Praxis: The Application/s of Anthropology in the Present and the Future
Paulo Freire defined praxis as “reflection and action directed at the structures to be transformed,” but praxis can have multiple meanings. In the context of mainstream anthropological tradition, praxis is often framed as the antithesis of theory. However, marginalized scholars have insisted on theoretically informed anthropological praxis as a corrective to the colonial, imperialist, extractive approach of late twentieth-century anthropological methodologies. Across universities, government, community organizations, and private industry, anthropologists operationalize praxis as a conceptual and methodological tool to respond to systemic oppression. Praxis, when informed by theory, is foundational to our research, pedagogy, work, and living in society. We aim for Praxis, the 2024 American Anthropological Association Annual Meeting theme, to serve as an organizing principle for contemplating applications of anthropology, responding to systemic injustice, and reimagining our discipline now and in the future.
The challenges to everyday life in Florida make bringing together theory and praxis all the more important. Florida academics are navigating state attacks on knowledge production and distribution in higher education of critical studies like colonialism, neocolonialism, race, immigration, gender, and sexuality. Florida professional and practicing anthropologists are navigating state policies’ impact on the organizations, institutions, and industries they work with that serve vulnerable communities. Anthropologists are concerned about the implications of bills targeting K-12 education about African Americans and the African diaspora, LGBTQ+ youth and adults’ rights, women, and efforts to halt immigration and threaten Indigenous sovereignty.
Nationally, our discipline is confronting structural challenges in universities and colleges. Anthropology departments are navigating how to prevent degree programs and departments from closing or being merged into other departments. Globally, the importance of anthropological contributions is being questioned. In the Global South, university administrators, academics, students, and government officials wrestle with the violent and extractive practices of anthropology and their contribution to colonial knowledge production. Debates from within and outside academia question our discipline’s relevance to contemporary knowledge production practices.
The 2024 conference is a space for colleagues and collaborators to explore anthropology in praxis, the praxis of anthropological knowledge across subfields and professions, and synergies of knowledge production—the praxis of reimagining anthropology in the future and designing the next steps. We invite you to join us in collaboration with our Florida colleagues responding to unjust civic restrictions on academic pedagogy, research, and lives. We also view this meeting as an opportunity to assess how our discipline contributes effective responses to national and transnational issues of injustice within and outside the academy. Panels, roundtables, and posters will explore praxis for anthropology and explore how our methodologies can equip us to address global challenges and attacks on academic and civic freedoms in Florida and beyond, and in so doing, help grow anthropology’s global relevance.
As we expand our meeting site, the planning committee also implores members to spend time being in active community with people on the ground in Tampa and encourage plans/suggestions that push the boundaries of engagement with these communities. No matter where we meet, we are convening to support and collaborate with our Florida colleagues and learn from them about their work environment and anthropological applications in Florida. We also offer support and condemn state- sanctioned oppression. Conference participants are invited to think about the various ways our understanding of praxis shapes our relationship to, among other things, theory; knowledge production and distribution; art; community organizing; transnationalism; decolonization; abolition; heritage; medical policies, procedures, and practices; genetics; disability; digitality; embodiment; gender and sexuality; environmental injustice and ecological futures; policy; and extrajudicial police violence.
Let us consider the present and future praxis of anthropology, the application of praxis in the communities we study and work with/in, and praxis as collaborative work with communities. This conference aims to reimagine, create, question, and debate an anthropological praxis/act/intentionality in our research and work that supports the ethical and equitable treatment of communities we work and live in locally, nationally, and globally.