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Newsletter 67

September 2006

  1. IUAES Inter-Congress Pardubice 2005
    By Petr Skalník
  2. Proposal Commission on the Anthropology of Disasters
    By David Pitt
  3. Aids Commission Report
    By David Pitt
  4. Anthropology of Women
    By Faye V. Harrison
  5. Anthropology of Children, Youth and Childhood
    By Deepak Kumar Behera
  6. List of IUAES Commissions participating in the English/Chinese book on the state of affairs in anthropology
    By Peter J.M. Nas
  7. IUAES Membership

1. IUAES Inter-Congress Pardubice 2005: Official Report by the Organiser

By Petr Skalník

The seventh Inter-Congress of the International Union of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences took place during the week 29 August-3 September 2005 in the eastern Bohemian city of Pardubice in the Czech Republic. The theme of the Inter-Congress was Racism’s ‘Many Faces: Challenge to all anthropologists and ethnologists’. The venue was the University of Pardubice, and the organiser was the Department of Social Sciences at the Faculty of Humanities (now Faculty of Arts), represented by Dr Petr Skalník who also currently serves as one of the Vice-Presidents of the IUAES. The IUAES Inter-Congress was put on the list of official activities of the University of Pardubice and was closely monitored by Professor Jiří Málek, Vice-Rector for Science and International Relations, and Professor Karel Rýdl, Vice-Dean for Science and International Relations of the Faculty of Humanities. There were 63 accredited participants from 23 countries (Austria, Belgium, China, Croatia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Germany, India, Iran, Italy, Japan, Mexico, The Netherlands, Romania, Russian Federation, Serbia and Montenegro, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, United Kingdom, United States of America). For them and others interested Petr Skalník edited a special Book of Abstracts and Programme which contained all abstracts available by 1 August 2005, information about the congress and the venue, the city of Pardubice and other useful data.

The Inter-Congress was self-financed, i.e. the organisers did not receive any substantial grants or subsidies. However, the stay of one participant from a low income country and one keynote speaker was paid by the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic. For this important gesture of support special gratitude is expressed to the Academy. Printing of the Book of Abstracts and Programme was paid for by the Publications committee of the Faculty of Humanities of the University of Pardubice. The University of Pardubice kindly created and maintained free of charge a special webpage for the Inter-Congress. For all this generosity thanks are due to the university and the faculty. For the webpage thanks go to Mrs Ludmila Vařeková and Ing. Petr Kokaisl. The financial balance (no deficit) was achieved despite the unexpected deduction of 19 per cent VAT on all registration fees received. The net received amount of 151166 CZK (Czech Crowns) was entirely spent for the expenses connected with the organisation of the congress (rent of rooms and equipment, wages for the assistant, refreshments for participants, material (announcement board, tapes, paper), services (postage, internet, copying, telephones, guides).

The preparation of the Inter-Congress took approximately one year, although the proposal was handed in 2002 (see IUAES Newsletter No. 59 of April 2002). The Inter-Congress Pardubice 2005 was finally approved at the 15th Congress of the IUAES in Florence in July 2003. The preparatory work, spreading of information about the Inter-Congress, correspondence with the prospective participants and other work connected with it was mostly carried out by the Organiser as a volunteer without any remuneration. During the final stages of the preparation and during the Inter-Congress itself the Organiser was helped by a team of volunteers (Dr Britt-Marie Öberg of Linköping in Sweden, students of social anthropology in Pardubice: Karolina Detková, Jana Bayerlová, Anna Hrabáčková, Martina Valcová and Martin Chochola) and one paid assistant (Mrs Soňa Hradcová). All participants highly appreciated their selfless work and expressed it during and after the Inter-Congress. As the Organiser I wish to express my gratitude to them officially in this report.

The participants were accommodated in three lodging categories: university hostel, Hotel Harmony and Hotel Zlatá Štika. The opening ceremony with refreshments took place in the hotel Zlatá Štika, daily catering (coffee breaks and lunches) as well as the farewell party with dance were taken care of by the Hotel Harmony. There were no complaints lodged and these services were approved by the participants and the Organiser. Two city walking tours were envisaged, one took place and the other did not because of misunderstanding about timing between the assistant and the provider. I regret and apologise for inconvenience to those who wanted to take part in the second tour. There were also two optional dinners (restaurant Kunětická hora, Hotel Zlatá Štika) which were of good quality and were attended by most participants.

The opening ceremony on Monday 29th August was addressed by the President of the IUAES Professor Luís Alberto Vargas, Jaroslav Deml, the Vice-Mayor of Pardubice, Professor Jiří Málek, the Vice-Rector of the University of Pardubice, Professor Karel Rýdl, the Vice-Dean of the Faculty of Humanities, Mr Seemane Abia Molapo, the chargé d’affaires at the South African Embassy in Prague and Professor Peter Nas, the IUAES Secretary-General. The opening ceremony was followed by a buffet dinner and a music performance.

The deliberations of the Inter-Congress took place in the Conference Centre of the University of Pardubice. Four days (Tuesday 30th August – Friday 2nd September) were devoted to a sequence of 15 plenary sessions, filled with four keynote addresses (Charles Susanne, Papa Ignatius Maithufi, Faye Harrison and Keiichi Omoto) and not less than 38 papers. Sessions were chaired by Luís Vargas, Soheila Shahshahani, Peter Nas, Phil Kilbride, Gina Ulysse, Andrew ‘Mugsy’ Spiegel, Faye Harrison, Weng Naiqun, Rajko Muršič, Tomoko Hamada, Fernando Monge, Nikolay Kradin, Chapurukha Kusimba, Dušan Šimko, and Frik de Beer. The closing session was chaired by Luís Vargas. The presentation of papers by both biological, sociocultural anthropologists and ethnologists at plenary sessions showed that lively discussions between representatives of the divisions of anthropology and ethnology about various aspects of racism are not only possible but highly productive. It was decided to publish the papers by the University of Pardubice Press in a single volume. The proposal of publication was approved by the editing committee of the Faculty of Arts and the publication will appear on time before the next Inter-Congress to be held in Cape Town in December 2006. During the whole session of the Inter-Congress an exhibition of photographs from fieldwork activities of the Department of Social Sciences and a book exhibition took place in the lobby in front of the session room. The sessions were partly videotaped and photographs taken of all presenters during their presentations. Reports about the Inter-Congress were printed in the IUAES Newsletter No. 66 in November 2005 (Line Algoed, Robert Gibb) and Zpravodaj Univerzity Pardubice, December 2005. There were also reports on the internet.

