So Long, and Thanks for All the Vibes: Looking back at the 2024 Annual Meeting

faas-1.jpgA. J. Faas
2024 Annual Meeting Program Chair
SfAA President-Elect

Attending the annual meeting of the Society for Applied Anthropology is one of the most fun things I get to do in the course of my work. And it is work. I sometimes have to remind myself of that because it’s also where I get to spend time with some of my best friends and esteemed colleagues and to meet new people. Isn’t it terrific to be in the company of folks who really get you? That we were able to gather this year in gorgeous and enchanting Santa Fe is a real treat. We welcomed 1,513 registered attendees from a total of 28 countries this year, which is just shy (<100) of our average for the past 15 years! That suggests to me that the SfAA is on its way to a real post-pandemic comeback. 

We not only bring our work to the annual meeting, and we work at and through the annual meeting. I was so pleased to see so much incredible work on display. Our program this year featured 762 papers, 198 organized sessions, 80 volunteered sessions, 92 posters, 15 workshops, and 5 videos. Now that’s work. And thank you all for bringing it to Santa Fe. 

There was a wonderful range of topics covered across the sessions at this year’s meeting, thanks in large part to the efforts of our topical interest groups, co-sponsors, and this year’s program committee. Look at Table 1 to see how many sessions were organized by our TIGs. And check out our newest TIG, Medical Anthropologists and Social Scientists in Heath (MASSH), a group you could not have missed in Santa Fe, as they organized a staggering 41 sessions! See Table 2 to appreciate how much our cosponsors contribute to the meeting.

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I would also like to recognize our stellar Student Committee for their many contributions to this year’s meeting. A small group of committed students revived the committee in the runup to last year’s annual meeting and brought so much to Santa Fe with them. Did you see all those “1st Time” stickers on people’s badges? That was the Student Committee. What a terrific way to welcome people. They also put together a guide to the annual meeting to help first timers understand our many codes and symbols (e.g., “what’s a TIG?”) as well as key features of the program (e.g., “why attend the Business meeting,” “what to expect at the awards ceremony”) and tips for networking. They also organized a session, “Transforming the Conference Experience: Getting the Most Out of the SfAA 2024 Annual Meeting,” an incredibly lively speed-mentoring event, and threw what was possibly the coolest reception party for students and first timers I have ever seen. I want to encourage more students to get involved and help us keep this going. If not you, then who?

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faas-2.jpgI was especially happy to see so many sessions organized by and for practitioners. This included some truly innovative new contributions to our program. One of my favorites was the “Ask a Social Scientist ‘Lucy’ Advice Booth,” which was organized by Keely Maxwell and Victoria Phaneuf (see image 2). They recruited a rotating group of anthropologists to staff the booth all day during Local Day to answer questions from the public and local organizations about how anthropological concepts and methods can help them address real world problems. And Keely and Victoria teamed up again for “Anthropologists as Developers,” an expo-type session where practitioners showcased the tools they helped non-anthropologists create to carry out and apply social science research (see images 3 and 4). I hope to see sessions like this again in the future and encourage more of these new approaches to featuring the critical work of our practitioner members and partners.

I was chatting with a colleague at the Sustaining Fellows reception in Santa Fe. He told me that he thought it was a hugely successful annual meeting and congratulated me for the success of our efforts. I knew he had seen the numbers, so I asked: aside from the numbers, what made him say it was successful? “You know, it’s really the vibes,” he said. “This meeting has just been full of great vibes.” I could not have put it better myself. I know so many of our members are being nice and going out of their way to be supportive, but I cannot count how many people—friends, acquaintances, and perfect strangers—approached me at the meeting to tell me how great it was. Everywhere, the place was so full and bounding with energy. There was so much to keep up with. 


Like all of you, I have spent the past month unwinding from and reflecting on the wonderful time we had together in Santa Fe. I have also been keeping in touch with our new Program Chair, Andrew Gardner, and the 2025 Program Committee because that work has already begun. I hope to see us continue our upward trend of participation next year. In the meantime, so long, and thanks for all the vibes.

Image Captions

Image 1. Fabulous recycled toothbrush necklace and image by Elizabeth Chin.

Image 2. Shirley Fiske and Keely Maxwell at the “Ask a Social Scientist ‘Lucy’ Advice Booth.”

Image 3. Victoria Phaneuf sharing tools in the “Anthropologists as Developers” demonstration.

Image 4. Brittany Kiessling sharing tools in the “Anthropologists as Developers” demonstration

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