[URBANTH-L]call for proposals AAA on social policy

Debra Rodman miamigringa at gmail.com
Thu Mar 26 16:36:32 EDT 2009

Please forward to your listservs

We invite paper proposals for a panel for the upcoming AAA meetings.  Please
send your abstract or inquiries to Patricia Foxen at patriciafoxen at gmail.com

American Anthropological Association Annual Meeting
Philadelphia, PA
December 2–6, 2009

Panel Session Title:  From Deep Description to Social Policy:
Translating Anthropological Research into Advocacy for Latino

Panel Organizer:  Patricia Foxen, Ph.D., National Council of La Raza

The application of anthropological methods and knowledge toward social
and political action, whether at the state or community level, has
long been a subject of debate within our discipline. In the past, the
relationship between anthropologists and administrators, state
institutions and nongovernmental organizations, has ranged from one of
dubious collaboration to one of profound mutual distrust and
disconnection, particularly in poor regions and in places where such
knowledge was suspected to be used by power-holders toward nefarious
ends and against already marginalized populations.  More recently, we
have witnessed a revived interest on the part of anthropologists
working in northern countries in using their ethnographic expertise
and methods toward enhancing the quality and impact of policy-relevant
materials and strategies, in areas ranging from immigrant
incorporation to civil rights to health policy for underserved
populations.  At the same time, government and advocacy organizations
alike have demonstrated an increased openness toward using qualitative
approaches to better understand realities on the ground and integrate
complex sociocultural experiences and understandings into their policy
designs.  Despite this convergence of academic, advocacy, and policy
interests, there often remains, nonetheless, an entrenched bias
against the local or “subjective” nature of much qualitative research,
whose critical and descriptive nature does not easily lend itself to
straightforward or succinct policy recommendations.

Through this panel, we seek to address a range of epistemological,
ethical, and methodological issues that arise when conducting
qualitative research designed to impact social change and policy,
specifically in the area of Latino experience.  Some of the broader
themes discussed here include 1) whether anthropological knowledge can
truly incorporate diverse community needs, 2) the extent to which
policy-oriented research represents authentic voices, and 3) the
extent to which such work ultimately serves the ends of institutions
rather than the good of the community.  Beyond these lie a whole range
of pragmatic questions that consistently challenge anthropologists and
other qualitative researchers seeking to make their insights relevant
and understandable to policymakers.  Not the least of these challenges
is how to provide in-depth, holistic descriptions and analyses in a
timely manner and through language that is compelling to both
policymakers and other audiences.  Another major question revolves
around how to involve different sectors of the community within the
research design process itself, particularly when divisions or power
imbalances exist.  The panel thus convenes researchers who have
struggled with this translation process from local experience to
social policy in such diverse areas as disaster relief for Latino
communities, teen pregnancy interventions, dismantling destructive
immigration policies, and improving public perceptions of Latino
youth.  We openly address the difficult, sometimes messy questions
that surface when anthropology’s “ends” are to take strategic action,
and we argue forcibly that our discipline continues to be imperative
in both understanding and shaping social realities.  In this time of
vitriolic anti-Latino and anti-immigrant sentiment throughout much of
the country, the task of translating local, nuanced, context-specific
stories into actionable advocacy strategies and language has become
more urgent than ever.

Patricia Foxen, PhD
Associate Director of Research
Office of Research, Advocacy and Legislation

National Council of La Raza (NCLR)
1126 16th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20036

(202) 776-1789 (w)
(202) 384-4276 (c)
skype: patriciafoxen

"In Search of Providence: Transnational Mayan Identities" by Patricia
Foxen now available at:

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