During the Pardubice Inter-Congress the IUAES Executive Committee and the IUAES Permanent Council met in the Hotel Zlatá Štika and the minutes of these meetings were published in IUAES Newsletter No. 66 in November 2005. In particular preparations for the Cape Town Inter-Congress 2006 and 16th Congress of the IUAES to be held in Kunming in 2008 were discussed.

The Pardubice Inter-Congress 2005 was, according to all evaluations, received by the Organiser a successful event. Although no formal resolution about the anthropological study of racism was adopted, the Executive Committee meeting decided that a special report on race and racism will be prepared for the Kunming Congress. The responsible person for this preparatory work will be Petr Skalník. He also will contribute a chapter on Race and racism to the book which the IUAES is preparing for the Kunming Congress.

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2. Proposal for a Commission on the Anthropology of Disasters

By David Pitt

The idea has been suggested that there might be a new IUAES Commission on the Anthropology of Disasters. Anyone interested or wanting more information might contact David Pitt. Mail address: 1265 La Cure Switzerland. Tel. 41-22-3601452, Email: lacure@freesurf.ch.

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3. Aids Commission Report

By David Pitt

The main recent task of the Commission has been to expand the anthropological database on the AIDS pandemic, described in the 2004 World Health Report as the world’s most urgent problem. This data base was originally put together for the online encyclopaedic cross cultural companion on the IUAES website established with an ICSU grant. This expansion has taken several dimensions, first of all responding to the many comments on the website that have come in from readers. Secondly, WHO commissioned a separate series of 100 entries, in the manner of the AIDS encyclopaedia, on infectious diseases generally, with special reference to tropical diseases including those often found with AIDS such as Tuberculosis but also other diseases in poverty situations, Malaria particularly. The whole set entitled ‘A Glossary of Key Terms in Biosocial Research on Infectious Diseases’ is now cleared for distribution and electronic copies can be obtained from the undersigned. Thirdly, contacts have been established with the United Nations Disaster Reduction Strategy and entries are being prepared on other related disasters included in the UN programme. A description of proposals for entries on this subject in the context of an open learning course together with a list of metatags (key words) and a bibliography are also available in electronic form. From this expanded database a print volume is being prepared for publication with LIT Verlag. Finally, some research is being carried out to place the AIDS pandemic and the public health responses to it in a wider time scale which might hopefully result in a short publication. On the historical dimension links have been made with the UN Intellectual History project coordinated by Professor Tom Weiss at the City University of New York and preliminary work is also being carried out on the need for future scenarios. To obtain the electronic materials mentioned contact lacure@freesurf.ch

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4. ‘From New Delhi to Kunming’: Toward a History of the IUAES Commission on the Anthropology of Women”

By Faye V. Harrison

A Progressive Response to Shifting Intellectual Climate

The Commission on the Anthropology of Women was established to ensure that anthropology’s most internationalized forums include serious intellectual engagement and cross-pollination on the complexities and contradictions of women’s lives and experiences. Women ‘hold up half the sky’, which the 1995 United Nations’ Conference in Beijing urged us to understand; however, their integral roles in societies and cultures have not always been considered important enough to merit serious social scientific inquiry. Before the anthropology of women emerged as a major focus of research, analysis, and theory, anthropology had a problematic masculinist bias. Since the 1970s, that once pervasive bias has been offset and corrected through the concerted efforts of scholars, many with identities as feminists, who use gender as an entry point and analytical lens for making sense of, and explaining, the workings of those complex systems of meaning and power in which women are subordinated and oppressed as members of the so-called fairer and weaker sex.

What was largely the anthropology of women – focusing on describing and analyzing women’s roles in a cross-cultural spectrum of societies – evolved over time into the anthropology of gender and later the anthropology of gender’s interactions or ‘intersections’ with other dimensions of difference (e.g., race, ethnicity, and class). The latter two anthropologies employed gender as an analytical concept and theoretical construct to explain how culturally diverse systems of meaning and power operate in shaping the lived experiences, social practices, and identities of both women and men. In this context, gender is understood to be a relational concept useful for elucidating the workings of cultural systems that invest meanings, role expectations, and positionalities in female and male persons.

The historical development of the IUAES Commission on the Anthropology of Women reflects the shifts that feminist scholarship has undergone in anthropology and the multi-disciplinary studies of which it is an integral part. In fact, the very name of the commission reflects the historical moment and the accompanying intellectual climate when it was founded. As will become clearer in the ensuing discussion, we have come to interpret the original name in ways consistent with more recent perspectives, such as those emphasizing the significance of multidimensional models of difference, with gender being one among a number of salient distinctions that permeate socio-cultural and political-economic life. According to this multidimensional approach then, the broader anthropology of women cannot only concern itself with the gendered dimensions of women’s lives and social locations (i.e., their positions within the structure and organization of societies). Axes of difference and power such as class, ethnicity, and race (defined here as a socially constructed distinction that popular ideologies attribute to natural and unchangeable differences) are also significant factors that determine women’s geographically varied and historically shifting social condition.

