ASAA/NZ 2018: Improvising Lives

6-7 December

Massey University, Wellington Campus,

Aotearoa New Zealand

The 2018 ASAA/NZ Conference is jointly convened by Social Anthropology at Massey University and Cultural Anthropology at Victoria University of Wellington.

Call for Papers

‘Lives’ are stories lived and written, modes of dwelling and becoming, modes of habitation and co-habitation, modes of accommodation and making do. Lives rarely unfold according to plan; lives are improvised. The 2018 ASAA/NZ Conference aims to consider how we are all Improvising Lives. The notion of ‘improvisation’ evokes images of the unplanned, the precarious, the provisional, the partial, the imperfect, the risky, the fearful, the playful, the imaginative, the joyful, the performative, struggles to make ends meet. Yet, improvisation is often not simply acting without a script, but deeply social, highly coordinated, and intimately reflective of existing worlds of meaning, their histories, inequalities, and discontents We have chosen Improvising Lives as the theme for the 2018 ASAA/NZ conference in the hope that paper contributors and participants will be encouraged to reflect on ways that these ideas emerge within, resonate with, or inform their ethnographic research and writing. 

The notion of improvised lives prompts questions such as: How is improvisation fundamental to the practice of world-making? What kinds of improvisational practices make life liveable? What kinds of improvisation emerge in moments of austerity, authoritarianism, or environmental collapse? What kinds of social coordination underlie the improvisation of life? How can a more robust engagement with improvisation fortify contemporary anthropological methods? How can ‘theoretical story-telling’ (McGranahan 2015) about improvised lives better inform critiques of systems of power and rationality?

Contributions from anthropologists working in any of the established sub-fields of social/cultural anthropology are welcome. In keeping with our theme, we particularly encourage innovative presentations that break with the standard paper format including, but not limited to films, performances, installations, and visual modes of storytelling.

There will be no separate call for Panel Proposals. Papers will be grouped into panels by the conference organisers after we have received the abstracts.

Abstracts of no more than 250 words are due by the extended date of 15 August 2018. Please send them to: 

Sita Venkateswar: S.Venkateswar@massey.ac.nz

Jeff Sissons: Jeff.Sissons@vuw.ac.nz

Keynote speakers

Carole McGranahan, Professor of Anthropology, History, and Tibetan Studies at the University of Colorado.

Rob Thorne (Ngati Tumutumu), taonga puoro composer and performer.