The annual conference of the Australian Anthropological Society will be held from 28 November to 1 December 2023 at Macquarie University.
The theme for the 2023 Australian Anthropological Society Conference is Vulnerabilities. We conceptualise vulnerabilities as entailing uncertain and potentially risky kinds of exposure and openness to forces that transcend the individual, the local, the human. In 2023 these sorts of uncomfortable susceptibilities include but are by no means limited to vulnerabilities to viruses and pandemics present and future; to particulate matter, plastic waste, and other forms of pollution; to fires and floodwaters; to economic precarity and exploitation; to the invisible-isation and silencing of non-conforming subjectivities and collectivities; to gender-, race-, and sexuality-based violence and exclusion; to border patrols, police brutality, settler society assaults on Indigenous land and cultures, and other forms of state repression; to workplace restructuring, the gig economy and structural adjustment; as well as to the parlous place of the discipline in the Australian tertiary education “sector.”
Yet while contemporary anxieties conspire to cast vulnerabilities as essentially negative, we also seek articulations of positive valances of being vulnerable, noting both the signal importance to the production of anthropological knowledge of opening oneself up to the world and the personal, political, and intersubjective complexities of anthropological encounters. Here we would highlight vulnerability as a kind of generative mutuality predicated on an ethnographic engagement that exceeds the imperviousness of other sorts of scientific and social scientific epistemologies to human experience. Where invulnerability entails an impermeability of knowledge and world, vulnerabilities derive from practices of permeability and porosity, signalling a methodological groundedness and specificity as well as theoretical responsiveness and humility. At the same time issues of power and inequality are never absent from anthropological and other expert attempts to represent populations, ecosystems and infrastructures as subject to vulnerabilities. With this duality in mind, we invite panels and papers that reckon with this theme in rigorous, critical, and surprising ways.
In particular we especially welcome submissions that engage with vulnerabilities on the broad sub-themes of
• Exploitation and Precarity
• Voice and Voicelessness
• Ecologies and Climate Change
• Debt and Indebtedness
• Economies of Hope and Care
• Vulnerable Ages and Vulnerable Points in the Life Cycle
• Solidarities and Resiliences
• Vulnerability, Religion, and the Sacred
• Temporalities of Vulnerability
• Vulnerability as a Technique of Othering
• Affect, Bodies, Feelings, and Embodied Experience
• Power and Inequality in the Construction of Vulnerable Populations
• Skilled Anthropological Practices and Pedagogies
We also welcome panels and papers that do not explicitly speak to the theme but reflect research in the field. We look forward to seeing you at Macquarie this November!