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PAC: Bridging the Gap between Academia and Activism

This year’s Public Anthropology Conference (PAC) had no shortage of amazing speakers discussing a broad range of interesting and important topics. From drone usage to minority solidarity, the various workshops and panel discussions allowed conference participants to get a glimpse of the many different arenas of public thought and activism in which the discipline of Anthropology has taken a part. However, the conference did not focus solely on the state of the discipline, instead opting to pursue the theme of “Creating Dialogues Between Social Movements and Academia”.

Nowhere was this more apparent than within the keynote dialogue, which took place on Saturday, October 8th. To reflect the general theme of the conference, the traditional keynote address was replaced with a panel style discussion, in which the three participants were asked to discuss the various ways in which activists and academics can impact one another’s work. This format allowed for multiple perspectives in the discussion, rather than become entirely focused on the important but limited perspective of a single speaker.

Dr. Marcia Chatelain, representing Georgetown University, provided valuable insight on the integration of Anthropological models of thought into her work within the Black Lives Matter movement. Her experience, both as an academic and within a particular social movement, allowed her to speak to the ways in which these parts of her professional life are able to work in tandem.

The same can be said of both Chelsea Parsons and Elizabeth Banach, both of whom are important figures within the movement to end gun violence. Elizabeth Banach works with the organization Marylanders to Prevent Gun Violence, and gave voice to the specific goals of the movement. Following a description of how personal events shaped her relationship to the movement, Ms. Banach suggested a number of ways in which Anthropologists within the Academy could both offer aid and reap benefits from a relationship with the movement.

Chelsea Parsons also spoke about the movement to end gun violence, but did so from within her own realm of experience. As the Vice President for Guns and Crime Policy within the Center for American Progress, Ms. Parsons was able to provide more general context for the movement. All three of the speakers were able to create a fruitful environment for dialogue, and were able to effectively address a number of questions brought forth by the audience.

The panel was moderated by by Dr. Angela Stuesse from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her moderation allowed the discussion to move between the specifics of the organizations represented by the speakers, all while encouraging dialogue between those within the academic discipline of Anthropology and those involved in the social movements represented throughout the conference.

This week will be all about highlighting some of the wonderful conversations that took place at the 13th Annual Public Anthropology Conference. Check back in tomorrow to learn more!

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