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IUAES 2013: Evolving Humanity, Emerging Worlds. 5-10 August 2013.

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Final report on the 17th World Congress of the IUAES

The 17th Congress was held in Manchester, England, from August 5 to August 10, 2013. Thanks to the generosity of Manchester City Council, the opening day's events were held in the city's architecturally spectacular Bridgewater Hall, where the congress was opened by the Lord Mayor of Manchester, Councillor Naeem ul Hassan JP, and delegates were also welcomed on behalf of the University of Manchester by its deputy President, Professor Rod Coombs. The plenary sessions and panels on the remaining days were held in the University Place conference centre of Manchester University and surrounding facilities, including the Manchester Museum, which hosted some of the panels on museum anthropology and provided guided tours of its collections for delegates led by the curator of living cultures, Stephen Welsh.

The UK congress organizing committee gratefully acknowledges the support of the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, which provided funding to support the participation of delegates from lower income countries, Manchester City Council, The Association of Social Anthropologists, The Royal Anthropological Institute, the World Council of Anthropological Associations, and The University of Manchester Hallsworth Conference Fund, Faculty of Humanities, School of Social Sciences, and Department of Social Anthropology.

Congress goals

Our principal goals were that the 17th congress should:

Other ambitions were to contribute to the organizational strengthening of IUAES on which the Executive had been working since the 16th Congress in Kunming by revising the Union's statutes and improving membership administration, to raise IUAES's profile in Europe and North America, and to promote closer collaboration between WCAA and IUAES for the future.

Many participants spontaneously expressed their appreciation of the intellectually stimulating nature of the congress, and the projected organizational reforms were successfully implemented. Anthropology Today described the congress as "spectacularly successful" (Vol. 29, No. 5, October 2013, News, pp. 29-30). The efficient running of the event by NomadIT and the support provided to delegates by our student volunteers were also praised, as were the facilities provided by Manchester University. This is not to say that everything worked out as well as we had hoped, particularly with regard to visas and funding, as will be discussed later in this report, but as organizers we feel justified in claiming that the overall balance was extremely positive. The financial outcome of the congress was also satisfactory, thanks to careful management of costs in the final months and weeks before the congress and our allowing an adequate financial contingency in the original budget. This was despite the fact that we charged what was, by UK standards, a very low registration fee for delegates in the lowest income band in the three-band system that we adopted as the most equitable way of ensuring that cost was related to ability to pay. Registration included bag lunches and tea, coffee and biscuits. We also permitted delegates to register for one or two days at an even lower rate, which was particularly helpful to students and others with a limited budget for accommodation.

The academic programme

Plenary sessions
Plenary sessions consisted of three distinguished lectures, three plenary debates, a Manchester tradition that provided an innovation at an IUAES congress, and a final plenary round table. The debates promoted a sharpening of the presentation of issues and also made it easier to ensure global diversity in terms of the national origins and regional expertise of the plenary speakers. All the plenaries are now available for online viewing on the Global Anthropology channel that we have set up on YouTube, which will allow many members of the global anthropological community who were not able to come to Manchester to enjoy at least part of the congress proceedings virtually. Individual links are provided for each session in the full listing that follows.

1. Distinguished lectures
The congress began on Monday August 5th with an opening keynote lecture by Leslie Aiello, President of the Wenner‐Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, entitled "The Wenner‐Gren Foundation and the Past, Present and Future of Anthropology". View the video of this lecture.

On Tuesday August 6th The Association of Social Anthropologists' Firth Lecture was given by Lourdes Arizpe, of the National Autonomous University of Mexico, on "Arbitrating Collective Dreams: Anthropology and the New Worlding". View the video of this lecture.

On Thursday August 8th, the Royal Anthropological Institute's Huxley Lecture was given by Howard Morphy, from the Australian National University, on the topic "Extended Lives in Global Spaces: the Anthropology of Yolngu Preburial Ceremonies". View the video of this lecture.

2. Plenary debates
Monday August 5th. Tim Ingold (Aberdeen University), Veena Das (Johns Hopkins University), Ruth Mace (University College London) and Juichi Yamagiwa (Kyoto University) debated the motion: "Humans have no nature, what they have is history". Chair: Marilyn Strathern (Cambridge University). View the video of this debate.

