Unconformity: the Sixth McGill Anthropology Graduate Student Conference

POSTER-Final[Resize]What is the role of the ‘what-is-no-longer-there’ in shaping the present?  How do anthropologists, and other academics, engage with residuals, traces, and artifacts? How do intrusions, differences, ruptures, and discontinuities speak to investigative areas of inquiry?

Such questions will be addressed next Friday (March 21st) at the McGill Anthropology Graduate Student Association’s (AGSA) sixth annual Anthropology Graduate Student Conference: “Anthropologies of Unconformity: Erosions, depositions, and transformations.” The conference will be held in the Thomson House Ballroom, from 9AM to 4PM.

This year’s conference invites papers and discussants to examine the term “unconformity” through several disciplinary perspectives. The term originated in the late-eighteenth century, as the burgeoning field of geology began to account for the significance of sedimentary layers. Such layering points directly to difference in time, yet also draws attention to what is not there, as certain layers erode more quickly than others.

Borrowing the geological term “unconformity,” conference participants will discuss how positive contemporary field-experiences might point beyond themselves to gaps or absences in investigative fields of knowledge, narratives, and analytic frameworks. In other words, participants will ask: How might anthropologists and other researchers, like geologists and geographers, be sensitive to the records, traces, and stories that exist beyond the tangibly present?

The response for the call for papers was impressive, and the conference welcomes graduate students from across a range of disciplines, from McGill and other prominent universities, including Yale, Columbia, and Federal University of São Carlos. Paper topics are diverse and stimulating, including: human-animal relationships engendered by hippotherapy; earthquake experts in Mexico City; online images and comments in Vietnam; and the ruptures and residual imaginations in Israel-Palestine. The focus on unconformity will bring such varied topics into conversation with one another in new, productive ways.

In addition to paper presentations, the conference will also host a roundtable discussion. The three discussants will be: Dr. Maria Starzmann (McGill University; Department of Anthropology), whose research maps out the material culture of institutions of confinement, such as labor camps and prisons; Dr. Kregg Hetherington (Concordia University; Department of Sociology and Anthropology), whose research focuses on how environmental and economic knowledge becomes politicized during periods of rapid social change; and Dr. Peter Skafish (McGill University; Mellon Post-doctoral Fellow), whose research centered on the study of contemporary mediums, through an anthropology of concepts.

Finally, AGSA is extremely excited to invite Dr. Valerie Olson (University of California Irvine) as the conference keynote speaker. Dr. Olson’s anthropological research attends to the role of the ‘system concept’ in spatial ordering, perception and power. She does so in three distinct sites: 1) the solar system as an ecosystem, through an investigation of American astronautics; 2) the Gulf of Mexico after the 2010 BP oil spill; and 3) integrated water infrastructures in the Anza-Borrego Desert (California). Dr. Olson’s research bridges the gap between theory and application, providing a robust analysis of her research sites.

Please, come and join in on the discussion!

Special thanks to Kristin Flemons, one of the main conference coordinators, for her help in preparing this post.

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