Friday, April 16, 2021

How to participate in the 2021 AAA meetings!

Hi all,

I'm president/chair (conflicting info as to which) of the Biological Anthropology Section (BAS) of the American Anthropological Association (AAA; for the next two years. Rick Smith (@rickwasmith) and I have put together some information to hopefully help any one who would like to participate in the AAA meetings (every Fall, usually November) but isn't quite sure how to do so. Submitting to the AAAs can feel a lot different from submitting an abstract to the least, it did for me a few years ago when I tried to submit an abstract, failed, gave up, didn't attend, and then only became involved in AAA when my good friend Sharon was on the executive committee and pulled me in. I don't want it to be difficult or mysterious for people to participate in AAA, like it was for me. It's a lovely meeting and a lovely community to be involved in throughout the year. The cost obstacle is one that we can't really help out a whole lot with at this time (though Rick just shared that if you are a recent MA or PhD graduate, the AAA offers a free one-year membership and free section membership to the BAS, so you can try it out But this year the meeting is hybrid, so you can present remotely, which means that the cost of travel is not a thing! We're working with the AAA leadership to change how membership and meetings are done, going into the future, to cut down on the costs to individuals. In the meantime, if you can swing it join us! If you have something to say/present, propose it to us! 

Thanks and best wishes to you all,


How to participate in the 2021 AAA meetings!

A how-to, for biological anthropologists and friends of the Biological Anthropology Section (BAS) of the AAA.

What you need to know about BAS programming:

  • We accept proposals for invited sessions, including: Oral Presentation Sessions, Roundtables/Townhalls, Conversations/Debates, Interviews, and Podcasts.

  • We also accept individual volunteered papers and posters, which we will collect and organize into ad-hoc sessions.

  • We also accept submissions for the 3-minute thesis competition and encourage you to submit your work!

How we approach programming decisions:

  • We are thrilled to evaluate all kinds of excellent proposals with priority given to those that are well aligned to the annual meeting theme, engage multiple subfields of anthropology, and that are broadly inclusive across race, sex, gender, sexuality, ability, and career stage, among others.

  • Remember that the AAAs are an opportunity to engage with anthropologists beyond our own subfields, and we will prioritize sessions that leverage the breadth and diversity of anthropological perspectives.

For organizing an invited session, here are the basics:

Step 1. With the conference theme in mind, think of a great session topic and write a session abstract (500 words). This year’s theme is “Truth and Responsibility.” There are opportunities for both on-line and in-person events.

Step 2. Think about what kind of format would work best: panel, roundtable, conversation, debate, etc? Here’s a handy flow chart from the AAAs about how to choose a format:

Step 3. Think of a great set of inter-subdisciplinary anthropologists who are working in this area, and a more senior scholar whose expertise would be valuable as a session discussant to reflect on the perspectives that are presented and synthesize them.

Step 4. Reach out to potential participants in your proposed event, share the session abstract, and see if they will commit to joining your session. For Oral Presentation Sessions, gather a list of tentative talk titles for all confirmed participants and ask them to prepare their individual abstracts prior to the submission deadline.

Step 5: All proposals are evaluated by specific sections of the AAAs that you choose in advance. In addition to BAS, think of other AAA sections that can evaluate and potentially co-sponsor your proposed session. Section list available here:

Step 6. A few weeks before the deadline, upload the session abstract to the submission portal. ( Enter the sections  (e.g. BAS) that you want to evaluate your proposal, and to, hopefully, sponsor or co-sponsor it. Enter all the names, contact information, and talk titles for the session participants, where applicable. 

Step 7. Participants have until May 21 to upload their abstracts, after that you all have until May 26 to complete the whole process on-line.

Step 8.  Wait for the review process. Hope it’s accepted by one or more sections of the AAA. If it is, renew your membership, register for the meetings, and have a great AAAs!

Note that membership and pre-registration are NOT required to submit an abstract or session, though you may be asked to set up a profile with the AAA.

Questions, concerns? Reach out to Rick W. A. Smith (BAS Program Chair; rsmith86 at gmu dot edu) and/or Holly Dunsworth (BAS Program co-Chair; holly_dunsworth at uri dot edu). We are happy to help you navigate the process!