Where do we go from here?: The Future of Upward Anthropology in the Wake of AAA2014 and the Failure of Justice

First, I want to thank everyone who attended our meeting at Sankofa last Thursday, and for making the AAA conference so amazing. It was a challenging experience for many of us – attending the conference while also attempting to support local protest activities around the Mike Brown and Eric Garner cases. It sparked a lot of reflection, and gave me a renewed sense of the importance of this project for both building a better world, and for enacting a different kind of anthropology.


Upward Anthropologists and many others took part in marches this past week to protest the Eric Garner and Mike Brown decisions.


In thinking about these issues, I have some ideas about how we should move forward with this project. First of all, I think it is important to remember that this group started as a localized way to bring anthropologists together in the DC metropolitan area for the specific purpose of assembling data that would contribute to a broader ethnography of power here in one of the most concentrated nodes of power in the US. Our hope is that such an ethnography would provide activists and others with the maps and tools needed to transform or undermine those very structure of power. With that in mind, I will spend the next year building the local community of upward anthropologists and setting up the necessary platforms and resources that the community will use to assemble an ethnography of power.

However, DC does not exist in isolation. Another part of our purpose is to build a network of similar localized upward anthropology communities so that the various localized structures of power can be situated within broader systems of power operating at national, regional, and global scales. That, more or less, is the function of this website, the Facebook page, and the Twitter account. We’ve come a long way since our first meeting at AU PAC a year and a half ago, but we’ve still got a long way to go – this was made apparent last week at the conference. In order to accomplish this second goal, we need your help. I see two tasks ahead of us: 1) to promote the idea of upward anthropology within the discipline, and 2) to encourage and enable anthropologists to begin organizing their own localized upward anthropology groups.

The first task means reaching out to other anthropologists and encouraging them to talk about upward anthropology – on this blog or elsewhere. If you’d like to help by writing a post for this blog, contributing to our social media, or anything else, please contact me (jmtrombley at gmail)! The second task is not so clear to me. I have the sense that people are reluctant to organize their own upward anthropology communities for a variety of reasons. So if you have any suggestions for how to do this, please let me know. If you already are organizing upward anthropology activities – by this or any other name – keep me posted! I have no intention of coopting what anyone else is doing, but I would like to be able to use the resources we’ve pulled together to bring attention to any work that is being done.

The next year will be a busy one. I mentioned last week that, between this project and my dissertation, I’m starting to feel like I’m leading a double life. It will all be worth it in the end, though, if we can begin to build a better anthropology and a bette world.


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