the University of Georgia, is the author of Imperfect Tense (poems, 2016), and co-author of three books in educational inquiry. She is the winner of three 2015-2018 NEA “Big Read” Grants, the Beckman award for “Professors Who Inspire Social Change,” and a Fulbright scholarship. Misha is poetry editor for Anthropology & Humanism and has judged the journal’s annual ethnographic poetry competition since 2005.

Nomi Stone is a post-doctoral research fellow in anthropology at Princeton University. Her second collection of poems Kill Class is forthcoming (Tupelo Press 2019). Her poetry is widely published, appearing recently or soon in POETRY, American Poetry Review, and Best American Poetry, amongst others. Her ethnography in progress, Human Technologies and the Making of American War is a finalist for the University of California Press’s Atelier Series.

Ather Zia is an Assistant Professor of Anthropology & Gender Studies at University of Northern Colorado Greeley. Her first collection of poems “The Frame” was published in 1999 and since she appeared in a variety of noted poetry journals. In 2013 she won the second prize for ethnographic poetry on Kashmir from the Society for Humanistic Anthropology. Ather is finishing her ethnography on Kashmir, and an ethnographic poetry collection titled, “Field In-verse.” She is also the founder-editor of Kashmir Lit and co-founder of Critical Kashmir Studies.

Posted in Announcements, Calls for papers, Poetry | Comments Off on 2018 SHA Ethnographic Poetry Competition

2018 Victor Turner Prize Competition: Deadline May 1

2018 Call for Submissions:

Victor Turner Prize in Ethnographic Writing

The Society for Humanistic Anthropology (SHA) announces the annual juried competition for the Victor Turner Prize in Ethnographic Writing. The late Victor Turner devoted his career to seeking an accessible language that would reopen anthropology to the human subject, and the competition recognizes the innovative books that further this project.

AWARD

A $1,000 first-place, a $500 second place and a $250 third-place prize will be awarded at the annual meeting of the American Anthropological Association in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, November 20-24, 2018.

ELIGIBILITY

Eligible genres include single and co-authored ethnographic monographs, narratives, historical accounts, biographies, memoirs, dramas, or single-authored collections of essays, short stories, or poems. Book publication year must be no earlier than 2016. Books may be entered into the competition by authors, publishers, book editors, or colleagues. No formal letter of nomination is needed. Books published in 2016-2017 entered in last year’s competition may be resubmitted this year with the appropriate entry fee.

SUBMISSION: FEE

For authors who are already SHA members, the entry fee is $25/book. For authors who are not SHA members, the entry fee is $75/book. (Publishers: for all books you submit, please check with authors first to discover whether they are current SHA members and please encourage authors to join SHA). The fee may be paid either online here (log into Anthro Gateway to get the SHA member rate of $25), or by check (made out to the American Anthropological Association) with the Submission-Fee-Form sent to:

Kathy Ano, Controller
American Anthropological Association
2300 Clarendon Blvd, Suite 1301
Arlington, VA 22201-3386
Phone: 703.528.1902 ext. 1161
Fax: 703.528.3546

SUBMISSION: BOOKS (a total of 3 copies)

Send one copy of the book to be entered to each of the three judges:

Victor Turner Prize,
c/o Anna Tsing
Department of Anthropology
Aarhus University
Moesgaard Alle 20
8270 Hojbjerg Denmark

Victor Turner Prize,
c/o Helena Wulff
Stockholm University
Department of Social Anthropology
SE-10691 Stockholm
Sweden 

Victor Turner Prize,
c/o Julia Offen
1986 Paquita Dr.
Carpinteria, CA 93013
U.S.A.

SUBMISSION: COVER LETTER

All submitters to the contest must also send a cover letter to [email protected] with the following four items of required information:

  1. book title, publication year, and publisher;
  2. author’s contact information including mailing address, all telephone numbers and e-mail address;
  3. author’s biographical sketch (1-2 paragraphs) including highest degree awarded, discipline, and institution;
  4. current affiliation (university or otherwise).

Biographical information will be used for presenting the winners and publicizing the results of the competition and will not be used for judging the quality of the entries. Entrants may also include an optional short statement about intellectual training/ orientation, and the circumstances surrounding the research/ writing of the book.

The deadline for receipt of all required materials is May 1, 2019.

All inquiries should be directed to Dr. Julia Offen, prize coordinator, at [email protected]

 

 

Posted in Announcements, Calls for papers | Comments Off on 2018 Victor Turner Prize Competition: Deadline May 1

Join us at the SHA Hospitality Suite at AAA

The room # is pending, but please join us for any of the following events while attending the AAA meeting in DC this week!

Thursday (11/30)

  • 10-11am: Available for meetings with publishers
  • 2:30-4:30: “Professionalization” (informal workshop for students)
  • 8-9:30: Drop-in, talk to AH editors for articles & prose

Friday (12/1)

  • 10-6: Available for socializing — get in touch with us!
  • 6-8: Pizza, Prose, & Poetry

Saturday (12/2)

  • 10-12: Available for meetings with publishers
  • 12-2: Drop-in “lunch” (topic: music/sound)
  • 4-6: SHA Presentations
  • 6-7:30: SHA meet-n-greet, all welcome
Posted in Announcements, Section news | Comments Off on Join us at the SHA Hospitality Suite at AAA