June 2021 Newsletter

Dear CUAA Community,

Recently our section voted in favor of changing our name from Society of Urban National Transnational Anthropology (SUNTA) to Critical Urban Anthropology Association (CUAA). The latter better reflects our new orientation toward critical social theory, which in the last 20 years has reshaped urban studies as a dynamic interdisciplinary field involving many anthropologists. We have found that current graduate students and early career anthropologists are especially excited by the critical urban orientation that we are proposing.

This is the first of what will be many monthly newsletters.  Each month, we will be highlighting our members’ work, sharing resources, and announcing upcoming events and opportunities. As you become aware of content within those categories or discover other news or information that you believe would be of interest to our community, please send it to  nathan.romine.183@my.csun.edu. It will be included on subsequent newsletters and listserv postings.

Recent Events  

Politicizing Invisible Digital Infrastructures: San Diego and the Fight Over the Smart City, a Discussion with Dr. Lily Irani

The Public Space Research Group (West) recently hosted a presentation and discussion with Dr. Lilly Irani, Associate Professor at UC San Diego. She shared her latest work, which examines the politicization of invisible digital infrastructure – streetlights with the capacity to capture and record audio and visual content. To learn more about her work as an academic and activist regarding this issue, visit the San Diego TRUST Coalition and check out her latest book, co-authored with Jesse Marx –  Redacted.

Proposed Roundtables for AAA Annual Meeting

CUAA recently proposed and submitted two roundtables to take place at the 2021 AAA Hybrid Annual Meeting in Baltimore this November. We hope that they will be accepted. Thank you to each of the participants and organizers who elected to present and discuss the topics described below. 

Roundtable 1: What is Critical About Critical Anthropology?

Description: This roundtable explores what a critical engagement with the city and a commitment to social justice and transformation through the intersection of ethnography and politically informed action offers for our future. Calls for a public ethnography, militant ethnography and protest anthropology reflect a growing interest in producing knowledge that is useful, benefits those we work with and addresses urban problems. We will be highlighting a new generation of scholars who are reformulating these concerns and will identify theories, methods, and ethnographies that will lead urban anthropology in new directions and encourage more engaged practice.

Participants: Suzanne Scheld, Susan Falls, Julian B. Brash, Setha M. Low, Rashmi Sadana, Roberto E. Barrios, John L. Jackson Jr., Matilde Cordoba Azcarate, Jeff Maskovsky

Roundtable 2: Truth Be Told: Insights from Applications of Anthropology to Urban Public Space Issues

Description: This roundtable is intended to provide a timely opportunity to discuss urban anthropologists’ contributions to addressing issues concerning current public space use and access. It explores this topic at a moment when the field of urban anthropology is embracing a critical perspective and as the politics of public space are increasingly essential to unpacking fundamental aspects of contemporary urban life regarding issues of informality, extralegality, and gender and racial justice. We will also compare notes regarding the experiences and insights that session participants have gained through their applications of long-term ethnographic findings to public space issues. 

Participants: Claire Panetta, Nathan Romine, Jayne Howell, Colin McLaughlin-Alcock, Matilde Cordoba Azcarate, Helen A Regis, Britt Oates, Suzanne Scheld, Walter E. Little, Beth Baker, Setha M. Low

Upcoming Events in June

Public Spaces and Urban Cultures E-Festival (June 2nd – 18th)

Regions in Recovery is hosting an E-Festival with a rich and extensive program. Take a look – perhaps one aligns with your schedule. For those interested in matters of public space, the AESOP Thematic Group Public Spaces and Urban Cultures [facebook.com] is hosting several sessions on June 15th. Presentations include Struggles Around Inclusive Public Space: Gender, Care and Safety; Infrastructure of Inclusive Public Spaces; and The Making of Inclusive Public Spaces.

Graduate Student Working Group Meeting (June 25th)

The Graduate Student Working Group will host their next meeting on June 25th at 10 AM PST/ 1PM EST. This group offers a space for graduate students to connect and collaborate with each other.  If you are interested in networking, finding partners to write with, or seeking insight and feedback on your work, please drop in! Likewise, if you know a graduate student who might be interested or could benefit, please share this announcement with them.

Please register in advance for this meeting:


Public Space Working Group Meeting (August)

This year, members within CUAA formed the Public Space Working Group. Across several meetings, members shared their research and started a small reading circle that critically engaged with publications in the field. The Working Group is also developing a virtual roundtable to incorporate our wider body in January 2022. They will also be participating in the City University of New York’s Public Space Research (CUNY PRSG) Network Meeting in October. You can expect more detailed information as these events draw closer. If you are interested in joining the Working Group, email Suzanne.Scheld@csun.edu

AAA Hybrid Annual Meeting in Baltimore, MD (November 17-21)

This year’s annual AAA meeting is a hybrid event – registrants can participate virtually or in person in Baltimore, MD. The theme is “Truth and Responsibility.” Early-bird discounted registration rates are available until June 30th.

Recent Publications and Work

Creativity, Sociability, Solidarity: New-Wave Carnival Krewes’ Responses to COVID-19 in New Orleans

Martha Radice, Associate Professor of Sociology and Social Anthropology at Dalhousie University, published an article in Anthropologica that examines new-wave carnival krewes responses to COVID-19 in New Orleans. It’s open access, and it might make a good undergraduate teaching article – the reading is very accessible.

Building Socialism: The Afterlife of East German Architecture in Urban Vietnam

In her latest book, Chistina Schwenkel, Professor of Anthropology at The University of California, Riverside, “examines the utopian visions of an expert group of Vietnamese and East German urban planners who sought to transform the devastated industrial town of Vinh into a model socialist city.”

Fencing in Democracy: Border Walls, Necrocitizenship, and the Security State

Anthropologists Margaret E Dorsey and Miguel Diaz-Barriga discuss the ways in which the construction of the U.S. Mexico border wall manifests transformations in citizenship practices that are aimed not only at keeping migrants out but also at enmeshing citizens into a wider politics of exclusion

Let’s Get This Balloon to Float!   Again, we’d like this newsletter to reflection of our member’s work, interests, and ideas. Should you have information or ideas that you would like us to share with the community in our next newsletter, email nathan.romine.183@my.csun.edu by July 9th.