Highlights in the Organizational History

The Commission on the Anthropology of Women was founded in 1976, two years before it held its inaugural sessions at the 10th International Congress of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences (ICAES) in New Delhi, India. For the first seventeen years, the commission was based largely in India, the home country of Leela Dube, who served as chair during most of those formative years. In collaboration with feminist anthropologists from other countries (e.g., Mary Goldsmidt in Mexico, Saskia Wieringa in the Netherlands, the late Eleanor Leacock in the U.S., etc.), Leela Dube and her South Asian colleagues organized symposia for IUAES congresses as well as for other international social science meetings. Some of those activities led to publications on women’s work in households and in public domains. Through those publications (e.g., Dube et al. 1986, 1990), the Commission contributed to debates on women’s unwarranted invisibility in development and on the gendered biases of dominant modalities of economic development. Later work, such as that done by former Commission co-chair Esther Njiro in Sub-Saharan Africa, elaborated those concerns.

In 1993 the Commission entered a new phase of development. Dube stepped down, and a collaborative chairship was established. At the 13th ICAES in Mexico City, Faye Harrison (USA) and Judith Bahemuka (Kenya) were elected co-chairs. The co-chairship was viewed as a means of sharing and redistributing the responsibilities and the authority of leadership across the North-South hemispheric divide. While notions of global sisterhood and international feminism are worthy ideals, in reality feminist solidarity cannot be achieved without transcending and overcoming Western dominance. This requires devising concrete strategies to decentre, decolonize, and democratize the historically configured structures of control that have been concentrated largely in the U.S. and Western Europe among the more privileged segments of women in those racially and class stratified societies.

Judith Bahemuka brought to the Commission a wealth of knowledge and experience in African agricultural development as well as in the study of the impact of changing patterns of marriage and family on gender relations, rural male alienation, and the interaction between Christianity and indigenous African religions. She had an extensive record of involvement in collaborative research with international agencies (e.g., UNICEF, UNESCO, and World Population Council). She also worked in HIV/AIDS prevention, an area of applied anthropological research that continues to grow in significance, as will be pointed out below. It was hoped that Bahemuka’s participation in the Commission would help bring the research interests of African researchers from the margin to the centre of international anthropology. Due to extenuating circumstances having, in part, to do with a crisis that the University of Nairobi was experiencing, Bahemuka was unable to complete her five year-term as co-chair.

Faye Harrison’s role as co-chair and eventually as chair followed her earlier work as a member of the Association for Feminist Anthropology, the Committee of the Status of Women in Anthropology, and as a past president of the Association of Black Anthropologists, all of which are units within the American Anthropological Association. Her major research experience has been in the Caribbean, the United Kingdom, and the United States, where she has focused her scholarship on gender and race intersections, the informal sector, and local political organization. She has also worked on issues related to racism, human rights, and the history and politics of anthropology. She brought to the chairship an interest in decolonizing anthropology, decentring its Western authority, and in furthering knowledge of gender’s entanglement with race, class, and other socially stratifying distinctions.

Under her leadership, the Commission collaborated with IWAC (the New York based International Women’s Anthropology Conference) to organize a workshop on women and children at the 1995 Fourth UN Conference on Women in Huairou, China. With support from the University of South Carolina’s Women’s Studies Program, where, at that time, she worked as director of graduate studies, she organized a strong Commission presence at the 14th ICAES in Williamsburg, Virginia USA in 1998. As a result of the commission’s quite visible activities (a five-day symposium made up of twelve sessions), it recruited new members, among them three women who have since played instrumental roles: Esther Njiro, originally from Kenya but presently living and working in South Africa, became the new co-chair; Jan Delacourt, an anthropologist based in Italy but who has lived in Zimbabwe, Australia, and England, became the secretary; and Subhadra Mitra Channa, a professor at the University of Delhi who has played a leading role in promoting gender studies and studies of Dalits in India, became an invaluable core member. Five years later at the 15th ICAES in Florence, Italy, she became the new co-chair. By the time of the 16th ICAES, which will be held in Kunming, China she will assume the leading role as chair. Her contributions to the Commission’s activities in the past several years have been instrumental. As a former president of the Indian Anthropological Association (IAA), she served as a major liaison between the Commission and the Secretariat responsible for organizing the inter-congress held in Kolkata in December 2004. Through her efforts, the Commission collaborated with the IAA and UNESCO to organize an all-day symposium on gender, AIDS, and human rights. Twenty researchers working in various parts of India were brought together for the meeting, where important substantive, conceptual, methodological, and ethical issues related to doing applied research on AIDS were considered.

From Household Economies to Transnational Negotiations of Power

While during the first fifteen years of its existence, the Commission on the Anthropology of Women focused its organizational work on problems related to women’s work, particularly the less visible forms undertaken in households, in the past twelve years the Commission’s major activities (congress and inter-congress sessions, electronic communications, participation in UN Non-Governmental Organization Forums, and publications) have gone well beyond that earlier focus. For instance, at the congress in Williamsburg, the keynote session addressed, among other things, Islamic and Chinese feminisms, underscoring the existence of multiple feminisms rather than a monolithic variety that speaks for all women everywhere. This theme was continued in a session organized for the Florence congress. Arab, Sudanese, and Nigerian anthropologists, among others, presented thought-provoking papers that revealed the problematic role that Western feminism sometimes plays in subordinating feminists of the Global South, discrediting their concerns and points of view.

