Thursday, April 16, 2009

AAA Debuts New Blog

AAA is pleased to announce the debut of our new, unified association blog, available at We have created this blog as a service to our members and the general public. It is a forum to discuss topics of debate in anthropology and a space for public commentary on association policies, publications and advocacy issues. We will post select items that we think are of interest to our members and that readers have voiced an interest in. We invite all anthropologists to use this domain to stimulate intellectual discussion, and would be delighted to host guest bloggers who are active in any of anthropology’s four fields.

The new AAA blog, available through Wordpress, combines our previous Anthropology News, Public Affairs and Human Rights blogs, with all archived content and comments migrated from Blogger to Wordpress. The updated format enables visitors to easily post comments, link to our Flickr photostream, search content, browse posts by category, find other anthropology blogs, and more. This is a living forum, and we welcome your feedback! Use the “Contact Us” bar at the top of the screen to tell us what you think of this new design and to offer content suggestions.

AAA thanks staff members Brian Estes, Lisa Myers and Dinah Winnick, and intern Leo Napper, for their work in developing this online forum. Visit the new blog today!

Note: New posts will no longer be added to the original AAA Human Rights blog.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Same-Sex Marriage Victories

The Iowa Supreme Court recently ruled in favor of gay marriage, making it the third state to allow such unions.

The Swedish Parliament has also approved same-sex marriage by an overwhelming margin.

The AAA has released an official statement in support of such unions.

Armenian Genocide

The Armenian Genocide Resolution has returned to headlines prior to Obama's visit to Turkey. The resolution labels the deaths of up to 1.5 million Armenians at the hands of the Ottoman Empire starting in 1915 as "genocide." According to The Hill, past administrations have failed to recognize the World War I-era killings as genocide out of fear of damaging US-Turkey relations. Obama, however, made a campaign pledge to recognize the genocide, saying that the facts documenting the killings are "undeniable" and that "an official policy that calls on diplomats to distort the historical facts is an untenable policy." Of course, campaign promises to Armenians have been broken in the past, and Obama may decide to tread carefully with Turkey.

US Endorses UN Statement to End Discrimination

In a reversal of Bush-era decisions, the Obama administration endorsed the UN Statement on "Human Rights, Sexual Orientation, and Gender Identity." The statement condemns human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity wherever they occur. The US is now the 67th nation of the UN's 192 member states to sign the statement.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Applying Forensic Anthropology in Guatemala

The AAA Committee for Human Rights has written to Guatemalan authorities on numerous occasions regarding the safety of the Guatemalan Forensic Anthropology Team (FAFG), especially its director Fredy Peccerelli who, along with his family, has been the target of several death threats. FAFG exhumes mass graves in an effort to identify massacre victims of Guatemala's 36-year insurgency, during which an estimated 200,000 people were killed and numerous human rights violations occurred. Fredy and the rest of FAFG are hoping to compile enough evidence to identify and prosecute the perpetrators of these massacres. You can read the full story from Scientific American here. And a related story on FAFG's most recent efforts.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

CFP: "Health and the Productivity of Human Rights Discourses"

Call for Papers
Title: Health and the Productivity of Human Rights Discourses

Co-sponsor: Committee for Human Rights, American Anthropological Association

This panel brings together ethnographic and theoretical papers to examine the productivity of human rights discourse in the fields of public health, medicine, and anthropology. In our contemporary world, a discourse of health as a human right has played a central role in configuring humanitarian responses to disasters, economic inequality and poverty, and the differential burden of disease. It has also raised methodological, conceptual, and ethical challenges in the field of medical anthropology. We are interested in bringing together critical ethnographic examinations of the mobilization of human rights discourse in informing claims to health by communities, populations, and the state, as well as reflections on how human rights discourse has informed the knowledge and concepts of health and well-being in anthropology. In keeping with the theme of the AAA meetings, we hope to foster discussion about anthropology’s “ends”: how can anthropological modes of knowing inform and help shape responses to global differentials in well-being, health, and life chances that are lived and experienced locally? What critical reflections from the field of health can be brought to bear on the discourse of cultural relativism in anthropology, and what alternative frameworks might we generate from these reflections?

By focusing on the productivity of human rights discourse, this panel is particularly interested in the new directions, methods, and concepts that can inform and challenge discursive understandings of health, knowledge, and values. Such new directions may include exploring the instabilities of a language of rights in advancing claims to health, and how local concepts of health and well-being are conditioned by often invisible institutional failures as well as economic insecurity and emergent value systems. How are humanitarian interventions and large-scale public health initiatives informed by regimes of value? How are discourses of human rights enacted by the local to advance claims to health from the state, and how are subjects constituted through this discourse? In examining such interventions and claims predicated on “health as a human right”, what local and trans-local concepts of the human emerge? Refracting such questions back on our own discipline, this panel explores how the language of rights has informed our field’s knowledge production on health, our ethnographic engagements, and our stakes in normative projects.