Wednesday August 7th. Amita Baviskar (Delhi University), Don Nonini (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill), Helen Kopnina (The Hague University of Applied Science) and Veronica Strang (Durham University) debated the motion: "Justice for people must come before justice for the environment". This debate was funded by the University of Manchester's Hallsworth Conference Fund. Chair: John Gledhill (Manchester University). View the video of this debate.

Friday August 9th. Bela Feldman‐Bianco (State University of Campinas), Noel Salazar (University of Leuven), Shahram Khosravi (Stockholm University) and Nicholas de Genova (Goldsmiths' College) debated the motion: "The free movement of people around the world would be utopian". Chair: Simone Abram (Durham University). View the video of this debate.

Parallel panel sessions
1260 anthropologists from 65 countries presented 1283 papers in 211 parallel session panels at the 17th congress. A wide range of issues was debated at this congress, across the four fields of anthropology and often involving dialogue between them.

The innovation of thematic tracks for the parallel sessions, accompanied by detailed guidance on possible sub-themes from the organizing committee, 4 worked extremely well in producing innovative and focused panels. The Museum Anthropology section of the program was relatively small but well-focused on international conversations that included countries such as China that have much to contribute to debates in this area. The Visual Anthropology program was also an outstanding success, with participation from all the regions represented at the congress. It included several imaginative complements to the normal film-screenings and conventional panel presentations: an exhibition on photography as a research method, a series of multimedia installations, and a special forum on guidelines for evaluating and judging non-iterary forms of representation in anthropology worldwide.

The main congress programme book was made available in downloadable electronic formats (PDF and ePub) as well as on paper for those who attended the congress. This, together with the film screenings programme (PDF), remains available for download for anyone who is interested in reviewing the congress proceedings.

The organizers assisted delegates who submitted stand-alone papers not initially assigned to a track, or which could not be included in the panel to which they were originally submitted, to find an appropriate place in the programme. A few sessions and panels that appeared in the printed programme did not take place because the delegates registered but did not in the end come to the congress. But although this has resulted in a discrepancy between the 1448 papers listed in the congress book and the 1283 papers that were actually presented in Manchester, the book remains a largely accurate record of the event.

The final number of panels in each thematic track was as follows:

Being Human, 22 panels
Life and Death, 27 panels
Producing the Earth, 37 panels
Survival and Extinction, 24 panels
The World of the Mind and the Mind in the World, 14 panels
Movement, Mobility and Migration, 26 panels
Museum Anthropology, 7 panels
Visual Anthropology, 9 panels

We also created a General Track for panels that overlapped themes or did not fit the categories we had originally created. This contained 45 panels, not counting the final plenary on World Anthropologies.

Since full details and abstracts for all the panels are available in the downloadable programme/book, and online through this congress website we will not offer more information in this report.

Visa and funding issues
We had originally accepted 259 panels and the paper proposals of 2,268 potential delegates. There was also a gap between the number of scholars who initially registered for the congress and the number of delegates recorded as present in Manchester. We know of seven paper givers who were refused visas by the UK authorities, along with three other colleagues who were attending the congress but not presenting work. In some cases of visa refusals and delays that occurred earlier, we were able to get some, though not all, of the decisions reversed and applications expedited with the support of the British Academy International Section and one of Manchester’s Members of Parliament, Mr John Leech. Since colleagues from India seemed to be particularly disadvantaged (although there were also problems with delegates from countries such as Russia, Egypt and non­EU born spouses of European citizens with residence rights in EU countries), we submitted a full list of all Indian delegates to the High Commission well in advance of the event. This was not, however, sufficient to prevent some further refusals. A full report on these problems was submitted after the congress to the International Council for Science (ICSU) and as a result of that representations have been made to the UK government by both international and national academic bodies about the way the UK’s current immigration policies are impeding international scientific interchange. The refusal of visas to delegates at this and other recent international congresses in the UK has also been reported in the press. It should be stressed that although immigration controls were extended under the previous Labour administration, the situation has worsened considerably since the current Conservative­Liberal Democrat coalition government came to power in 2010.

