On November 17, 2021, the American Anthropological Association held its annual conference in Baltimore, Maryland. The theme this year was titled “Truth and Responsibility,” and emphasized the need for anthropologists to “bear witness, take action, and be held accountable to the truths we write.” As an anthropology student, I was drawn to the discipline out of a desire to better understand humans and how we relate to each other. This is critical for development, as international development requires an in-depth understanding of the cultural landscapes in which we operate. As I hope to pursue a career in international work, I felt anthropology would provide me with an important foundation.
At the conference, I was able to witness how current anthropologists are utilizing their backgrounds and education to address current societal needs. I attended panels and round table discussions on topics related to gender inequality in health systems and the ways researchers can more ethically engage with their subjects. Having spent this past summer conducting field research for my capstone in international development studies, attending this conference was an incredible opportunity to think about how my own research can “bear witness, take action, and be held accountable” to the injustice that my work uncovers.
My favorite panel I attended was titled “Grassroots Truth and Responsibility: Anthropological Perspectives on Activism and Human Rights.” The presenters highlighted the ethnographic work they had completed and the ways in which it contributed to the upholding of human rights. My capstone research looked at the structural inequalities that immigrants face in securing affordable housing. As the panelists discussed how they have utilized their research results to aid the communities they worked in, I was able to think about how my findings might be used to serve the neighborhoods I researched.
Overall, attending the annual meeting for the American Anthropological Association reignited my passion for academic research and the value it can provide for society. I joined the Kellogg International Scholars Program (ISP) out of a desire to grow in my research capabilities and to address challenges the international community faces. Anthropologists that presented at the conference are studying incredibly diverse research topics, but all seek to understand the human experience in a more profound manner. In my work as a research assistant through ISP, and my independent research work, my goals have also been the same.