The program will feature a series of keynote panel discussions between First Nations scholars, with the dual intention of foregrounding Indigenous scholarship and drawing out some of its themes, especially around the decolonisation of research and writing. We are delighted to announce that Professor Aileen Moreton-Robinson will be delivering the biennial AAS Distinguished Lecture. Further details about these and other key events will be shared soon, including sessions being planned by the Australian Network of Student Anthropologists (ANSA). We look forward to an inspiring and engaging conference program, to which delegates are invited to submit panel and roundtable proposals.
The 2021 conference heralds a number of ‘firsts’ for the Society.
AAS2021 will be our first virtually hosted conference, which is both exciting and nerve-racking! We thank all who participated in the snap survey that helped us move forward with planning after the cancellation of the joint conference with ASAA/NZ in Wellington. In that survey, many of you said how much you miss the quality of in-person engagements; yet, it was also clear that many were not eager to take the risk of cancellation and quarantine entailed by travelling interstate in the context of an ongoing pandemic and slow vaccine rollout. We are also mindful of the carbon footprint and costs of conference travel, capacity limitations, and time. Rather than getting together in person for a few densely packed days, a virtual conference can engage us more inclusively, possibly with even more intellectual intensity, over the slightly longer time frame that we’ve set for the meetings. We invite you all to think creatively about the possibilities of online engagements as you respond to the calls for panels and roundtables (open now) and papers and labs (opening later).
Although we can’t all get together with old and new friends to eat, drink, and be merry, we urge you all to organise informal social gatherings during the period of the meetings to catch up with other anthropologists wherever you are.
As far as we are aware, AAS2021 will also be our first conference to not be chaired and co-organised by a University anthropology department. This year’s conference will be brought to you instead by a crack team of AAS Executive Committee members and the crew from NomadIT. Again, this wasn’t originally the plan! We are rolling with the punches but also the possibilities presented by recent events. We are approaching AAS2021 as an experiment for re-imagining the traditional format of our conference (what other venue options and hosting or organising collaborations might future conferences hold, we wonder…)
Finally, while we don’t have an overarching conference theme (another first for the AAS), we see AAS2021 as the perfect vehicle for launching and showcasing the AAS First Nations initiative, which the Executive Committee has been developing over the past two years. Members of the AAS Executive, led by Marcus Barber and Ute Eickelkamp, convened conversations with Indigenous colleagues Suzi Hutchings, Julie Andrews, Suzanne Ingram, and Gretchen Stolte about how to make the AAS more inclusive for First Nations people, something which many in our membership have been calling for over the years. Responding to our colleagues' recommendations, and under the guidance of Associate Professor Suzi Hutchings, AAS President Elect and the first Indigenous AAS President, we have taken steps towards this goal, including further drafting an Acknowledgment of Sovereignty for the Society’s website and journal, and commissioning First Nations American anthropologist Gretchen Stolte to organise a series of conference panels with First Nation scholars from Australia and around the world working in anthropology and related fields. Dr Stolte is also compiling a bibliography of anthropological work by First Nations authors for the AAS website, which will be a resource for those of us seeking to foreground First Nations scholarship in our own writing and referencing. We will launch this resource at the conference, with hopes that it will continue to grow in coming years.
It was in this spirit that the Executive Committee approached Distinguished Professor Aileen Moreton-Robinson to deliver the AAS Distinguished Lecture as part of the AAS2021 program. Professor Moreton-Robinson started her undergraduate career majoring in anthropology at ANU before shifting to sociology to complete her honours degree and then eventually working in departments of women's studies, justice studies and Indigenous studies. Professor Moreton-Robinson is a Goenpul woman of Quandamooka (Moreton Bay) with maternal ties to Yuggera, Turrabul and Kabi Kabi lands in South East Queensland. She is currently Elder Scholar in Residence and Professor of Indigenous Research at RMIT University, Melbourne. She served as the Director of the National Indigenous Research Knowledges Network (NIRAKN), as Chairperson of the inaugural nominations Committee and as a Board Member of the Native American Indigenous Studies Association (NAISA), as an executive member of National, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Higher Education (NATSIHEC), as President of the Australian Critical Whiteness Studies Association, and as a member of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS); she also founded the International eJournal of Critical Indigenous Studies. The global reach of Professor Moreton-Robinson’s academic work was recognised last year when she became the first Indigenous honorary fellow of the prestigious American Academy of Arts and Sciences appointed outside the USA and in the same year she became a fellow of the Australian Academy of Humanities. Her work on race, gender, power, and Indigeneity presents provocations for the discipline of anthropology. We see the AAS Distinguished Lecture as not just a platform for celebrating the discipline of anthropology but also for fostering challenging conversations about the discipline's boundaries, histories, and paradigms.