Reflections on recent conferences

APOD researcher Kiara reflects on her experience of the 2023 Association of Social Anthropologists conference, hosted at SOAS University of London:

I couldn’t have wished for a better ‘first-time-presenting-my-PhD-research-at-an-anthropology-conference’ experience. It was lovely and reassuring having David’s smiling face in the front row as I began my presentation by reading out a vignette – the ‘swings story’, one of my fieldwork highlights (see blog post on APOD website). It was great reconnecting with some familiar faces, including our very own Keira who coincidentally ended up on the same panel. One of the comments I received was around how Keira’s and my research speak to each other on themes like activism and peer support work, a comment that stayed with me. It also got me thinking about the potential tension between peer support within versus outside of a mental health system: would peers operating outside the system see those inside as not activist enough? On the other hand, activist-y peers within the system may be labelled ‘militant peers’ by other staff. There’s too many double-binds to navigate in the world of peer support!
One of my ASA highlights (besides the 80s-themed conference party!) was a lab on ‘future-making’ using sensorial media to send a message to our ‘future self’. I began with a focus on sound using the medium of audio recordings, which unfortunately regressed towards a dependence on text (totally failed the sensorial exercise)! But it was amazing to see other anthropologists get their hands dirty in playing with colourful aromatic spices or moulding clay figurines. The conveners collected all our objects and will reconvene the group in 6-months to present our messages to our ‘future selves’ – wonder what that experience will be like… Besides the lab session, there was a memorable Firth Lecture on the possibility of irreconciliation, whether in postwar contexts or other conflicts – it certainly got the auditorium talking.

Overall, this ASA week left me feeling connected with inspiring researchers, creative and motivated about my ongoing PhD writing, and grounded in my identity as an anthropologist. It was also nice that the ASA was held at SOAS but now that I’m in the conference mood, I’m next venturing slightly out of my comfort zone to Oslo this week, for the ENPA conference.

More updates (on APOD in Oslo and beyond) to come!