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Call for Papers: SLA 2020 Spring Conference

Announcing the 2020 Spring Conference of the Society for Linguistic Anthropology

“Future Imperfect: Language in Times of Crisis and Hope”

April 2-5, 2020, Boulder, Colorado

Submission Deadline: December 16, 2019

Contact email:


The Society for Linguistic Anthropology, in partnership with graduate students in the Program in Culture, Language, and Social Practice (CLASP) at the University of Colorado Boulder, is pleased to announce the SLA 2020 Spring Conference, to take place at the Hiltons on Canyon in Boulder, Colorado, on April 2-5, 2020. The SLA Conference Steering Committee welcomes all submissions advancing the study of language and society, but we are especially interested in work that engages the 2020 conference theme: Future Imperfect: Language in Times of Crisis and Hope.


The Conference Theme

As human societies face the tragedies of climate, war, racism, corruption, and displacement that are projected to define the 21st century, the SLA 2020 Spring Conference calls upon scholars to question the way forward in an imperfect future world. The future inhabits our uncertain present, generating complex intersections of crisis and hope. The imperfect, as a verb construction, describes an ongoing, incomplete action. With this conference theme, we wish to highlight the ever-unfinished and evolving condition of academic research and its contribution to pressing sociopolitical issues. How do we, in our role as researchers, reconcile time-honored methodologies with the novel challenges that have arisen in contemporary social life? How can our academic labor more effectively address the concerns of the future? We welcome submissions that make use of diverse methods, both micro and macro, to explore the precarity and forms of resistance that characterize our contemporary moment. We are especially interested in submissions that address the ways that language use may both enable and contest the sociopolitical shifts that continue to destabilize human equality (and indeed the future of humanity itself), whether at local, national, regional, or global scales.

In its focus on imperfect futures, the conference theme additionally proposes disruption and transformation as necessary concepts for critical language study. In social analytic research, these concepts each invoke traditional paradigms as they move toward more innovative ways of thinking and doing. We highlight disruption as a rethinking of relationships between researchers, participants, audiences, and methodologies. What counts as knowledge production in linguistic anthropology and related fields? Who gets to produce and circulate knowledge, and in what fora? How can we productively disrupt our reliance on knowledge systems that may be more suited to past instead of future concerns? Likewise, we highlight transformation as encompassing the many ways in which laypersons as well as researchers may change and advance the contours of language study to confront an increasingly anxious world. Through the reflexive interrogation of positionality and subjectivity, we search for emergent paths to take within—and beyond—the comfort zones in our research fields. Disruption and transformation, as mutually reinforcing, co-constitutive phenomena, create the opportunity for more critical and participatory directions in language study. This conference theme invites linguistic anthropologists and related researchers to reflect on ways to realize goals of racial, ethnic, socioeconomic, gendered, and other forms of social justice in times of crisis and hope.


Submission information

The SLA will prioritize submissions for organized panels, individual presentations, roundtables, posters, and installations that engage productively with our conference theme and involve creative and diverse participation across methods, disciplines, institutions, and professional levels. We especially welcome panels that involve graduate students, activists, and/or public figures in addition to faculty. We also encourage conference participants to consider presenting new or in-progress research in order to take full advantage of SLA’s interdisciplinary community of scholars. To that end, we encourage participants who have an innovative proposal that does not readily fit into the conference format to contact the conference organizers at for independent consideration.

The submission portal will open on Tuesday, October 8. Registration with the American Anthropological Association is a required first step before submitting an abstract. To register, please log into the AAA Anthro Gateway. Click here to check if you have an existing AAA user account; if not, you will need to create a free AAA account before logging in by following the prompt to “Create an Account.” Once you have logged in from your account, select “Add Meeting Registration” on the left-hand side, then choose the link “SLA 2020 Spring Conference” to proceed. After registering with the AAA, you will receive a confirmation email and a link to submit your abstract.


CLASP Graduate Student Paper Competition

As part of the SLA 2020 Spring Conference, the CLASP program at the University of Colorado Boulder is pleased to announce a call for papers for a graduate student paper competition. The winner of the competition will be recognized and granted a plenary spot on the SLA 2020 conference program. Submissions of up to 8,000 words (excluding references) should be sent by December 16, 2019 to Please see the Graduate Student Paper Competition webpage for more information on submission requirements.


Location and Conference Hotel

The SLA 2020 Spring Conference will take place in Boulder, Colorado, a college town located at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains and home to the University of Colorado Boulder. The SLA has reserved a block of discounted rooms at the main conference hotel, Embassy Suites at the Hiltons on Canyon (click here to view the 3D Tour). Offering majestic mountain views and elegant furnishings, the Embassy Suites characterizes itself as an urban retreat located in the heart of Boulder. Each reservation made at the SLA/CLASP Conference Booking Link – Embassy Suites Boulder comes with a two-room guest suite, a complimentary made-to-order breakfast, a complimentary Manager’s evening reception, and access to two bars, fitness room, and heated roof-top pool.


Contact Information

Updates about the conference will be posted at the SLA 2020 Spring Conference website. For additional information, please contact the conference organizers (SLA Co-Chairs Judy Pine and Dominika Baran; CLASP Co-Chairs Velda Khoo and Olivia Hirschey Marrese) at


We look forward to welcoming you to Boulder in April!