Another example of the ways that the Commission has expanded beyond its earlier focus on women’s work in households can be found in its recent concern with the ways gender interacts with race and other forms of inequality and power. Interest in what is called ‘intersectionality’ was expressed at the 1998 ICAES, notably in Commission chair Faye Harrison’s presentation in a plenary session on ‘Races and Rights’. In her paper she sketched a gender-cognizant analysis of racism as a human rights violation, and in the process foreshadowed the direction the Commission would follow in later work (Harrison 1998). Three years later, she led an international delegation of anthropologists and activist allies of anthropologists to Durban, South Africa, where they participated in the NGO Forum parallel to the UN World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia, and Related Intolerance (Harrison 2001a, 2001b). The Commission’s two-part workshop (‘Interlocking Dimensions of Difference & Power in Human Rights Conflicts: Racism in Culturally Diverse Gendered Experiences’) set the stage for what we hope will be an ongoing dialogue between anthropologists and human rights educators and activists. Some of the roots of this dialogue can be traced to the 1995 women’s conference in China, where our interaction with women from all over the world gave us important insights into the international women’s NGO movement and the role the UN plays in facilitating certain kinds of exchange and alliance making among human rights advocates. The lessons learned from participating in both the Beijing and Durban conferences and NGO forums made it possible for us to produce Resisting Racism and Xenophobia: Global Perspectives on Race, Gender, and Human Rights, a book scheduled to be available by September 2005 (Harrison in press). The essays compiled in this book address the particular ways that women in a number of cultural contexts experience and contest racial discrimination and xenophobia. Its distinct contribution is to place struggles against racism, caste discrimination, and gender oppression firmly within the context of the international human rights movement. This project demonstrates that both gender and race (a socially constructed distinction that popular beliefs and ideologies attribute to ‘natural’ or unchanging differences) are useful entry points into critical analyses of the world’s complex social problems. We should understand that when these two entry points are viewed relationally, a wider window is opened for analytical scrutiny.

Feminist anthropologists make use of ‘lenses’, ‘windows’, and ‘perspectives’ that allow them to view shifting socio-cultural landscapes that do not easily fit earlier ways of surveying and mapping traditional foci of study. Earlier studies of households, traditional societies, bounded communities and cultures, and, more recently, the discourses and practices that constitute territorially integrated nations and nation-states are no longer popular or conceptually justifiable objects of study. Increasingly, anthropologists are recognizing that the early 21st century’s socio-cultural terrain is being reconfigured by the intensified and accelerated flows of people, ideas, images, commodities, and economic resources that are characteristic of the era of globalization and transnationalism (Appadurai 1990, Basch et al. 1994). As a result of these processes, many people are living their lives across national boundaries, sometimes plural national boundaries, while maintaining communications and connections with kinspeople, former neighbours, and co-patriots still in the natal ‘home’. Much of this movement is voluntary, in response to new magnets of opportunity arising, in good part, from economic restructuring and political realignment on a global scale. Some movement and transmigration, however, are propelled by unfortunate necessities stemming from conflict and coerced displacement. Such is the predicament of refugees seeking sanctuary and asylum from persecution. Refugees, especially those without legal authorization, find themselves pushed outside the nation-states of their homeland while not being securely settled inside or welcomed by the host nation-state. Anthropological studies of refugees and other categories of transmigrants are contributing important new insights into socio-cultural fields that do not fit within the boundaries of cultures and nations as they were once conceptualized. Recent studies of transnational fields and borderlands of meaning, mobility, and practice are also revealing that these zones of intercultural contact, power disparities, and conflicting economic interests are significant sites, often interstitial and liminal, where social relations, we/they and us/them boundaries, are negotiated in gender-mediated ways.

An interesting paper that Dutch anthropologist Hishamah Bel Kodja presented in the Commission’s ‘Rethinking Women’s Rights in Spaces of Urban Life’ session at the December 2004 Kolkata inter-congress addressed some of the current difficulties that women refugees face as they seek asylum in The Netherlands. Holland, the older name for this north-western European country, is a setting in which there appears to be little official sympathy for the gender-specific trauma that often interferes with women’s ability to convey coherent, consistent accounts of the persecution they have suffered. The assaults these women experienced often assumed the form of sexual violence in conflict-laden situations where mass rape was deployed as a military tactic for destabilizing and crushing ethnic or ethnonational competitors. Because women’s bodies often symbolicalize the integrity and honour of nations, commonly depicted in both vernacular and formal discourses as motherlands, violations against female/feminine bodies are a culturally charged means of destroying a nation’s future. Bel Kodja offers an instructive view of the Dutch immigration bureaucracy and the policies and practices that inform the procedures used to assess eligibility for asylum. Her research is an excellent example of the ‘studying up’ that American legal anthropologist Laura Nader (1972) urged more anthropologists to do in order to shed light on structures of power as well as on the dispossessed and disempowered people whom those structures affect. Ms. Bel Kodja’s article offers information that should be useful to human rights organizations working on behalf of refugees. The article also provides insights that are useful for the anthropologists interested in gender, refugees, and the state. The Commission is most grateful to this journal for publishing a version of Hishamah Bel Kodja’s paper. In our eyes, this paper, which is based on research Bel Kodja conducted for her master’s thesis, represents the kind of work the Commission welcomes and promotes.

Preparing for the ICAES in Kunming

This introduction to the Commission on the Anthropology of Women has attempted to present a picture of a dynamic network of colleagues committed to forging new directions in the anthropological study of gender, particularly as gender is embedded in a matrix of interlocking hierarchies of difference and power. These new directions are constructed within an international group of anthropologists who bring their diverse culturally-informed perspectives into a shared conversation about the discipline’s possibilities. We are now eagerly preparing to have conversations that include and are informed by the interests and priorities of our colleagues in China. The 16th ICAES, which will held in Kunming, Yunnan Province, will provide us with a new set of promising opportunities that will further our efforts to make anthropology’s internationalization a more meaningful endeavour.


I would like to express my appreciation to Dr. Liu Zhijun, who invited me to write this brief introduction to the Commission on the Anthropology of Women. I also thank Dr. Wugashinimo Luowu (also known as Wu Ga) for all she has done to give the women’s commission exposure among Chinese ethnologists. She was invited to participate in the IUAES inter-congress in Kolkata by presenting a paper on the migration of women from minority nationalities to cities in the People’s Republic of China. However, due of a serious automobile accident, she was unable to travel to Kolkata. Her contribution was genuinely missed. Although she has had an extended hospital stay, she continues to prepare for publication a set of Commission articles on the gender research done in various parts of the world. Her commitment to international anthropology and to bringing Chinese anthropologists into that international community of scholars is inspiring. My appreciation goes to Hishamah Bel Khodja for her willingness to make her article available to Chinese colleagues. For my ability to serve the IUAES, which requires considerable investments of time, the occasional use of student assistants, and international travel, I am indebted to my former employer, the University of Tennessee-Knoxville and my current employer, the University of Florida. Earlier efforts at publicizing the historical development of the Commission in the U.S. are found in Harrison 1994 and 1995.

