The program featured a series of keynote plenaries discussions between First Nations scholars, with the dual intention of foregrounding Indigenous scholarship and drawing out some of its themes, especially around the decolonisation of research and writing.
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The 2021 conference heralded a number of ‘firsts’ for the Society.
AAS2021 was our first virtually hosted conference, which is both exciting and nerve-racking! We thank all who participated in the snap survey that helped us move forward with planning after the cancellation of the joint conference with ASAA/NZ in Wellington. In that survey, many of you said how much you miss the quality of in-person engagements; yet, it was also clear that many were not eager to take the risk of cancellation and quarantine entailed by travelling interstate in the context of an ongoing pandemic and slow vaccine rollout. We are also mindful of the carbon footprint and costs of conference travel, capacity limitations, and time. Rather than getting together in person for a few densely packed days, a virtual conference can engage us more inclusively, possibly with even more intellectual intensity, over the slightly longer time frame that we’ve set for the meetings.
As far as we are aware, AAS2021 was also our first conference to not be chaired and co-organised by a University anthropology department. This year’s conference was brought to you instead by a crack team of AAS Executive Committee members and the crew from NomadIT. Again, this wasn’t originally the plan! We were rolling with the punches but also the possibilities presented by recent events. We were approaching AAS2021 as an experiment for re-imagining the traditional format of our conference (what other venue options and hosting or organising collaborations might future conferences hold, we wonder…)
Finally, while we did'nt have an overarching conference theme (another first for the AAS), we saw AAS2021 as the perfect vehicle for launching and showcasing the AAS First Nations initiative, which the Executive Committee has been developing over the past two years. Members of the AAS Executive, led by Marcus Barber and Ute Eickelkamp, convened conversations with Indigenous colleagues Suzi Hutchings, Julie Andrews, Suzanne Ingram, and Gretchen Stolte about how to make the AAS more inclusive for First Nations people, something which many in our membership have been calling for over the years. Responding to our colleagues' recommendations, and under the guidance of Associate Professor Suzi Hutchings, AAS President Elect and the first Indigenous AAS President, we took steps towards this goal, including further drafting an Acknowledgment of Sovereignty for the Society’s website and journal, and commissioning First Nations American anthropologist Gretchen Stolte to organise a series of plenaries with First Nation scholars from Australia and around the world working in anthropology and related fields. Dr Stolte is also compiling a bibliography of anthropological work by First Nations authors for the AAS website, which will be a resource for those of us seeking to foreground First Nations scholarship in our own writing and referencing.