AES/SUNTA Conference April 2011


 A conference sponsored by The American Ethnological Society And

The Society for Urban, National and Transnational Anthropology

  Caribe Hilton, San Juan, Puerto Rico

April 14-April 17 2011


It is our pleasure to welcome you to “New Forms of Difference/New Forms of Connection”, a conference jointly sponsored and organized by the American Ethnological Society and the Society for Urban, National and Transnational Anthropology.  When we first began to plan this conference in the spring of 2010, very few of us could have foreseen the events that unfolded in the succeeding months – from Tunisia and Egypt to Wisconsin, the halls of the U.S. Congress, and the campuses of the University of Puerto Rico  — that make the conferences themes even more urgent and relevant.  You will find that several panels and roundtables include front-line and first-hand reports and analyses.

 We are honored to have Frances Fox Piven as our keynote speaker.  As most of you know, Frances is an exemplary engaged scholar who played a pioneering role in studying the root causes of poverty, and poor people’s movements. Her work serves as a guidepost to all of us at time when public, engaged scholarship is much needed.

 We are especially pleased to hold this conference in Puerto Rico. The island’s “special” relationship with the United States – first as conquered and annexed territory, and now as “free associated state” – has also meant a special relationship between Puerto Rico (and Puerto Rican migrants in the U.S.) and U.S social sciences, from the early educational policies of the occupation government at the turn of the 20th century, through the Moynihan report and the “culture of poverty” debate. On Saturday, starting at 8 a.m., we are offering a three-part roundtable examining the legacy of the “Puerto Rico Project”, a study of “modernization” in the island, carried out in the late 1940s by Julian Steward and his students.  In addition, the Universidad de Puerto Rico (UPR) has been targeted by the island’s government for budget cuts, tuition hikes, layoffs and privatization. In April of 2010, UPR students called a strike, and student protests (and often violent police response) have continued over the past year. Friday afternoon there is a double panel, “Lucidity and Engagement”, on the UPR strikes, including both faculty and student participants.

 We want to thank AES President Jane Collins and SUNTA President Don Nonini, as well as our respective boards, for their support and input.  Special thanks to Jorge Duany of the Universidad de Puerto Rico for his input and help throughout. Thanks also to Jocelyn Degollado and Lorena [last name] of the Universidad del Valle Guatemala for their help.

 Sharryn Kasmir                                            Lisa Maya Knauer

AES co-chair                                                            SUNTA co-chair

Aztec to Zapoctec II – Exhibition at Orlando Museum of Art

Aztec to Zapotec: Selections from the Ancient Americas Collection features more than 180 works made prior to the arrival of Christopher Columbus and the Europeans during the late 15th and early 16th centuries. Representing a time period of more than 3,000 years, the exhibition is drawn from the OMA’s comprehensive Art of the Ancient Americas Collection and gives a rare glimpse into the life and culture of numerous civilizations from the North, Central and South American regions. Significant ancient works of gold, silver, jade, ceramic, shell and wood are included from the cultures of the Aztec, Maya, Moche, Nasca, Inca and Zapotec.

Of Cloth and Culture II: African Textiles

This exhibition features 45 extraordinary examples of textiles and beadwork from a number of regions of the African continent. Highlights include a colorful Kente cloth of West Africa, beautifully beaded aprons of the Kirdi in Cameroon, a Zulu wedding cape and embellished animal skins of the San people of South Africa, as well as a number of stunning beaded crowns and headdresses of the Yoruba people of Nigeria. The Roth Collection has been recognized by Art and Antiques Magazine numerous times as one of the top 100 art collections in America.

Latinos Rise in Numbers, Not Influence By Don Van Natta Jr.

Over the last decade, Florida’s Hispanic population has exploded, especially in central Florida, where the number of Hispanic residents in Orange County jumped 84 percent. They are now 308,244 of 1.2 million residents, about one in four.

But some here are raising questions about why Hispanics’ representation on influential political boards has not kept pace with their increase in numbers in this county, of which Orlando is the seat. Last month, only days after the fresh census data reflecting the surge in the Hispanic population, county commissioners and the mayor appointed a 15-member panel to redraw the boundaries of political districts with data culled from the 2010 census. Just two of the board members are Hispanic.

The appointing of two non-Hispanic whites by County Commissioner Jennifer Thompson (who, like all the commissioners, had the power to name two panelists) drew particular criticism because she represents a district that is 38.4 percent Hispanic.

“It just breaks my heart to see that we are here 40 years, and we should be moving forward and included in every segment of the community, and that is just not happening,” said Trini Quiroz, 62, a community leader who raised her concerns at a recent County Commission meeting. “How do you ignore one-third of the entire population? It’s not right.”

Commissioner Thompson chose a former colleague at the Chamber of Commerce and an Orange County lawyer.

When asked by WFTV Channel 9 news in Orlando about why she did not name a Hispanic, she said, “I wouldn’t say it was a priority.”

But in an interview, Commissioner Thompson said that her comment was taken out of context. She said that no Hispanic constituent had applied for the position.

And since the appointments were made, she has invited Hispanics to participate in meetings about redistricting and other subjects of local interest, and to apply for other posts, but none have done so, she said.

“Finding a Hispanic was not a priority over finding the most qualified individual on that board,” she said, citing among the important qualifications the willingness to make the time commitment.

However, that sentiment angers some of the commissioner’s constituents. Jaye Bonner, 62, a retired former Marine and an Orange County native, said he was “appalled” by how few Hispanics were on the redistricting board. The final decision on the boundaries is in the hands of the county commissioners.

Commissioner Thompson “claims she could not find a single qualified person, with a high percentage population in the Hispanic Latino community, to serve on that advisory board,” Mr. Bonner said. “That’s just absolutely atrocious in my mind. It’s almost like they are making an effort to suppress the Hispanic representation.”

A version of this article appeared in print on April 8, 2011, on page A15 of the New York edition.