Appadurai, Arjun
1990 Disjuncture and Difference in the Global Cultural Economy. Public Culture 5:411-429.

Basch, Linda, Nina Glick Schiller, Cristina Szanton Blanc
1994 Nations Unbound: Transnational Projects, Postcolonial Predicaments, and Deterritorialized Nation-States. Langhorne, Pennsylvania: Bordon & Breach Science Publishers.

Dube, Leela, Shirley Ardener and Eleanor Leacock, eds.
1986 Visibility and Power: Essays on Women in Society and Development. Delhi: Oxford University Press.

Dube, Leela and Rajni Palriwala, eds.
1990 Structures and Strategies: Women, Work, and Family. New Delhi: Sage Publications.

Harrison, Faye V.
1994 From Mexico City to Williamsburg with the IUAES Commission on the Anthropology of Women. Anthropology Newsletter 35(2):16, February.

1995 From Mexico City to Williamsburg – via Beijing! – with the IUAES Commission on the Anthropology of Women. Voices 1(1):9-10.

1998 Race and Gender. Presented in ‘Races and Rights’ plenary session at the 14th International Congress on Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences (ICAES). July 26 – August 1. Williamsburg, VA.

2001a Imagining a Global Community United against Racism. Anthropology News 42(9):22-23, December.

2001b Durban 2001: Imagining a Global Community against Racism. IUAES Newsletter, 58:5-10, December.

Harrison, Faye V., ed.
In press Resisting Racism and Xenophobia: Global Perspectives on Race, Gender, and Human Rights. Walnut Creek, California: AltaMira Press.

Nader, Laura
1972 Up the Anthropologist: Perspectives Gained from Studying Up. In: Reinventing Anthropology. Dell Hymes, eds. Pp. 284-311. New York: Pantheon Books.

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5. IUAES Commission on Anthropology of Children, Youth and Childhood

By Deepak Kumar Behera

The Commission

The Commission on Anthropology of Children, Youth and Childhood was proposed at the International Union of Anthropological and Ethnographic Sciences at a meeting of the Executive Committee at the Beijing Inter-Congress in July 2000. The Commission was officially recognized and its work ratified by the Permanent Council of the IUAES at the Göttingen Inter-Congress on 19 July 2001.

The IUAES Commission on Anthropology of Children, Youth and Childhood is a new body that has come together to engender and promote a number of guiding ideals. One of our initial and most important aims and intentions is to encourage research about children in which children are themselves active participants as opposed to being just objects of study as they were most often in the past, if, that is to say, they were studied at all. Close scrutiny of numerous well known anthropological and sociological studies over several decades would reveal the notable absence of children. However, in recent years a growing number of researchers has either studied childhood or included children in the broader picture of society. Youth has generally fared better, although often represented by studies of youth movements, youth culture and complementary topics such as the influence of music, fashion, drugs and so on. We are fortunate in starting at a time when a small but growing body of expertise is proving the value of participatory work with children and youth, thus carrying over skills we have acquired as ethnographers to the greater good of children.

We also wish to search for and collect published research on the topic of children and youth within the remit of our work; to gather and maintain an up-to-date index that will be accessible to the public; and to publish bibliographical material as it becomes available. The Commission therefore intends to promote scholarly discussion through local meetings, internet forums, and at least one meeting on a topic related to childhood or youth at each IUAES Inter-Congress. We are, however, not entirely inward looking and intend to cooperate with local and international NGOs whose work focuses on children’s rights. On the one hand we would like to make ourselves known to each other within the Commission and all other readers who share our interest and experiences. On the other hand, and most important of all, here we begin the challenging process of taking our aims and intentions forward.

The Rights of the Child as a Universally Accepted Principle

It has been seventy-five years since the League of Nations adopted the first Declaration of the Rights of the Child in 1924. We have come a long way since then, culminating in the promulgation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child which came into force on 20th November 1989. This fundamental text confers upon the child a new, revolutionary, status. He is no longer viewed as an inchoate adult, but rather as a fully-fledged person, who has rights that he can assert independently. This Convention, known as the Convention on the Rights of the Child (or CRC), raised unprecedented enthusiasm. No other text concerning human rights has ever received such a welcome. Moreover, many countries that never adopted a single document on the sensitive issue of human rights have signed and ratified the CRC. Thus, we are faced with a new universal reality, since the Convention and the principles enshrined therein are binding on the States Parties and take precedence over national law. It can therefore be asserted that the Convention on the Rights of the Child has the same standing as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and that the status of the child has changed considerably, both in legal and in practical terms, though all the repercussions of this international treaty are not yet known. This new state of affairs justifies the new expression ‘rights of the child’.

The Child as a Holder of Rights

The expression ‘child, a holder of rights’ is well-known to and has been used by all those who have written about the CRC, ever since it was drafted. This expression seems particularly germane; what it really means is that the child has gone from a status in which he was an object, i.e. the property of someone else, to a status in which he is recognized as an independent human being and owner of rights: rights that he can assert autonomously. This shift is undoubtedly the most significant change in comparison with all earlier texts, and this new status of the child compels us to reconsider all of his relationships with his parents, his peers, adults and society. This obviously does not mean that now the child is King – he is recognized as a person, but he is not valued more than any other human being, and as a member of society, he must meet the obligations that such membership entails.

