The Conference

‘Knowledge and Value in a Globalising World: Disentangling Dichotomies, Querying Unities’

On 5-8 July 2011, the first ever combined conference of the International Union of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences (IUAES), the Australian Anthropological Society (AAS) and the Association of Social Anthropologists of Aotearoa / New Zealand (ASAANZ) will take place in Perth, Western Australia, on the University of Western Australia’s campus along the Swan River.

Hosted by Anthropology and Sociology at the University of Western Australia (UWA), the conference will be an exciting opportunity for antipodean anthropologists to engage with colleagues from throughout the world to confront a broad range of issues surrounding the role of anthropology in a globalising world. The conference seeks to catalyse a global discussion on our basic categories of understanding, both as they have informed developments in anthropology and its various subdisciplines and in popular discourses regarding the contours and trends of our globalizing world. Increasingly, self-proclaimed pundits have appropriated culture and ethnography, while popular paradigms have explicitly depended upon such timeworn dichotomies as modernity and tradition, society and community, hybridity and authenticity, among others. Even questions about knowledge, its production, and distribution, which have been at the forefront of recent anthropological work, risk reducing its complexities when framed by the popular notion of a globalised knowledge economy. Knowledge becomes reduced to commodity form or in technoscience merely becomes a device that permits action. Value has been a complementary arena of understanding and debate, from the measurement of value orientations through arguments invoking such dichotomies as moral economy and rational economy to recent work drawing from Marxist, Simmelian, structuralist and exchange theory to bridge the dichotomy of meaning and desire.

Therefore, critically evaluating popular uses and promoting strategies to transcend oversimplifications in public discourse also requires critical examination and re-evaluation of the uses of key concepts within anthropology itself. While such revaluations have certainly been forthcoming within the various traditions of anthropology throughout the world, there is often little sense of the resonances across anthropology’s diverse theoretical trajectories, and within heterodox writings that have not fitted snugly within various national and regional traditions of anthropological production.

By convening a conference that seeks to bring together practitioners of three associations, two of which are national and one of which is global in its orientation, we seek to encourage critical comparative perspectives upon the genesis, development, deployment, diffusion and reception of anthropological traditions in various regions. Given the changing profile of our profession, we hope to explore as well the diverse ways in which academic and applied anthropology have been conceptualized (e.g. along axes of purity) and deployed (with either overlapping or complementary distribution of practitioners across such lines).

The conference formally begins on the 5th of July 2011 and has a stimulating program with keynote speakers Jean Comaroff and James Ferguson, while Tim Rowse will give the AAS Distinguished Public Lecture on the evening of the 4th to anticipate and launch both the conceptual rigor and public significance of our intellectual endeavors. Plenaries currently under consideration may address such issues as public outreach in anthropology, global diffusion of development models, citizenship and belonging, and other topics. Other activities being planned include an ethnographic film festival, an exhibition from the Berndt Museum of Anthropology, and workshops concerning applied anthropology.

The conference committee is proud to showcase Perth to conference participants. As the most remote capital city in the world, Perth is the gateway to the stark desert landscapes of the east, the lush coastal and forest environments of the southwest with its boutique wineries, and the extraordinary beauty of the Kimberley. Perth itself has a vibrant atmosphere with much to see and do. Built around the Swan River, Perth boasts great natural beauty with lovely beaches and parks, shopping in the CBD, wine tasting in the Swan Valley, cycling or scuba diving off Rottnest Island, or soaking up the vibes of the port city Fremantle. We look forward to welcoming anthropologists from throughout the world to explore with us these critical axes of our discipline and to enjoy together the delights of the Western Australian scene.