CFP / AAA 2017 – Taking a hard look in the mirror: decolonizing our institutions/ourselves

Taking a hard look in the mirror: decolonizing our institutions/ourselves

Co-organizers: Shelly Biesel and Christina Crespo (University of Georgia)

Co-Chairs: Christina Crespo and Shelly Biesel

Despite that anthropologists frequently highlight injustices and power inequities in our research, turning that critical lens inward to reflect on our own behaviors and institutions proves difficult. While it is one thing to write about processes of power and inequality that we may only abstractly understand; it is quite a different thing to define and dismantle ‘logics of coloniality’ that persist in our daily lives (Allen and Jobson 2016). What is needed is an ‘anthropology for liberation’ that (among many things) abandons ideas of universities as “uninhibited space[s] of intellectual production” and demands us to “open up the university, and ourselves… to the empirical scrutiny of ethnography” (Allen and Jobson 2016:136). Using coloniality as a theoretical framework, this session will examine ways in which colonial projects of privileging and othering manifest in everyday lived experiences within the discipline of anthropology.

Only months before the election of Donald Trump, Allen and Jobson (2016) asked what Anthropology can learn from revisiting the contributions of the “decolonizing generation,” a group of scholars dedicated to critical, anti-racist and feminist scholarship, whose work is compiled in Harrison’s (1997) volume Decolonizing Anthropology.  Harrison argued that a decolonized anthropology commits itself to “struggles against racist oppression, gender inequality, class disparities, and international patterns of exploitation and ‘difference’ rooted largely in capitalist world development” (1997:2). We add that a decolonized anthropology also critically examines heteronormativity and ableism. In the current political climate, such a ‘decolonizing project’ could not be more urgent.

Critical to this project is first overcoming what Harrison describes as ‘anthropology’s exceptionalism’, or the claim that anthropology is “intrinsically multicultural and nonracist because of its cross-cultural orientation and its Boasian tradition of intellectual anitiracism” (2012, 17). Such exceptionalism has allowed us to evade careful and thoughtful scrutinizing of the coloniality active within ourselves and our discipline (Harrison 1992; Harrison 2012; Allen and Jobson 2016). Moving beyond the ways in which we write and speak about difference and inequity through our research, this session seeks to continue the uncomfortable, yet necessary, conversation of confronting privilege and recognizing the weaknesses of the discipline. As such, the goal of this session is to explore experiences of and resistances to colonial logics and anthropological exceptionalism. What are the ways that we, professionally and personally, perpetuate or reinforce these systems? What are ways in which we can resist them? We encourage submissions that are grounded in real life and that navigate issues of difference within the practice and profession of anthropology. We welcome a broad range of papers on topics such as:

  • Engagement with decolonizing pedagogy and representations of the ‘other’
  • Experiences of and resistances to the colonial process of othering in our institutions and departments
  • Exclusion, erasure, and silencing of people of color, women, and LGBTQ scholarship in our classrooms, professional meetings, and publications
  • How data, narratives and numbers enter the conversation of difference
  • Use of feminist/black intellectual thought/queer/ or other analytic perspectives to address difference in practice

This session is partially inspired by a discussion generated during a panel on strategies for action and solidarity on our campuses at DOPE 2017. We thank the panel organizers and participants for their insights and contributions, particularly those provided by Veronica Miranda and Takami Delisle.

Potential participants should send their abstracts (250 words max) to Christina ( and Shelly ( by April 10, 2017. Please include the title of the paper, author’s name, affiliation, and email.
For conference requirements please see “Requirements for Section Invited and Volunteered Submissions” here:

Works Cited:

Allen, Jafari Sinclaire, and Ryan Cecil Jobson

2016    The decolonizing generation:(race and) theory in Anthropology since the eighties. Current Anthropology 57(2):129-140.

Harrison, Faye Venetia

1997    Decolonizing anthropology: moving further toward an anthropology of liberation: Arlington, Va. : Association of Black Anthropologists, American Anthropological Association, c1997. 2nd ed.

Harrison, Faye Venetia

2012    Racism in the Academy: Toward a Multi-Methodological Agenda for

Anthropological Engagement. In Racism in the Academy: The New Millennium. A. Smedley and J.F. Hutchinson, eds. Pp. 13-24. Report by the American Anthropological Association.

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