The CRC does not take a limited view of the child's situation, but rather encompasses in one text all the issues pertaining to children: political, social and cultural issues, the child's position vis-ŕ-vis his family, his belonging to a Nation-State, his status in the workplace, armed conflict, justice, and the protection of his human dignity. What is more, the Convention proclaims his right to unimpeded and harmonious development that can only be ensured by taking into consideration all aspects of a child's life.

The innovative approach – the child, a holder of rights – and comprehensive, integrated, vision of the rights of the child make the Convention the cornerstone of all the rights of the child. It has inspired all the other international instruments adopted since 1989, that will inspire those to come, and will leave its mark on all national legislations.

How Little We Know about Children and Childhoods

Faced with this plethora of declarations, charters, recommendations, principles and conventions, that sometimes complete or refer to one another, and sometimes contradict one another, States are unsure of how to proceed and the people responsible for enforcing these treaties find themselves in a most embarrassing and uncomfortable situation: that of ignorance.

Indeed, the theoretical knowledge of those who are called upon to enforce these rules is incomplete The fundamental principles enshrined in these international instruments are treated in utterly disparate ways – some countries apply the texts partially, others disregard them completely, and still others violate the basic principles set forth. No country can boast of enforcing all these rules. There are as yet few authoritative writings on the subject. Hence, the great challenge with regard to the rights of the child is to ensure that they are effectively and tangibly enforced in the field. The Commission is committed to the dissemination of knowledge and the enforcement of the provisions of the CRC. It pleads that children should be given adequate opportunities to participate in decision-making affecting their own lives.

Activities of the Commission

Beijing Inter-Congress

In July 2000, the Commission on Children, Childhood and Youth began its work most promisingly. We met in Beijing, China, at an Inter-Congress hosted by the China Urban Anthropology Association during July 24-28, 2000. The Inter-Congress theme was Metropolitan Ethnic Cultures. The Commission organized a tripartite session on Children and Childhoods in Metropolitan Ethnic Cultures at the Inter-congress. The panel was organized by Dr Deepak Kumar Behera, the Chair of the Commission, who brought childhood specialists from all over the world together and allowed them to introduce their work to each other and the Chinese hosts. The session mainly focused upon the world's less fortunate children: those who must work to ensure their family survival, those who live amid great violence and danger, those who live in deep poverty, those displaced by warfare, those for whom social upheaval has delivered hardship and those who are undervalued purely by dint of being children. The session also highlighted the courage and creativity of children facing many kinds of challenges, changes and new fortunes. Participants from the UK, USA, South Africa, New Zealand, India, Nepal, Croatia and Austria presented papers in the session.

The first business meeting of the Commission, held on July 28 in Beijing, was attended by representatives from 18 countries. Members present at the meeting signed up to organize country chapters after the Permanent Council of the IUAES ratifies the Commission.

A special issue the International Journal of Anthropology (published in Florence) containing some of the selected papers of a Commission’s session at Beijing Inter-congress was published in June 2001. That was the first major publication of the Commission.

The Commission was one of the patrons of the international conference on Children and Young People in a Changing World held in Agrigento (Sicily) during June 9–16, 2000. The members of the Organizing committee met at the Agrigento conference to draw the Commission's agenda of activities for the future.

The Commission also had a business meeting during the conference and we were very pleased with the large turn-out of people from all over the world eager to join and contribute to its work. Some well-known biological anthropologists attended the meeting and we are pleased to say that the Commission benefited from their interest. Since childhood and youth are as much physical processes as social conditions and cultural categories, the study of childhood and youth promises to be an interesting area for cooperation between biological and social anthropologists.

Tokyo Inter-Congress

The IUAES Inter-Congress on The Human Body in Anthropological Perspectives was held in Tokyo from 22 – 27 September, 2002. Prof. D.K. Behera organized a symposium entitled ‘Children and Youth at Risk’ during the Inter-Congress. The symposium had the sub-themes:

1. Multiple Compounded Forms of Abuse to Children

- Physical /Psychological Abuse and Sexual Exploitation

- Marginalisation and Lack of Access

2. Street and Working Children: Situation Research and Policy Issue

Participants from India, USA, Canada, Italy, New Zealand, Italy, Germany, Guatemala, Croatia, Nepal, Iran, etc. presented their papers in the aforesaid symposium.

A business meeting of the symposium was organised Prof. Behera on 27th September 2002 with participation by the representative of the above-mentioned countries. In the said meeting the past activities of the Commission were reviewed by the members and many important resolutions were taken for making the Commission more active and productive in future.

Post-Congress Symposium in Tokyo

A post-congress symposium on the Holistic and Integrated Debate on Children and Youth was organized by the Commission together with the Anthropological Society of Nippon at Otsuma Women’s University, Tokyo on 28 September 2002 between 09.00 and 17.00. Professor Kumi Ashizawa and Professor Cristina Szanton Blanc joined Professor Deepak Behera as co-organizers of the post-congress symposium. One of the major objectives of this session was to inform Japanese anthropologists about the Commission’s activities and future plans.

15th International Congress of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences (ICAES)

The major Congress with the theme Humankind/Nature Interaction: Past, Present, and Future was held in Florence, Italy during July 5–12, 2003. With the initiative of Prof. Behera, the Commission on Anthropology of Children, Youth and Childhood organized the following sessions at the Florence Congress.

The major findings of all the Commission’s sessions were reported to all the participants of the Congress by Prof. D.K. Behera and Prof. Cristina Szanton Blanc in a special session arranged by the organizers of the conference.

The business meeting of the Commission held in Florence was attended by more than 20 participants from different countries. Many important decisions were taken by the members relating to the future plans of the Commission.

