2023 Praxis Chair
Members of the Washington Association of Professional Anthropologists, known amongst ourselves as ‘WAPistAs,’ look forward eagerly to the annual meeting of the Society for Applied Anthropology in Santa Fe. This year WAPA is one of the annual meeting cosponsors, and we’ve lined up some great sessions for the conference. But let’s be truthful, it’s beautiful Santa Fe, and we will see friends and colleagues again in person, i.e., face to face, and probably without masks on. While there may be very little that seems ‘normal’ as we continue to put the early years of the pandemic behind us, with everything that’s going on in the USA and abroad, it will just be plain good for all of us to get together with old friends and make new acquaintances in the context of an applied anthropology conference.
WAPA was established as a Local Practitioner Organization almost 50 years ago by the late Conrad Reinig, professor of anthropology at the Catholic University of America, as a space where anthropologists at all stages of professional life, e.g., student, young or senior professional, working in academia, government, non-profit or private sector organizations could meet and exchange contacts, experiences, or ideas. Graduate students in Washington, D.C. area programs were encouraged to attend WAPA meetings as part of their “professionalization” experience. While the world and communication technologies have changed tremendously since those early decades, WAPA has continued to provide spaces for monthly professional talks (now hosted virtually to increase accessibility) between October and May every year, in addition to periodic in-person social gatherings and salons. You don’t have to live in Washington, D.C. to be a WAPistA – in fact, check out the WAPA website and the videos of previous speakers over the past couple years.
Every other year WAPA gives a Praxis Award to an accomplished practicing anthropologist who has demonstrated the anthropological difference in translating knowledge into project action. Thursday, March 28, will feature three Praxis oriented sessions, culminating in the award ceremony and reception for the 2023 awardees. More about that later. But before the awards a group of practicing anthropology with more than a century of applied experience (and a little wisdom that grows out of those many years) will hold a roundtable to discuss ideas about ways to overcome obstacles to career advancement and professional recognition in today’s competitive environment. Early in the afternoon a session organized in honor of our late colleague and friend, Charley Cheney, will feature presentations by previous Praxis awardees focused on the longer-term impacts of their project work. In the late afternoon we hold the Praxis award ceremony itself and honor the 2023 winner, Natalie Muyres, and honorable mention Dr. Alisha Winn. Natalie Muyres will talk at the ceremony about her project in Alberta, Canada, where she led an effort focused on developing a Human Trafficking Data Portal. Dr. Winn will also have a chance to talk about her work with the Palm Beach County African American Virtual Oral History Project sponsored by the Children Services Council of Palm Beach County, Florida. Please plan to attend the award ceremony, and then make time for the reception that follows.
In addition to the three Praxis sessions, WAPistAs have organized six other sessions on a broad range of topics. WAPA president Mark Edberg has a session about the public health work that anthropologists from the DC area have done at home and abroad. Former WAPA president Suzanne Huertin-Roberts and Suzanne Currie have organized a roundtable discussion about why anthropologists “need” Local Practitioner Organizations. Jennifer Taulken-Spaulding organized a session about anthropologists working with the federal government. Bryan Bruns has organized an open discussion or roundtable about environmental governance that could match the enchantment of our New Mexico location. St. Mary’s College of Maryland anthropologist Julia King has organized a session about the role of anthropologists in their work with indigenous community partners to establish a National Heritage Area in southern Maryland. Another St. Mary’s College anthropologist, Brian Smithson, has a session about theory, pedagogy, and anthropological education.
Nothing like a good conference to experience the relativity of time. Thought provoking conversation, posters, sessions – catching up with colleagues and friends – there’s a lot to try and fit in during those few days. But if you don’t have to hurry home, be sure to make time to stop by the NAPA/WAPA reception on the last day of the conference, after the sessions are over. WAPistA and former NAPA president Terry Redding is organizing a nice event for all of us to come together before we begin our journeys homeward.
See you in Santa Fe!