Accepted paper:

The WCAA as the United Nations of anthropology, for better and for worse


Gordon Mathews (The Chinese University of Hong Kong)

Paper short abstract:

The WCAA has much in common with the United Nations, in both its promise and its shortcomings. Can this promise be fulfilled and shortcomings remedied without violating the democratic nature of WCAA? Can the WCAA be both administratively effective and open?

Paper long abstract:

The WCAA, an organization comprised of the presidents or representatives of anthropological associations worldwide, has organizationally much in common with the United Nations, although its stakes are lower. Like the United Nations, the WCAA has high ideals: it seeks to link world anthropology into a common forum. And like the United Nations, it suffers from, on the one hand, an excess of democracy, and on the other, apparently inevitable forms of structural domination. Because the term of presidents of various anthropological associations is brief, many new presidents come in with every WCAA meeting. The new array of delegates often has little idea what WCAA is, and discussions occur on the same topics over and over. A training session for new representatives will be initiated, but mitigation of this problem seems structurally impossible. Those individuals who come to meetings year after year form the leadership of WCAA. These are people from small associations, where the same people serve year after year, and also, often, from relatively well-off associations: while WCAA offers financial aid for delegates, sustained commitment to WCAA requires ongoing professional stability. Areas of the world such as sub-Saharan Africa, China, and the Middle East are under-represented . How can WCAA become a WORLD council of anthropological associations, both administratively effective and democratically open? The problems described in this paper will need to be solved as it evolves.

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The past and future of the World Council of Anthropological Associations (WCAA Tenth Anniversary Symposium) CLOSED