Kolkota Inter-Congress

The IUAES Inter-Congress was held in Calcutta during 12–15 December, 2004. The theme of the Inter Congress was ‘Mega Urbanization, Multi-ethnic society, Human Rights and Development’. The Commission on Anthropology of Children, Youth and Childhood organized three sessions during the Kolkata Inter-Congress. Participants from the UK, Germany, Italy, New Zealand and India presented their papers at the following Commission sessions:

Publications by the Commission

Studies of Integrated Holistic Programmes with Children and Youth No. 1, January 2002: An Assessment of Knowledge and Practice in Achieving the Rights of the Child, the ESCOR Team, Katmandu, New York and Florence.

The first issue of the series dedicated to studies of programmes with children, presents the findings of an ESCOR team research on child labour in Nepal. It focuses on children’s experience of their work in the carpet industry and on collaborative actions between organizations. The research includes children as researchers as well as members of different organizations working in the field of child labour. This action research project presents innovative strategies that encourage organizational collaboration, their awareness of children’s experiences and their knowledge of the impact of different types of intervention on children’s lives. Findings illustrate the complexity of the child labour phenomenon, whereby the physical and psychosocial impact of labour on children cannot be measured without including elements of children’s experience such as migration, network and family support, self esteem and comparative opportunities for children in the carpet industries, their community of origin, etc. Migration and employment in the carpet industry appears to lead to a diversity of experiences and outcomes for children that are worth examining when planning projects. Recommendations are formulated both at the organizational and programme level. For the programmes with children, recommendations include promoting child-to-child advocacy, more flexible education opportunities, vocational training as well as services to adult and children employees.

The papers in the special issue of International Journal of Anthropology are as follows:

Children’s Use of Space, Editor Prof. Karen Malone (Department of School and Early Childhood Education, RMIT University, Bundoora, Melbourne Australia). The volume includes some of the selected papers of the Florence Conference (In Press, Concept Publishing Company, New Delhi, 2005)

Childhoods in South Asia, Editor Prof. Deepak Kumar Behera, to be published as a special issue of the journal Oriental Anthropology in January 2006. The issue will include some of the selected papers of the Kolkata Inter-Congress.


Children and Youth in Anthropology is the Newsletter of the IUAES Commission on Anthropology of Children, Youth and Childhood. The first electronic form of the newsletter has already been circulated among the members. The Commission plans to publish the newsletter at least twice every year.

Future Plans of the Commission

Commission Head Office in Sambalpur

The Dept. of Anthropology, University of Sambalpur, is the official headquarters of the Commission. The University has given a working space to the Commission to be used as its head office. Professor M.C. Dash, Vice-Chancellor of Sambalpur University, inaugurated the office at 9 a.m. on 19 June 2002. The Commission plans to have some regional offices in different countries in the near future. The head office of the Commission is functioning under the direct supervision of Prof. D.K. Behera, the Chairperson of the Commission.

Officers of the Commission and their Short Biographies

Deepak Kumar Behera (India)

Executive Secretary:
Margaret Trawick (New Zealand)

Members of the Organizing Committee:
Rachel Bray (UK)
Brunetto Chiarelli (Italy)
Ann Grodzins Gold (USA)
Antonella Invernizzi (Switzerland)
David F. Lancy (USA)
Brian Milne (UK)
Lucia Rabello de Castro (Brazil)
Jill Swart-Kruger (South Africa)
Cristina S. Blanc (USA)
Sita Venkateswar (New Zealand)

Deepak Kumar Behera holds a PhD from Sambalpur University where he has taught since 1985 and is a fulltime professor of social anthropology. He is a member of the Executive Committee of International Union of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences (IUAES) for the period 1998-2008 and also chairperson of the IUAES Commission on Anthropology of Children, Youth and Childhood. He is also an Officer-at-Large of the International Sociological Association Research Committee-53, Sociology of Childhood for the session 1998-2006. He has numerous research publications in journals, books and edited volumes. His main research interests are childhood and tribal studies.

Margaret Trawick has been Professor of Social Anthropology at Massey University, New Zealand since 1992. From 1979 to 1992 she taught at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva and New York. She received her BA from Harvard University and Radcliff College in 1970 and her PhD in anthropology from the University of Chicago in 1978. Her special area of interest is South Asia, specialising in the Tamil language and Tamil-speaking peoples.

Rachel Bray has a BA in Anthropology from the University of Durham and also a PhD in Social Anthropology from Durham. Until recently she worked as a lecturer and consultant in social anthropology. At present she is working as an independent social development consultant. She has had 10 years of research with street, working and socially excluded children in South Asia and Europe. Other work has included training social workers and development practitioners within NGOs in basic social research techniques applicable to children and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, and designing practical and ethical methods for research in issues relating to HIV/AIDS with children in the South African and Nepali contexts. Other work provides training, back-up support and guidance to NGOs and CBOs engaged in research and programming towards improving the lives of poor children, developing tools and systems for participatory monitoring and evaluation, particularly of initiatives designed to assist children and their families.

Brunetto Chiarelli has been Professor of Primatology at the University of Florence since 1999. In 1957 he was awarded a Doctorate in Natural Science (Anthropology) by the University of Florence and in 1960 a Doctorate in Biological Sciences (Genetics), also by the University of Florence. From 1997 until the present he has been Director of the Museum of Anthropology and Ethnology, University of Florence. He has more than 300 publications, mainly dealing with comparative genetics, cytogenetics, taxonomy of primates, biology of human populations and global bioethics.

Ann Grodzins Gold has a PhD in Anthropology from the University of Chicago and is Professor in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. Her extensive work in the North Indian state of Rajasthan has included studies of pilgrimage, performance, world renunciation, women’s expressive traditions, environmental change, and the transmission of environmental knowledge to children. Her publications include numerous articles and three books. She has just completed a monograph on nature, memory and power in a Rajasthani kingdom in collaboration with an Indian colleague and is planning to write about education and children’s environmental perceptions.

Antonella Invernizzi was awarded a PhD in sociology from Fribourg in 2000 after studying social work and sociology. She has studied street working children with emphasis on their socialization in Lima, Peru. The question about what ‘exploitation’ is arose during that period and has been partially resolved through use of the Francophone sociological term ‘surcharge’. At present she is working on theoretical and practical questions of an analysis of what exploitation is that has never previously been concluded.

