AES 2023 Indeterminacy

2023 AES/APLA/CAE Spring Conference
Mar 23, 2023Mar 25, 2023


Event Description

This year’s AAA spring conference (March 23-25, 2023) is committed to exploring the nature and dangers of indeterminacy.  The time has come for indeterminacy to be interrogated, not least for the ways it prevents a rush to judgment, enables prurient behavior, and creates blind spots towards injustice.  Yet if anthropology is to avoid retreating to a high moralizing stance, it must leave itself open to forms of indeterminacy that enables existence, trespass, and interruption for those living in subjugation and systems of oppression.  Pedagogy and education, both formal and informal, have to struggle with communicating the necessity of indeterminacy for improvisation and newness.  Indeterminacy and ambiguity are also often the wellspring of insights into the divine. Thus, at the same time we interrogate indeterminacy, we must also acknowledge that everywhere we live with indeterminacy.  Such is the coil of a mode of academic inquiry that takes the social for its object and is thereby inextricably bound up with its polarities and oscillations.  Is there a way to think of indeterminacy without resolving matters once and for all? 

Topics for consideration range from issues of what is taken as a fact (for example, where perceptions of relative indeterminacy in climate science is leveraged to create doubt about anthropogenic climate change) to those of meaning (as in the case of multiple sexual harassment and sexual abuse cases with sufficient cause for ambiguity in the law reducing the blunt of charges of violence and transgression to a he said/she said melodrama, thus, pandering to a form of toxic masculinity). Some areas where indeterminacy seems to have paralyzed scholarly analysis are those relating to the nation-state, whether it is still a form with which to tarry or has it merely become a handmaiden of capital?  If the pandemic has shown us anything, it is that no hegemonic power lets a good crisis of predictability go to waste.  Is social media a force for the good or the bad?  Given the global uptake of conspiracy theories of many kinds and the violence that they have produced, time has come for some genuine soul-searching about our desire for instant translatability or communicability.  Do AI and robots pose a challenge to labor and forms of work?  Ask people working for Amazon.  Are we in an interconnected world or in separate worlds?  While the trans-border movement of pollution and waste provide one vantage, the differential spread of suffering around the war in Ukraine provides another.  And then there is the indeterminacy that comes from the unfinished business of the past or the complete obscurity of the future that may not be in people’s consciousness but that erupts into the present insistently.  It reminds us of our immersion within other structures than those of which we are aware, other strata of time than that of the present alone, and the changeable nature of our own susceptibilities.  Perhaps one way to think of forms of indeterminacy is to ask what sustains them, what do they sustain, and what are the prices of establishing certainties in their wake?

This in-person conference will take place between March 23-25, 2023 at Princeton University. It is being co-hosted by three subsections of the AAA: AES, APLA and CAE. 

COVID guidelines:  Princeton University’s visitor guidelines apply to all attendees of the conference.

Hotel information is now available. Please use this link to make your hotel booking at the Westin Hotel at Forrestal Village. Those wishing to come in on Wednesday, March 22, should be able to get the conference rate for that night but it will require you to call the hotel directly. There will be shuttle service between the hotel and Princeton campus during the conference. There are places to eat on campus during the day on Friday (find map of campus here). You can find a list of local restaurants here. You are advised to make advance reservations for lunch or dinner.

The nearest airport to Princeton University is Trenton-Mercer (TTN) Airport which is 9.7 miles away. Other nearby airports include Newark (EWR) (34.9 miles), Philadelphia (PHL) (45.3 miles), New York JFK (JFK) (50.7 miles) and New York La Guardia (LGA) (51.2 miles). The most conveniently accessed international airport is Newark Liberty International.  The University is easily accessible by train, which runs along the Northeast Corridor line and also stops at Newark airport. Both Amtrak and NJ TRANSIT trains stop at Princeton Junction. Travelers can then transfer to a single-car train operated by NJ TRANSIT, known locally as the “Dinky,” for the five-minute ride to Princeton Station. The station is located on Alexander Street at the southern end of campus.

Click here to view the schedule.


Click here for more information and registration.


Council of Anthropology and Education (CAE)

Association for Political and Legal Anthropology (APLA)

  • Princeton University Department of Anthropology
  • American Ethnological Society
  • American Anthropological Association
  • Johns Hopkins Kreiger School of Arts & Sciences
  • Association for Political and Legal Anthropology
  • Council on Anthropology and Education