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December 24, 2011 / Matthew Wolf-Meyer

AAA Presentations, Quickly

There’s a genre to AAA presentations — like for all conferences — and there’s pragmatic reasons for the genre. Basically, it goes like this:

1) A paragraph long anecdote from your fieldwork
2) The presentation of your argument and brief mention of relevant literature
3) Case #1 to explicate your argument — something ethnographically rich, but no longer than 1.5 pages
4) Case #2, as above
5) Conclusion, including a recapitulation of your argument

Anthropologists love their introductory anecdote — especially one that presents a conundrum or puzzle. This should lead pretty naturally into your argument, so you should pick something that has a logical relation to your thesis.

Your argument should be rather straightforward — don’t give people too much to think about: just one idea will do. Remember, your paper is only 7-8 pages long, and thoroughly explaining one idea will take up that space quickly. Your mention of relevant literature can be quite short — just a couple names will do, if that. Assume that your audience knows the genealogy of your argument, unless it originates from some other, uncommon source.

I may be alone in this, but most of what I remember from past AAA presentations are the empirical cases that people present in their papers. They don’t need to be especially long, but they should be good ones — you want your audience remembering what you do and what your research is based on.

More to come…


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