American Anthropological Association 2011: Visual Ethics Roundtable – CFP

Screenshot by me from the Society for Visual Anthropology's website:

On behalf of the Society for Visual Anthropology’s Ethics Committee, Jonathan Marion and I are co-organising and chairing our 5th (!!) annual Visual Ethics Roundtable at this year’s American Anthropological Association meetings on 16-20 November 2011.  The meetings are being held in beautiful Montreal, in my home country of Canada, and although it’s only March, the deadline for submitting contributions is fast approaching: 1st April.

Here’s the CFP, which has been circulating for the past couple of weeks.  Please get in touch if you have any questions or if you have a case study that you’d like to share at the conference.

Traces of the Image: A Roundtable Discussion on Visual Ethics

Sara Perry (University of Southampton) and Jonathan S. Marion (California State University San Marcos), on behalf of the SVA’s Visual Ethics Committee

This roundtable discussion, organised on behalf of the Society for Visual Anthropology’s Ethics Committee, seeks to continue the SVA’s now five-year-old tradition of nurturing debate and critical reflection on the ethics of anthropological imaging. Building on this year’s conference theme of “Traces, Tidemarks and Legacies,” we aim to explore disciplinary trajectories of ethical practice regarding picture creation, circulation and consumption.  Of particular interest here are questions concerning both long-term effects of, and short-term shifts in, value systems and moralities associated with visuality:  How have histories of anthropological practice impacted on our contemporary management of imagery?  How are shifting visual technologies and intellectual paradigms disrupting or rearranging our ethical priorities?  Where is representational authority situated in unstable, multiply-occupied/authored anthropological contexts?  How do we anticipate and negotiate future relations with pictorial materials?  And what legacies are our current approaches to image ethics likely to leave behind?  The intent of this roundtable is to give practitioners an opportunity to discuss the ethical implications of in-progress or recently-completed visual research, and to draw upon the collective input of roundtable attendees to plan for or rethink our visual responsibilities.


For those interested in participating, please provide a brief description of the particular scenario or issue you would be interested in contributing to this year’s discussion as soon as possible, and by April 1st at the latest. All correspondence and any questions should be sent to Sara Perry and Jonathan S. Marion. Please note: As per AAA participation rules, presenting as part of a roundtable counts as a person’s one “major” role, the same as giving a paper or poster.

OUTPOST exhibition | Call for contributions

OUTPOST exhibition
OUTPOST exhibition | Image courtesy of Ian Kirkpatrick -

Ian Kirkpatrick and I are working together to curate a small art exhibition — OUTPOST — in concert with the upcoming Visualisation in Archaeology International Conference at the University of Southampton next month (18-19 April).  There is an incredibly tight turn-around time for the call for contributions (deadline next Wednesday!), but I hope anyone interested in the intersections between archaeology and art might consider participating.  Here are the details! 

Curators: Ian Kirkpatrick & Sara Perry

Poster presentations have become ubiquitous features of archaeological conferences, acting simultaneously as informational, decorative, architectural, and ritual devices.  In their supposed succinctness they can persuade, deceive and mystify – whilst employing image and text to compress vast quantities of data into highly conventionalized fields of vision. As archaeological tools they can stand unaccompanied by their author as the sole representative of an idea or body of research, or can be used in tandem with performance as a form of prop or mobile stage-set.

OUTPOST examines the possibilities of this genre as an intermediary between information and art, monument and meaning.  It seeks innovative and creative interpretations of the archaeological poster presentation which push the boundaries of this format, both physically and conceptually.

We invite artists, illustrators and academics to respond to this call for posters/artworks as a means to invite discussion and debate about the form, function and future of this frequently overlooked sub-genre of the archaeological intellectual toolkit.

Please send a 50-200 word artistic statement for the creation of an A0 or other-sized/shaped poster presentation and CV, to Ian Kirkpatrick ( by 23 March 2011.

Final decisions will be made by 25 March 2011.

On another note, I won’t be able to contribute to Colleen‘s archaeological blogging roundtable discussion this week.  But I wanted to provide a link to the first-class summary that she put together of last week’s discussion.  Through it you can connect to many other superb bloggers who are grappling with the consequences of blog work in archaeology.

What can blogging do for archaeology? Revisited
Courtesy of Colleen Morgan,

Last week, my friend Colleen Morgan at Middle Savagery began the web-based equivalent of a roundtable discussion on archaeological blogging in advance of her session on this topic at the upcoming SAA meetings.  From my perspective, the response to her call for commentary was fantastic, and is well-summarised both by her and others (e.g., Brenna at Passim in Passing).

Her question for this week goes as follows:

…Blogging gives new scholars a chance to speak out, to debunk 2012 foolishness and to give a little bit back to the public that usually signs our paychecks in one way or another. Though it is generally embraced…public outreach can be incredibly difficult, tricky, and prone to hidden downsides. Blogging archaeology is often fraught with tensions that are sometimes not immediately apparent. Beyond the general problems that come with performing as a public intellectual, what risks do archaeologists take when they make themselves available to the public via blogging? What (if any) are the unexpected consequences of blogging? How do you choose what to share?

There have already been a lot of meaningful responses to these questions by other bloggers (see Dirt, Where in the hell am I, Passim in Passing, Adventures in Archaeology, etc.), and I follow various excellent blogs where the implications of blogging (including the potential for commentators to propagate unfounded and deprecative arguments) have become very obvious (e.g., see here).

In the interests of brevity, I won’t add to these comments beyond saying that I think we have a responsibility to remember that blogging is simply one form of media, and whilst people (especially academics) like to pick on it as an especially dangerous and uncontrollable communicative device, I think this is misconstrued and blinding.  Blogs and social media have advantages and disadvantages—like every other type of communicative tool.  By focusing on them alone (as is common in academia), I’m concerned that we are all-too-conveniently avoiding discussion of the limitations and, indeed, prejudices of other modes of publication (e.g., the academic journal or text or edited volume).  These modes are often exclusive, insular, and inaccessible (both physically, linguistically and intellectually).  They offer limited opportunities to respond.  They can become canonised and cemented as truth and, in so doing, serve to perpetuate the status quo.

What is critical, as I see it, is that ALL media are risky and unpredictable; ALL media need critical dissection and constant questioning as to their validity and impact; ALL media require that we hide some details and share others, and that we otherwise make potentially restrictive decisions about what information to make public and what to keep to ourselves.

Our concern for the limitations (& affordances) of blogging should not, I hope, eclipse attention to the problems (& possibilities) of other types of archaeological communication.