The UK organizing committee took all the practical steps possible to prevent these problems from occurring and to resolve problems when they did occur. We can only apologise to the colleagues who were excluded despite having applied for their visas in good time that these efforts did not prove sufficient. We did advise potential delegates of the time required to obtain a visa and the procedures involved very many months in advance of the event, but some may have found it impractical to comply with the requirements. Fortunately, the UK still does not require residents of many non­EU countries to obtain visas in order to attend an academic conference, but that also underscores the fact that current immigration policy is discriminatory, although protesting about that might be to court the danger of tighter rules being imposed on everyone. In any event, we deeply regret that British immigration authorities have impeded free international circulation of bona fide academics in the case of this congress and other major international congresses held recently in the UK.

Nevertheless, it does not appear that visa refusals were the principal cause of the gap between the number of delegates who came to Manchester and those who registered, although the cost and the need to apply for visas well in advance may well have been an additional problem and deterrent. Lack of funding was clearly the major factor that accounts for the gap between the number of panels and papers originally accepted and the final numbers at the congress.

Wenner­Gren funds supported the attendance of 45 delegates. Our initial aim in allocating these funds was to spread the funding around as widely as possible while ensuring that the amount of support offered to selected individuals was adequate to guarantee their attendance, as the administrative costs of reallocating money are high. Scholars with academic posts in Canada, the United States, Western Europe, Japan, Australia and New Zealand were not be eligible for this support. Since the funds available were limited, each panel convenor was invited to nominate one eligible participant for consideration, on the explicit understanding that funds would not be sufficient to cover all of the nominations that would deserve support in an ideal world. Two members of the UK organizing committee ranked each of the 197 nominated candidates independently, and 41 were initially selected for funding. Although we immediately reallocated a grant that was turned down by the recipient early in the process, a few other delegates who were offered support were obliged to withdraw at a later stage. To ensure that this money would not be wasted, we reallocated it to delegates who had already secured partial funding and were definitely going to attend, beginning with runners­up in our original ranking, which allowed us to spread it a little further. In the final allocation, support was given to 14 scholars from South Asia, 12 from Latin America, 8 from Russia and Central and Eastern Europe, 4 from Africa, 3 from Asia­Pacific countries, 2 scholars from East Asia, and 2 from the Middle East.

Manchester University support totalling £1800 enabled us to subsidize the attendance of 15 more delegates from the global South by offering free accommodation. In addition to funding the Firth lecture, ASA provided £1860 for subsidizing UK­based PhD students of any nationality giving papers. But efforts to find further sponsors to support attendance by delegates from countries where funding is limited did not bear fruit in a difficult economic climate compounded by the severe reduction in public funding for UK universities over the past three years. It seems clear that in a more multi­centric world, countries that received such support in the past but have now experienced considerable economic development might be expected to provide more support for their own academics, although we recognise that funding opportunities still vary significantly between institutions and in relation to other kinds of academic hierarchies within many of these countries. We regret that we were not able to secure more financial sponsorship from private and charitable sources, but we did succeed in supporting the attendance of a significant number of scholars from a variety of regions who would not otherwise have been able to participate.

A global event on which IUAES can build for the future
Although we had hoped that the congress would be a little bigger than it was, it did succeed in being genuinely global. Although the UK as the host country not surprisingly provided the largest single group of delegates, 24% of the total, and 46% of delegates came from European countries (including the UK), India was the country with the second biggest contingent (10%), as the largest component in a South Asian delegation that was bigger than that of the USA and Canada combined, although the USA was the third best represented individual country overall, with 9% of the delegates, followed by Japan (7%), and then Brazil, China and Germany, each with 4%. Both the East Asian and Latin American contingents were substantial, and those regions now account for 12% and 8% of the IUAES’s paid­up membership, respectively. Although the representation of the Asia­Pacific region, Africa, the Middle East, and Russia was smaller, it was still far  from negligible.

