Sites: a Journal of Social Anthropology and Cultural Studies is a peer reviewed journal dedicated to publishing scholarly papers which explore aspects of Pacific societies and cultures.
ASAA/NZ has close links with Sites. Not only do we have representatives on the Sites editorial board, but we also frequently publish papers from our annual conferences in the journal. Recently I had the pleasure of working with Sites editor Julie Park to publish selected papers from our 2012 conference as a special section of the journal.
Taking Anthropology and Imagination as its theme, the 2012 ASAA/NZ conference invited participants to explore the plethora of imaginative processes that shape and emerge from the anthropological project. The 2014 (Vol. 11, no. 1) issue of Sites provides an overview of how conference participants interpreted and critically reflected upon this theme. As I note in my Guest Editorial (which this post is based on), a number of papers at the conference explored various ethical, political, contentious and creative relationships that emerge between people, places, and material objects, particularly in the context of climate change an international development. Keynote speaker Elizabeth Povinelli introduced this theme in her address and invited us to consider geontologies – the inextricable connections between biography, geography and power formations (see Povinelli 2014; Coleman and Yusoff 2014) – which offer a new imaginary of the earth and how humans relate to it in the current context of the late liberal Anthropocene.
Both plenary sessions at the 2012 ASAA/NZ conference addressed the ways in which we might imagine the future of anthropology, from different perspectives. The first session, entitled Anthropologies: Local and global; past, present and future, sought to locate the anthropology of Aotearoa New Zealand in relation to other anthropologies in the world, the institutions in which anthropology is practiced, and the changing academic climate brought about by neoliberal policies. Overall the plenary suggested that while there might be a distinctively ‘New Zealand’ way of imagining and practicing anthropology, it is always connected to contemporary historical transformations occurring within and beyond the discipline elsewhere.
The second plenary session, Re-imagining indigenous anthropology: Māori and Pacific Islander Perspectives, was one of the conference highlights. Organised by Te Roopuu Take Tikanga Tangata (the Māori and Pacific Social Anthropology Network), the plenary focused on the potential for indigenous knowledges and epistemologies within anthropology. The plenary abstract set the scene for a critical reflection on the history of anthropology in Oceania and the emergence of ‘indigenous anthropology’ and noted the small but growing number of Māori and Pasifika students returning to anthropology.
The overall thrust of this critical and reflexive session at the 2012 ASAA/NZ Conference was that Māori and Pasifika anthropologists are back, they are here to stay, and they have an important role in shaping the future of anthropology in Aotearoa. This was well received by the audience and there was a distinctly optimistic tone to the ensuing discussion. I was moved by the eloquent and heartfelt response Dame Joan Metge (a founding member of anthropology at Victoria University of Wellington, a key figure in the development of contemporary anthropology in Aotearoa New Zealand, and ASAA/NZ Life Member) gave during this time. As one of the speakers expressed it, "real knowledge begins at the intersection of conflicting indigenous and Western anthropological perspectives," and by claiming anthropology in different and unsettling ways, Māori and Pasifika anthropologists offer new and alternate ways of imagining anthropology as a discipline, our objects of study, and research relationships.
You can read the full conference report, along with the four papers that comprise the 2014 Special Issue (by Cris Shore and Margaret Kawharu, Philip Fountain, Dionne Steven and Angel Bright) online.
Sites welcomes original papers focused on empirical studies or theoretical, methodological or pedagogical issues relevant to the study of societies and cultures of the wider Pacific region, including New Zealand, Australia, Oceania, the Pacific Rim, and their diasporas. Sites is published twice a year and is a delayed open access journal. All content is open to the public after 12 months.