AiT Opening Remarks

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Welcome to the 12th Annual Anthropology in Transit Conference at the University of California, Irvine. We’re happy to welcome graduate students from a variety of disciplines presenting here this weekend on our theme of Spatial Knowledges and Imaginaries. This conference is run for graduate students and by graduate students. Without the volunteer support of our colleagues in the Anthropology department, our administrative team - Olga, Cory, and Tami, and the chair of our department, Dr. Kim Fortun, this event would not have been possible. 

We would like to take this opportunity to thank our co-sponsors, the Center for Ethnography, the School of Social Sciences, Associated Graduate Students, and the Anthropology, Comparative Literature, and Gender & Sexuality Studies Departments for their financial support, which enabled us to host this conference. We’d also like to thank Dr. Andrea Ballestero, who we are thrilled to have as our keynote speaker. Her work challenges us to grapple with the material conditions of water, while also situating water as a crucial form of spatial knowledge. Dr. Ballestero’s work demonstrates that water is simultaneously grounded in subterranean space, while also traveling across space and producing unexpected entanglements of law, economics, and techno-science in the process. 

Before officially beginning the conference, especially a conference where space is the unifying theme, we would like to acknowledge that UCI sits on the unceded territory of two Indigenous nations, the Tongva and Acjachemen Nations. Orange County is both the ancestral and contemporary home of these nations. As a conference, and a department, we acknowledge the need to continue repairing the harm caused to Native nations around the world by academic institutions, and acknowledge colonization as an ongoing process. There are presentations this weekend that explicitly take on this work, and many faculty members around UCI, including our own Professor Justin Richland, are working to better understand settler colonialism and have ongoing commitments with Indigenous nations towards advancing social justice. We cannot grapple with our conference theme, Spatial Knowledges and Imaginaries, without ethical engagement with these questions.

We would also like to express our solidarity with graduate student workers fighting for a living wage across the UC system. On Sunday, December 8 2019, UC Santa Cruz graduate student workers voted for a wildcat grading strike until the administration meets their demands for a Cost of Living Adjustment. Starting Monday, February 10, they will be on a full teaching strike. There are now Cost of Living Adjustment actions happening at UC Davis, UC Santa Barbara, UC San Diego, and UCLA. We support striking graduate students as they organize for better conditions for educators, students, and workers everywhere.

At this point, we’d like to introduce ourselves , the 2020 AiT Steering Committee, Gina Hakim, Kaitlyn Rabach, Jessica Slattery, and Danielle Tassara. When we first started to organize this conference more than a year ago, we stumbled upon a quote by geographer Doreen Massey: “Space, instead of being a flat surface, it’s more like a pincushion of a million stories.”  We ran with this inspiration and titled the conference, “Stories-so-Far: Spatial Knowledges and Imaginaries.” We thought the openness of this theme could grasp at the many topics that excited us during our first year of graduate school. Some of those include: scales and spaces beyond Earth, movement and migration, toxicity and chemical geographies, intimate spaces, traces, disappearances and hauntings, the poetics of landscape, feminist geography, and  experimental ethnographic methods. During our first year of grad school, we each encountered texts, gallery installations, performances, and talks that jolted us.. Disoriented us.. And ultimately pushed us to think differently and to think otherwise. We’re beyond grateful to have the opportunity to continue these conversations and intellectual pursuits.. And be open to new readings, new methods, and new conversations here this weekend. 

As part of our push to think with and alongside each other, we’ve composed a list of questions to keep in mind and respond to throughout the next two days. You can find these questions both on the printed sheet we’ve passed out and in the digital workspace for the conference -- the Platform for Experimental Collaborative Ethnography or (PECE).  We’re using an instance of PECE hosted by UCI’s Center for Ethnography. 

Following the style of analytic prompts in PECE, we hope that placing these questions and responses in conversation with each other will enrich our analysis and create a textured, multiperspectival response to particular topics and themes throughout the conference. We encourage you to think with and respond to our question set -- which we’ve called “Ait 2020 Spatial Stories Shared Questions.” . If you are a PECE user (which you can become anytime), you can use these questions for annotating each of our panels on the platform, seeing other people’s notes as we go.  If you are not a PECE user, we have hard copies of the questions for you, and if you choose, you can upload your responses to the platform at a later time. This is a great way to collectively and collaboratively think over many of the themes and questions coming up during the conference. This collaborative note-sharing is fully voluntary and optional, but we hope you’ll join us. 

We’d also like to announce that after the conclusion of this conference, we plan to keep these conversations going through a digital working group titled “Spatial Stories.” More details will come on this throughout the weekend, including a workshop on the PECE platform where this working group will be hosted.  We hope you’ll join us in this, too.  

Thank you to all our participants for being here and generously sharing your work. Thank you to all those in attendance who have come to listen and share feedback. And again, welcome to the 12th Annual Anthropology in Transit Conference entitled “Stories-so-Far: Spatial Knowledge and Imaginaires”

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Contributed date

February 7, 2020 - 11:28am

Critical Commentary

Opening remarks for 2020 AiT Stories-So-Far: Spatial Knowledges and Imaginaries