Issues & News

C-SPAN Airs 2009 Presidential Session Honoring S. Ann Dunham

During the American Anthropological Association's 2009 annual meeting in Philadelphia, Duke University Press announced its recent publication of Surviving Against the Odds, a revised and edited version of S. Ann Dunham's 1992 University of Hawaii dissertation on metalworking industries in Java, Indonesia. Ms. Dunham, President Barack Obama's mother, died in 1995. To honor her pioneering work, the AAA held a presidential session that was taped by C-SPAN. The video will be aired on Sunday, Jan. 20.

The abstract for this presidential session is copied below:

Surviving and Thriving in Indonesia: Presidential Session in Honor of Ann Dunham

To what end does an anthropologist expose her children to the broad world view our discipline entails, including the experience of living abroad? And to what end does the son of that same anthropologist, so exposed during his formative years, carry some of that world view into the Office of President of the United States? While keeping these questions in mind, this session honors Stanley Ann Dunham, the mother of Barack Obama and Maya Soetoro-Ng, through scholarship on Indonesia. Most of the panelists personally knew Dunham and all are familiar with her work as an economic anthropologist and rural development consultant. Drawing on her 1992 dissertation subtitle, “Surviving and Thriving against all Odds,” this session considers how ordinary Indonesians are “surviving and thriving” into the 21st Century. We know that Ann would want scholarship on these topics to thrive so that the rest of the world can be as well-informed about Indonesia as she tried to keep her children. Nancy Lee Peluso, Dunham’s colleague and friend, will focus on rural livelihoods, structural poverty, and decision-making in the wake of structural change—all topics of importance to Dunham. Alice G. Dewey, Dunham’s graduate advisor, mentor in economic anthropology, and close friend will speak on ‘Traditional Powers for a Modern King’, in reference to the current Governor and Sultan of Yogyakarta, the special province of Indonesia, where Dunham did much of her work. Nancy I. Cooper, a graduate student with Dunham, will speak on ‘Retuning Javanese Identities’ in the face of modernization, through the revitalization of rituals and musical genres in the Gunungkidul regency of Yogyakarta where Dunham also worked. Robert W. Hefner will speak on ‘The “Little People” (wong cilik) Deferred: Indonesian Politics, Economics, and Religion since Ann Dunham’s Day.’ Hefner pays particular attention to the problem of economic marginalization that haunts Dunham’s scholarship, examining ways in which religion and civil society have conformed to and diverged from what she and other anthropologists anticipated. Mary S. Zurbuchen worked with Dunham in Jakarta under the auspices of the Ford Foundation. She notes that Dunham not only was able to shape her anthropologist’s perspectives in the philanthropic context, but that she also began important work in the realm of civil society and gender justice that had a deeper impact than is often recognized. Ann Dunham’s daughter, Maya Soetoro-Ng, will respond to the discussants’ comments and a general discussion will ensue. She will then be presented with the first copy of Dunham’s posthumously published book, Surviving against the Odds: Village Industry in Indonesia, edited by Alice G. Dewey and Nancy I. Cooper and published by Duke University Press.