For interdisciplinary scholars, it’s always a challenge to decide which conferences to attend and which to forgo. The problem is particularly acute when the conferences are held at the same time, as occurred last week with the annual meetings of the American Anthropological Association (AAA) and American Academy of Religion (AAR).

As I’ve been attending both of them off and on for years, the decision hinged for me around the fact that I had organized the Latour session at the AAR.

Latour himself, however, would be attending the AAA. (We tried to get him to bilocate, but didn’t succeed.) And it turns out that his session, “The Ontological Turn in French Philosophical Anthropology” — featuring an all-star cast of Philippe Descola, Marshall Sahlins, Michael M. J. Fischer, Kim Fortun, and Latour — was scheduled for the very same time as our panel.

It also turns out, as Rex relates at Savage Minds, that ontology was “the big theme” at the AAA this year.

(Here’s another big-name ontology session, featuring Latour collabs Eduardo Viveiros de Castro, Annemarie Mol, Helen Verran, and others. I expect ontology to be a big theme at the AAG in April as well.)

Some of the comments at Savage Minds reflect that this “ontological turn” is not uncontroversial. (Surprise, surprise.) It seems that Fortun, the lone woman on the panel, was particularly critical of Latour.

Incidentally, we had trouble replacing Jane Bennett when she pulled out of our panel. Several women were approached, who for one reason or another — scheduling conflicts, overcommitment, etc. — were not able to join. The AAA panel demonstrates that gender representation isn’t necessarily an issue with these efforts, but one could speculate that ontology, metaphysics, and philosophical speculation still tend to be “guy topics” more than other themes. Discuss. (Theme for next year: Not “querying” but “queering” ontology.)

One can follow some of the debates on Greg Downey’s Twitter feed and at #AAA2013.

Latour’s talk from the AAA is available here.




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