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The Next AAA Public Education Project: A Call for Ideas

Editor’s note: This letter was posted on the AAA website on August 31, 2010

Leith Mullings

AAA President-Elect

One of the most important roles of the American Anthropological Association is to help anthropologists make significant contributions to the production of public knowledge. Our public education project, RACE Are We So Different?, is a wonderful example, having garnered award-winning acclaim through concurrent museum exhibits, a book project, a website and more, thanks to nearly $4.5 million in grants from the Ford Foundation and the National Science Foundation. Despite today’s difficult economic climate, it is time for us to build on the success of this project and begin the process of developing our next public education initiative.

The Executive Board has enthusiastically endorsed this direction and as President-Elect, I would like to invite you to consult with your constituencies and share any ideas about potential topics and formats that might be suitable for our next public project. As you think about this, please keep in mind that the project should be something to which anthropologists can make unique contributions and ideally could involve all four fields of anthropology. Equally important is the relevance of the topic to public concerns and anthropology’s ability to increase public understanding of these issues. I would also encourage you to think about how the project could be implemented in ways that will engage the public in a lively—and perhaps participatory—manner.

At this preliminary stage of the process, we are hoping to solicit a range of ideas from a broad section of our membership. If you have a suggestion you would like to share, please:

(1) Identify the topic and its relevance to both anthropology and the public,

(2) Explain anthropology’s unique contribution to the topic,

(3) Suggest an appropriate format (K–12 initiatives, museum exhibition, publications, website, TV show) to present the topic in ways that could invigorate public discussion and

(4) Include any ideas on how to raise foundation support.

Please send me your thoughts by slow mail or email by October 30. All correspondence will be reviewed by an advisory committee/task force. This task force will meet at the November annual meeting where they will solicit additional input and feedback. After reviewing the suggestions and proposals, the committee will present recommendations to the Executive Board, which will determine the next steps.

This is the time to let us know your thoughts about what AAA’s next major public education project should be. I will be very excited to hear all the good ideas that are out there, and I thank you for taking the time to share them with me.

Leith Mullings is AAA President-Elect and can be reached at LMullings@gc.cuny.edu.

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