Furthermore even if the contingents of regions such as Africa were comparatively small, many of those who did come were younger scholars who undoubtedly benefited intellectually from the opportunity to participate in an international event of this kind. Although a few panels remained focused on scholarship from a single country, most did not, and the congress showed the capacity of this kind of event to produce dialogue between scholars from different countries who would not normally talk to each other. The networking the congress permitted has a strong prospect of being consolidated in the long term through the system of IUAES commissions. An important aspect of this congress’s work was related to the renewal and extension of the Commissions, building on the innovations made to the Union’s statutes that have created a new Council of Commissions whose elected Head and Deputy Head are now ex­fficio members of the IUAES Executive Committee. An Open Commissions meeting was held in Manchester to encourage delegates to join existing commissions and propose new ones, and although some effectively defunct commissions have been suspended, the general pattern has been one of renewal and regeneration. The congress also provided opportunities for delegates to network with other international organizations and special interest groups through a series of open meetings. Networking opportunities provide one of the major justifications for continuing to hold big face­to­face meetings of this kind in an age in which new technologies permit enhanced virtual interaction.

There will be no printed general congress proceedings, since such a publication would require a huge subsidy and even were the money available, which it is not, it would probably be better spent on developing future IUAES activities, possibly including refereed electronic publications produced by IUAES itself in the future. All registered delegates had the opportunity to upload their full papers for open access publication on the congress website, using NomadIT's system. This opportunity still remains open for anyone who wishes to take advantage of it simply by logging in and uploading their paper(s) as the archived website will be preserved. Many panel organizers had already made their own arrangements for publishing papers in edited books or journal special issues or planned to do so. Some delegates may prefer to publish their work in refereed journals, as this now tends to be valued more highly in systems of academic evaluation. We would, however, ask everyone who publishes independently to mention that the work was originally presented at the congress, and if you received financial support to participate, to acknowledge the original source of that support as well.

As organizers, we are working on a major edited book that will contain a selection of congress papers by a mix of senior and junior scholars that will also reflect the global nature of the event. This will be published as an IUAES­ASA monograph (an opportunity that arises because ASA did not hold an annual conference in 2013 in order to focus energies on the IUAES congress). We will also arrange print publication of the plenary debates, and will be happy to offer any further advice and support that we can to panel convenors who are preparing material for publication.

Final reflections
As we look forward to the coming inter­congresses and the 18th World Congress in Brazil in 2018, it is perhaps worth mentioning a few things that we ourselves would not do again. In deference to IUAES traditions, we allowed delegates to convene multiple panels and give multiple paper presentations. This made timetabling extremely difficult and created an extra administrative burden that was all the more frustrating because many of those who had proposed multiple panels and papers did not, in the event, participate in the congress. We suggested to the Executive that in future it would be better if delegates were only permitted to present one paper, offer one discussant contribution, and organize or chair one panel, as is the norm in most other conferences, and this approach has already been adopted for the Inter­Congress in Japan in 2014. We were also indulgent about allowing people who had registered to remain in the programme even if they had not paid their registration fees and seemed unlikely to come, largely because we were told that colleagues were waiting for late funding decisions. The problem with doing this is not only that the printed programme contains papers that are not given, and a few sessions that did not take place, but also financial, since catering and space has to be pre­booked well in advance of the congress. We would recommend future organizers of IUAES events to be tougher about these final deadlines. Nevertheless, since we collected membership subscriptions efficiently and the congress finances ended up with a £12,000 surplus on the £304,000 that was expended on the event, which will also be handed over to IUAES, another positive result of the Manchester congress is that IUAES finances have been placed on a much sounder footing, laying the basis for investment in new initiatives and services for members in the future.

John Gledhill
Chair, UK Organizing Committee

Organizing Committee Members
Simone Abram (Leeds Metropolitan University)
Filippo Aureli (Liverpool John Moores University) Laura Bishop (Liverpool John Moores University) James Fairhead (University of Sussex)
Katherine Homewood (University College London)
Tim Ingold (University of Aberdeen)
Nayanika Mookherjee (Durham University)
Giuliana Prato (University of Kent)
Sara Randall (University College London)
Trevor Stack (University of Aberdeen)


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