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Time zone: Europe/London

- Registration desk open

- Session 1
- Refreshments
Senate House Cloister area

Going to a conference for the first time can be bewildering at times. How do you approach scholars you would like to talk to? How should you present yourself? How should you go about networking? This might come naturally for some people, but we would like to make sure everyone has a good start. We therefore invited people to reach out a hand and welcome new participants in the society of anthropologists, starting with this preliminary meeting.

- Session 2
- Break

Irreconciliation and its divergences,

2023 Annual Firth Lecture

In Denktagebuch (Thought Diaries, 1950-1973) Hannah Arendt wrote that acts which cannot be forgiven are beyond punishment and hence cannot be reconciled to. In this annual 2023 Firth lecture, I draw from Arendt to further theorize and extend the concept of irreconciliation and reflect on the lessons that we can learn from it. Following Raymond Firth’s focus on individual divergences as a source of social change rather than social organizations, I reflect critically on the interdisciplinary scholarship on reconciliation, apology and forgiveness and theorise irreconciliation as a less examined lens of analysis through which such change can be aspired for. Most post-conflict reconciliatory exercises make it incumbent upon survivors to forgive and seek closure as an exhibition of ‘moving on’. Rather than being in opposition to ‘peace’, irreconciliation instead allows us to interrogate the status quo by refusing to forgive endemic impunities, particularly in the aftermath of staged processes of justice and absence-presence of the rule of law. Drawing from Firth’s exposition on social organisation and behaviour, his work on the Naval Intelligence Report and kinship in Europe, I will try to explore the political and psychic potentials that might lie dormant in the phenomenon of irreconciliation. As an ethnographically less examined phenomenon (which doesn’t just provide critique), I argue that irreconciliation allows an important examination of the rule of law within processes of unresolved genocidal injustices, debates relating to the ‘enslaved’, Black Lives Matter, institutional responses and might offer some possibilities for an engaged anthropology in these troubled times.

Bio:Nayanika Mookherjee

Nayanika Mookherjee (FRSA) is a Professor of Political Anthropology and Co-Director of the Institute of Advanced Studies in Durham University. Based on her widely acclaimed book The Spectral Wound: Sexual Violence, Public Memories and the Bangladesh War of 1971 (2015 Duke University Press), in 2019 she co-authored (with a Bangladeshi visual artist Najmunnahar Keya) a set of guidelines, graphic novel and animation film Birangona: Towards ethical testimonies of sexual violence during conflict and received the 2019 Praxis Award from the Washington Association of Professional Anthropologists. The guidelines and graphic novel have fed into the Murad Code (named after the Yazidi sexual violence survivor and 2018 Nobel Peace Prize winner Nadia Murad) developed by the Prevent Sexual Violence Initiative of the UK government. Her focus on ethics emerges from her own research as well as being an Ethics officer of the ASA (2007-2012) when she updated the ASA ethics code in consultation with the members.

She has published extensively on anthropology of violence, ethics and aesthetics including editing volumes like ‘The Aesthetics of Nation’ (2011 with Christopher Pinney), ‘The Self in South Asia,’ (2013); Aesthetics, Politics and Conflict (2015 with Tariq Jazeel) and her recently edited volume is On Irreconciliation (2022). She has had fellowships with ESRC, Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, British Academy, Leverhulme and the Rockerfeller Foundation at Bellagio. She is finalising her manuscript Arts of Irreconciliation and funded by the British Academy she is carrying out research on war babies, conflict and transnational adoption. She did her BA (Honours) in Political Science from Presidency College (Calcutta University, India), and MA in Sociology and Anthropology from Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU, Delhi, India) and her Phd in Social Anthropology from SOAS (University of London). She was in the Sociology department in Lancaster University before joining the Anthropology department in Durham in 2011. 


We welcomed delegates to the opening reception immediately after the Conference Opening and Firth Lecture. There was wine, soft drinks and canapes to enjoy while mingling with other delegates!

- Registration desk open
- Session 3
- Refreshments
Senate House Cloister area
- Session 4

The ASA2023 presented a curated film programme in cooperation with the RAI Film Festival. A two-hour session in which the following four films were shown followed by a discussion:

  1. Landscape Suspended (26:00): Under the pretext of an interrogation, this film shows the politically charged history of Shaho mountain of the Zagros Mountains range in Iran.
  2. Forms of Care (7:00): A stop-motion animation following the story of a mundane death, and the forms of care that accompany it.
  3. You can't show my face (20:00): The sound of the streets of Tehran are transformed into forbidden beats, people sing and young women and men rhyme their inner feelings.
  4. House of Rencong (24:53): Seven survivors of anti-trans police violence in Indonesia escape state surveillance and dive into their fantasy to reclaim their image. ‘House of Rencong’ imagines what radical queer liberation looks like beyond the limits of Western visibility politics.

View more information about the films.

- Lunch
Senate House Cloister area
This was a chance for us to come together to discuss the Anthropology of Britain network's activities and to work on the theme for this year's workshop. The meeting was open to AOB network members, and to anyone interested in joining the network.

Part of the launch event of the MA Medical Anthropology and Mental Health at SOAS: 

Plenary Lecture: The gifts that context give: Reflections on ethnographic encounters in Global Mental Health

Dr. Rochelle Burgess
Associate Professor in Global Health
Institute for Global Health, UCL
with Orkideh Behrouzan as discussant

As part of the launch event of the MA Medical Anthropology and Mental Health at SOAS, please join us for a specialized plenary followed by a presentations and showcasing event and a wine reception. This is a great opportunity to meet our staff and students and learn about a wide range of methods and outputs as we will be showcasing their varied contributions to, and engagement with, mental health.

In his critiques of mental health and psychiatry, Arthur Kleinman argued that ethnography and by extension – anthropology provided a route to the future of psychiatry – one that was able to take seriously the social and cultural dynamics of health and illness, and the perspective of multiple voices within the field. In writing Rethinking Psychiatry in 1985, he was hopeful on these points. Work by other anthropologists in this area, remains a critical platform for the unveiling of the ways in which mental health remains inextricable from our social worlds; because it is made manifest within relationships to society, culture, politics, and crisis.
This talk will reflect on my work as a non-anthropologist who is embedded within the discipline by virtue of my encounters with the social world as a scholar activist. The features of this practice can be organised under the umbrella of what I have called ethnographic encounters, which align with the principles anthropological traditions including engaged ethnography, and Patchwork ethnography in global mental health settings. Such encounters enable a taking of context seriously, which informs a critical interrogation of my work as it relates to wider social justice aims, and a purposeful engagement and alliance with citizens projects of survival and what they tell us about the limitations of our current practices in the global mental health field.