Organizers: Clara Han and Robin Root

Please send a 250-word abstract to Robin Root ( and Clara Han ( by March 26.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Awa Indians Murdered

CNN reported that guerrilla troops of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) have killed at least 10 more Awa Indians this week, bringing the total to 27 in the last two weeks. FARC targeted the Awa after accusing them of aiding the Colombian government. Earlier this week, Colombian President Alvaro Uribe called the FARC “executioners.” He demonized their bloody action against the indigenous tribe and has ordered his army into the remote areas where the killings took place in order to secure the territory and administer humanitarian aid.

~Author: Leo Napper, AAA intern

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Witchcraft & Human Rights Network Forms

UNHCR's Policy Development and Evaluation Service has created a "Witchcraft and Human Rights Network." It is an informal network where information about new developments, research and news related to witchcraft can be shared.

The first article shared with the network is an article written in New Issues in Refugee Research by Jill Schnoebelen called "Witchcraft Allegations and Displacement." Readers may download the article [pdf] from

If you are interested in participating in the network, please inform Maria Riiskjaer at

Best regards,
The Policy Development and Evaluation Service UNHCR Geneva

Anthropologist Exposes Organ Trafficking

Nancy Scheper-Hughes’ research on global organ trafficking was highlighted in a story by Newsweek recently. Hughes acknowledges that her methods, which include misleading some research subjects, bump up against the association’s ethics code. Her research has, however, helped generate awareness about the black market organ trade and the extent to which some US hospitals are complicit in this trade. If you have thoughts on this subject, please leave a comment below.

Image from

AAA Responds to Threats against Forensic Anthropologists

AAA President Setha Low and the Committee for Human Rights sent letters to the Guatemalan government requesting additional protection for members of the Guatemalan Forensic Anthropology Foundation who have been receiving death threats for their investigation of massacres that occurred in the 1980s. Vice President Rafael Espada responded to this request by temporarily increasing protection for targeted members. CfHR is working to secure continuous protection for these forensic anthropologists. The letters and Espada’s response (in Spanish) are available on CfHR's homepage.

AAA Joins AAAS' Science & Human Rights Coalition

The AAA recently attended the launch of the American Association for the Advancement of Science's Science and Human Rights Coalition. The coalition aims to increase communication and collaboration between scientific associations, individual researchers, and the human rights community in the pursuit of universal human rights. The January 14th launch opened with three notable speakers, including Mary Robinson, the former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and President of Ireland. The coalition has already been involved in two human rights initiatives organized by AAAS: 1) The Geospatial Technologies and Human Rights Project, which utilizes high-tech mapping tools to gather data on isolated conflicts, environmental destruction, and indigenous rights; and 2) “On-Call” Scientists, a program that connects scientists interested in volunteering their expertise with human rights organizations in need of such expertise. Anthropologists interested in participating in this coalition or volunteering with “On-Call” Scientists can find additional information at

Monday, January 5, 2009

Action Alert: Petition Philippine Government to Halt Attacks on Civil Society Groups

Cultural Survival and the Cordillera People's Alliance issued action alerts for the disappearance of indigenous activist James Balao. The contents of Cultural Survival's petition are copied below. We encourage our readers to consider signing the petition:

Philippine indigenous activist James Balao went missing on Sept. 17th in La Trinidad town in Benguet province. His disappearance could be connected to his work as a defender of human rights among the indigenous people of northern Luzon. Balao is the founder of the Cordillera People's Alliance (CPA). Members of military intelligence and police have been linked to his abduction. He is the second CPA member to disappear since 1987. Two other CPA members were murdered by unidentified assailants two years ago. For more information:

Write a letter or send an email urging the government of the Philippines to probe the disappearance of Balao and to observe international covenants on human rights by halting attacks on members of civil society groups.
H.E. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo
President of the Republic
MalacaƱang Palace,
JP Laurel St., San Miguel
Manila Philippines
E-mail: /

Dear President Macapagal-Arroyo:

I am deeply disturbed about the "disappearance" of Cordillera Peoples Alliance co-founder and member James M. Balao on September 17, 2008, following months of surveillance. The circumstances of his abduction suggest that military intelligence agents had a role in it. Since then, his family has had no information regarding his whereabouts.

Since the Philippine government implemented its Operation Plan Bantay Laya in 2001, members and leaders of organizations working for Indigenous Peoples' rights, such as the Cordillera Peoples Alliance, have been unjustly labeled communist fronts and terrorist organizations. Their leaders have received death threats, and have been kidnapped and killed.

We urgently call for the democratic government of the Philippines to categorically reject the illegal and globally condemned practices of past military dictatorships; and urge you, as the Philippines Commander in Chief, to leave no stone unturned until James Balao's place of detention is identified, those responsible are arrested, and he is returned to his family and community.

Sincerely yours,