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AAA 2009: SLA Call for Invited Sessions

Dear Linguistic Anthropologists,

It’s that time of year again:  The Society of Linguistic Anthropology (SLA) invites your submissions for the American Anthropological Association’s 108th Annual Meeting, to be held in Philadelphia, PA, on December 2-6, 2009.  As this year’s SLA Section Program Editor, I am writing to encourage you to submit invited sessions, volunteered sessions, and volunteered papers and posters so that we can have an exciting meeting in Philadelphia this December.  The theme of the 2009 Meeting is “The End/s of Anthropology.”  I hope that you will consider orienting your panels to the conference theme (see below), although you do not have to do so.

Submission Deadlines:

There are two deadlines for submission:  an internal SLA deadline for Invited Sessions (Monday, March 2), and the AAA deadline for volunteered sessions, and volunteered papers/posters (5pm, Eastern Time, April 1, 2009).  While you must submit your materials to the AAA website for both of these submission processes before the stated deadlines at, Invited Session submissions must also be sent by the March 2nd deadline directly to the Section Program Editor (  Your email to me should include a copy of your session abstract as well as individual paper abstracts from each of your proposed participants.  I will then send these out to the SLA Program Committee for review.  (Note: Invited Session submissions to the AAA website by March 2 can still be somewhat preliminary;  you can make changes on your submission up until the general deadline on April 1.)

The word limit for a session abstract is 500 words and for a paper abstract 250 words.  This information is posted on the AAA meetings website ( under “Call for Papers – Information.”  Before submitting, we encourage you to read the “How to Submit (Step-by-step Guide),” which will be posted shortly at

This year, the AAA has set up a bulletin board to facilitate the collaboration and building of sessions:  We encourage SLA members as well as nonmembers to visit the site and post descriptions of panels-in-progress.  This is potentially a great way to find other scholars working in your area of interest.


For those of you unfamiliar with the conference structure, Invited Sessions are, in the words of the AAA, “innovative, synthesizing sessions intended to reflect the state-of-the-art in the major subfields and the thematic concerns of those fields.”  The SLA Program Committee is responsible for selecting sessions for invited status; we are especially interested in panels that feature cutting edge research and theory, topics that cross subdisciplines, and/or topics related to this year’s meeting theme.  If you are organizing a panel and would like it to be considered for invited status, please notify me of your interest via email ( as soon as possible, but by March 2nd at the very latest.  Again, you must submit your materials both to the AAA website and to me (preferably in pdf format) by the March 2nd deadline.  (When you submit your panel to the website, you will not yet know whether or not it has been chosen for invited status, so simply submit it as a volunteered session.  We can always change the session status later, should your panel be selected as invited.)

Important note: The SLA unfortunately has very few allotted spaces for Invited Sessions:  we can choose either 3 single panels or 1 double panel plus 1 single panel.  We therefore encourage you to consider the possibility of having another AAA section co-sponsor your panel with the SLA, so that we can put more Invited Sessions on the conference program.  If there are other sections that you feel your panel might interest, please specify this on your application to me and I will consult with the Program Section Editor in those sections to see if there is a possibility for collaboration.  For a list of other AAA sections, consult  (You can also contact other Section Program Editors directly on your own, to see if co-sponsorship might be a possibility.)

If your panel is selected for invited status, I will send you an email to this effect in late March, with a password to use on-line.  You will need this password to answer question 2 on the proposal form, so as to complete your on-line submission by the deadline on April 1.


Please refer to the AAA website for more details on the theme, at  The AAA elaborates on the theme as follows:

“What is the relevance of anthropology in today’s world?  Where does our discipline stand in the age of hyper-science and the genome; during an era in which ethnography – as a method and form of textured representation – is being mobilized with vigor and confidence by those working in other disciplinary formations; at a moment when the questions we’re asking are also being answered by others in the humanities, social sciences, and media (and often with much more popular recognition)?  Does anthropology still provide a unique contribution?  What are its contemporary goals, and are they different from those of previous intellectual generations?

The 2009 meetings of the American Anthropological Association will provide a critical space to tackle these scholarly, theoretical, and political concerns head-on as we examine our academic and public roles in relation to the most pressing problems confronting our world today.  We intentionally offer the double entendre of “ends” (as both conclusions and purposes) in order to focus attention on anthropology’s changing relationships to other disciplines and to a variety of publics.  Perhaps thinking collectively about our traditional subjects, objects, and projects would allow us to find new sources of energy for anthropological work.  We hope to generate serious conversation about these issues as we continue to reinvent anthropology for this new millennium. Themes we hope to explore include, but are not limited to, the following:

1)      The end/s of relativism?  While cultural relativism has been one of anthropology’s foundational tenets, it has been under direct attack because the rhetorics and realities of global terrorism over-determine public discourse today.  How have anthropologists balanced their investments in relativism with their understandings of their roles as cultural critics, and how might we continue to redefine (and defend) the basic truths of cultural relativism in such a hostile political environment?

2)      The end/s of identity?  Contemporary anthropologists have been pioneers of scholarly analyses about how identities are forged and politicized, and have been particularly vocal in demonstrating how cultural identifications pass themselves off as natural.  However, in decrying the essentialisms mobilized by previous generations of social scientists, we still struggle to make sense of the complex relationships between identity and power.  For example, deconstructing racial identity has been a necessary project, but is it sufficient in our quest to challenge people’s robust investments in racial and racist ideologies?  Is denaturalization enough to challenge the continued deployment of identity categories as mechanisms of social control?

3)      The end/s of publics?  While it has become commonplace to link the concerns of particular localities to national, regional, and global dimensions of practice and analysis, we still often struggle methodologically to conduct ethnography in today’s world.  How must we re-think notions of space and time in relation to the new kinds of publics we analyze and engage today, whether these publics are migrant communities, diasporic communities, transnational religious communities, scientific communities, etc.?  How do we conceptualize the explosion of mass mediated intimacies, and what can this tell us about new forms of social and economic engagement? What kinds of publics might we seek to address (or even produce) with our work, and how do we push the field’s epistemological and presentational conventions in order to effectively do so?”


Finally, the AAA has again asked Section Program Editors to encourage their memberships to consider allotting more time for discussion and experimenting with non-traditional formats.  You can certainly fall back on the tried-and-true standard sorts of formats if you wish, but the SLA Program Committee is eager to consider variation.

Please contact me if you have any questions.  I’m looking forward to another exciting AAA Annual Meeting with strong SLA participation!

Kira Hall, SLA Section Program Editor
(w/ Joe Errington, SLA President)

Kira Hall, Associate Professor
Director, Program in Culture, Language, and Social Practice (CLASP)
Departments of Linguistics and Anthropology
Campus Box 295
University of Colorado
Boulder, Colorado  80309-0295
Phone: (303)492-2912
Fax: (303)492-4416