David F. Lancy is a Professor of Anthropology at Utah State University and Director of the University’s Museum of Anthropology. He has degrees in psychology from Yale and anthropology and education from the University of Pittsburgh. He has carried out fieldwork in Liberia, Papua New Guinea, Trinidad, Sweden and the USA. His research interests include the study of cultural influences on children’s literacy, ethnographic research methods and the role of culture in the child. For the last five years a team of students and he have been gathering material on ancient Egypt to incorporate into an instructional CD-ROM called Whose Mummy is it?

Brian Milne holds degrees from the Universities of Westminster and Cambridge and is at present working as a consultant researcher and trainer in the field of children’s rights including street and working children, children’s participation in civil society and a number of other areas including HIV/AIDS, child abuse, child sexual exploitation and use of drawings and other creative work as a research method. He was one of the people involved in the ethnography of childhood workshops during the 1980s and has researched and written on most of these topics since the mid-1980s. Most recently his work has mostly been with NGOs and UN agencies including ILO and UNICEF. He has mainly worked in South America, Central and South Asia and Europe. He has an extensive list of publications. At present he is writing a book on the theoretical aspects of children’s participation in civil society.

Lucia Rabello de Castro has an MSc and PhD from the University of London. At present she is Associate Professor at the Institute of Psychology, Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro and General Director of the Interdisciplinary Research Nucleus for Contemporary Childhood and Youth (NIPIAC, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro). Her research interests in the area of childhood and youth include: subjectivity and culture, politics and policies, social participation, children’s cultural worlds and social exclusion. She has several publications in her fields of interest.

Jill Swart-Kruger is a Research Fellow in the Department of Anthropology and Archaeology at the University of South Africa. She is the South African director of the international Growing up in Cities Project initiated by UNESCO-MOST and the Norwegian Centre for Child Research and the founder of Street-Wise, a national programme for street children in South Africa. She was a member of the CODESRIA Scientific Committee for Child Research in Africa (1999-2001), is an Associate Editor for the Electronic journal: CYE (Children Youth and Environments) and a member of FAWESA, a partnership of African women educationalists and senior policy makers who assume leadership for education planning and implementation in their countries and who mentor others.

M. Cristina Szanton Blanc, an Italian citizen, has an M.A. in Anthropology from the University of Chicago, and an M.Phil. and Ph.D. in Anthropology from Columbia University. She has taught in the Department of Anthropology at Barnard College, at the New School for Social Research in New York and for many years in the School for International Affairs at Columbia University. She also worked as Senior Programme Officer at the UNICEF International Child Development Institute in Florence, Italy where she developed a collaborative action study, multiple publications and a book focused on 21 cities of Kenya, Italy, Brazil, India and the Philippines, entitled Urban Children in Distress (1994). Past Chair of the Southeast Asia Council of the Association for Asian Studies, Fellow of the American Anthropological Association and now a member of the Executive Committee of the IUAES Commission on Children, Youth and Childhood, she is currently also active with the International Center for Research, Practice and Policy Analysis in New York and with non-government organizations registered with ECOSOC at the U.N. Besides her work with children, she has published extensively on Southeast Asia (family, households, women, economic anthropology) and on transnational and national migration (Nations Unbound 1994).

Sita Venkateswar has been a lecturer in Social Anthropology at Massey University since 1997 and involved in research on child labour in Nepal since 1999 and in field research there since August 2000. Her earlier dissertation research was conducted in the Andaman Islands over an 18 month period during 1989–1992. She received her PhD from Rutgers University in 1997.

Concluding Remarks

In short, over the past year, the Commission has been quite active and productive, and has generated much interest, not only among members of the IUAES Executive Committee, but among anthropologists in general.

Address for Communication

If you want to know more about the Commission and its activities, kindly contact the Chairperson of the Commission: Prof. Deepak Kumar Behera, Department of Anthropology, Sambalpur University, Sambalpur-768 019, Orissa, India, Email: dkbehera@sancharnet.in

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6. List of IUAES Commissions participating in the English/Chinese book on the state of affairs in anthropology to be published at the 2008 Kunming Congress

By Peter J.M. Nas

On behalf of the organizers of the Kunming Congress in 2008 the IUAES Secretary General Prof. Dr. Peter J.M. Nas has invited all the IUAES Commissions to contribute to a volume on the state of affairs in anthropology. It will be published in English and Chinese and distributed during the Congress. The following Commission officials have agreed to deliver a paper for the volume:

  1. David Pittt: HIV/AIDS
  2. Charles Susanne: Bioethics
  3. Petr Skalnik: Race and racism
  4. Viatcheslav Roudnev: Indigenous knowledge
  5. Mohan Gautam: Museums & cultural heritage
  6. Giuliana Prato: Urban anthropology
  7. Liza Cerroni-Long: Ethnic anthropology
  8. Rolf Husman: Visual anthropology
  9. Brunetto Chiarelli: Migration
  10. Robert Rubinstein/Rik Pinxten: Peace and human rights
  11. Faye Harrison: Gender
  12. Gregory Teal: Tourism
  13. B. Chauduri: Human rights
  14. Igor de Garine: Nutrition
  15. Pavao Rudan: Medical anthropology and epidemiology
  16. Anita Sujoldzic: Linguistic anthropology
  17. Morihiko Okada: Primatology
  18. Anne Griffiths: Legal pluralism
  19. Leng Thang: Aging and the aged
  20. Paul Nkwi: Documentation

On the basis of these responses we will be able successfully to proceed with the project. We would prefer to have all commissions represented in the book without any one lacking. If a Commission wants to join, please contact Peter Nas.

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7. IUAES Membership

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Click here for information on membership.

©IUAES/Peter J.M. Nas