AAA Committees

Commission on Race and Racism (Inactive)

Commission on Race and Racism in Anthropology and the AAA (CRRA)
(Executive Board Approved; October 2007)


The American Anthropological Association (AAA) and its members are committed to the principles of inclusion and social justice. This commitment is manifest in much of our research and work, not least an ambitious public education program on RACE. However, we recognize that as a profession anthropology in North America is not as diverse as it should be. Many personal experiences attest repeatedly to the continuation of exclusion and privileging by race, ethnicity, class, and gender in numerous settings and institutions in which we are educated and pursue our craft.

As anthropologists and an association committed to social justice and the dismantling of structures of exclusivity, we propose to explore how our own profession continues to privilege some groups over others and how we can overcome such privileging discourses, practices and institutions. If we increase the diversity of our profession -- and thereby the range of ideas, sensibilities, perspectives and visions articulated by those in different sociopolitical positions -- we can regain lost credibility among those with whom we frequently work and ally ourselves and we will enhance the vitality of the AAA and anthropology.


Therefore, the AAA Executive Board establishes an Ad Hoc Commission on Race and Racism within Anthropology and the AAA (CRRA). The general purposes of the commission are:

  1. to collect information in order to better expose how privilege has been maintained in anthropology and the AAA, including but not limited to departments and the academic pipeline and
  2. to develop a comprehensive plan for the Association and for the field of anthropology to increase the ethnic, racial, gender and class diversity of the discipline and organization.

Four Charges

  1. The first charge is to bring to the AOC and EB a revised mandate and plan of action for the Committee on Minority Issues in Anthropology (CMIA). This CMIA was established in the early 1990s after a series of studies and working groups. However, it has seemingly become marginalized and separated from the main decision making apparatus of the association.

    The CRRA will work with the CMIA to evaluate the history, current status and future direction of the CMIA with the goal of increasing its power and the centrality of its mission.

  2. The CRRA will evaluate and make recommendations to the AOC and EB on the implementation of other mechanisms that have the potential to more efficiently bring issues of race and racism to the center of networks of decision making in the AAA. Evaluations will include, for examples, the use of “minority seats” of committees and mechanisms used by other associations.
  3. It is expected that the commission will reinvigorate an association-wide discussion on race and racism in anthropology and the AAA. A starting point may be a discussion of the “progress” made since the 1973 report.

One of the recommendations of the 1973 report is that the AAA “should encourage … continual research and investigation.” Indeed, some of the information needs and areas of possible change that are highlighted below will help to direct changes in CMIA and the AAA. In addition to the above charges, the Commission may further define its own mission by prioritizing and initiating additional data gathering and long-range changes in other arenas such as sections and departments (see bullet list below). The following additional bulleted areas of data gathering and change are starting suggestions.

  • Assist in the formation of an American Indian/Indigenous Anthropology Section. Aid in the formation of a section focused on the concerns on American Indians and other indigenous anthropologists.
  • Collate and Evaluate What Other Associations Are Doing. Collect information on both the degree of diversity and programs to increase diversity of other professional bodies and organizations such as the American Sociological Association and the Geophysical Union. Although each association faces unique challenges, once collected, this information should be compared to our own initiatives with the goal of recommending best practices to anthropology and the AAA.
  • Collate and Evaluate What Anthropology Programs Are Doing. Collect historical and current data on race, ethnic, gender and class diversity of faculty, staff, graduate and undergraduate students in anthropology departments, centers, and programs. At the same time, collect information on the programs and efforts of anthropology departments, centers and programs to increase their diversity and inclusively. To supplement the collection of quantitative data, potentially include interviews and ethnographic information along the lines of work recently conducted by the “Practicing anthropology workgroup” (PAWG) and the Committee on the Engagement of Anthropology with Intelligence and National Security. Commission members may then develop a handout of best practices for recruiting and retaining diverse faculty and student populations.

Existing ideas thus far suggested include:

  • Establishing mentoring programs for graduate students and young faculty of color in the various sub-disciplines of anthropology.
  • Providing travel grants to the AAA Annual Meetings for ethnic and minority undergraduate and graduate students in anthropology.
  • Offering workshops and toolkits for anthropology department chairs on recruiting and retaining a more diverse faculty and undergraduate and graduate students.
  • Collate and Evaluation What Sections and Commissions Are Doing. Collect information on the class, race, ethnic and gender diversity of members by sections within the AAA and any efforts or program of sections to increase their own diversity. For example, the AD now provides travel grants to the meetings for underrepresented minority students. Consider offering funds to Sections to challenge them to come up with programs. Evaluate the need and potential funding sources for a section-based national mentoring program for graduate students and young faculty of color. The AEC currently has a group that is focused on minority educational issues and the CMIA administers a minority fellowship.
  • Collate and Evaluate Practicing Anthropology. What is the current status of diversity are what are the opportunities for increasing the diversity in anthropology in various public and practicing settings?
  • Who teaches Anthropology? Collect information on the teaching of anthropology at K-12, in tribal colleges, historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and community colleges. Who teaches anthropology? How does anthropology get taught? In what school and school systems is anthropology taught? Share information on outreach programs to K-12 and community colleges to encourage students to consider majoring in anthropology in college. Develop a plan to better reach diversify communities of students at the K-12 and community college level.
  • AAA Central Office. Working with the EB, collect data on the history and current state of diversify of staff within the AAA Office and develop a plan to increase diversity to reflect better the metropolitan DC area. This key initiative will be directed by a member of the Executive Board, with a report to the EB, and the possibility of an EB motion.
  • Educating Us. Develop ideas such as regular columns in the AN and plenary sessions and workshops at the AAA annual meetings to highlight the current state of diversity within the Association and efforts to increase diversity. Develop and discuss the ways in which privilege continues to operate in the AAA.
  • Ethnography of US. A number of individuals have suggested that we might try to support (fund?) our own students to study the careers of anthropologists, marginalized or privileged, as well as the institutions they belong to.
  • Funding: All of these activities will cost time and resources. With the help of AAA development, a key goal is to develop a comprehensive and fundable plan for future work.

Modalities of Work

How the commission goes about its work will largely be decided by its leadership and members. In general, the commission anticipates incorporating the following modalities of work:

  • Work plan – the commission will prepare a work plan that lays out a timetable, defines roles for commission members, details how it will work internally and with non commission members, articulates a set of concrete objectives, and identifies the work products it will produce such as reports, hearings, motions to the executive board, and grant applications.
  • Meetings – the commission will arrange conference calls and, where feasible, in-person meetings in order to conduct its business.
  • Communication – the commission will prepare regular progress reports that can be published in the Anthropology News. Such communications will highlight what the commission is working on, characterize discussions, and preview aspects of its future work.
  • Duration – three years

The commission will be composed of six members, two senior honorary co-chairs, and two co-chairs, with the AAA President and President-Elect serving in an ex-officio capacity. At least one member will be from the executive board and two from the Committee on Minority Issues in Anthropology. Based on criteria agreed upon with the co-chairs, members are appointed by the President. The commission will report to the executive board.

Commission Links