Distraction Free Reading

2017 Message from the Co-Chairs

2016 was a busy year for CASTAC members. The wealth of articles that we can now share through our online directory, books published or soon to be, blog posts made here and elsewhere, and the many great talks in Minneapolis suggest what we have been up to: that is, of course, applying critical anthropological attention to science, technology and computing, and interrogating social practices and systems of meaning and power. We have researched, written, edited, taught, mentored, reviewed, and managed. We have a lot to be proud of and a lot in the works.

As an organization, CASTAC has been busy, too. We have continued to grow our presence online, at the AAA meetings, and beyond. In this post, we’ll recap what we’ve been up to this past year and talk about what’s in the works for the year to come.

We’re pleased to report an increase in submissions for the Diana Forsythe Prize, which CASTAC facilitates in conjunction with the Society for the Anthropology of Work and with the support of the General Anthropology Division and Bern Shen. This year’s winner was Eben Kirksey, for his work on symbiotic possibilities in the wreckage of ongoing environmental disaster, Emergent Ecologies. Everett Zhang’s The Impotence Epidemic, a careful study of impotence as a social phenomenon in post-Maoist China, received an honorable mention. You can find blog posts by both Kirksey and Zhang right here on Platypus. Thanks to Nina Brown, Alexander Edmonds, and chair Stefan Helmreich, our prize committee, for reading all the nominated books!

CASTAC’s Student Paper Prize is now in its second year, and  has been renamed the David Hakken Student Paper Prize to celebrate the life and work of our late colleague David Hakken, who passed away last year. This year’s winner is Kellie Owens, for her paper, “Too Much of A Good Thing?: American Childbirth, Intentional Ignorance, and the Boundaries of Responsible Knowledge.” Shreeharsh Kelkar received an honorable mention for his paper, “Platformizing Pedagogy: MOOC Infrastructures and the Transformation of Roles.” We congratulate them and thank the prize committee: Patricia Lange, Lisa Messeri, and  the winner of the 2015 student paper prize Risa Cromer.

In recent years, CASTAC has had a strong showing at the AAAs, both in terms of panels and events beyond the AAA program. One of these, the junior-senior mentor program that we instituted at the 2014 AAA Annual Meetings, continued to allow mentors and mentees at many stages of their careers  to meet and discuss research, writing, navigating graduate school, teaching, and the tenure process. Based upon the largely positive feedback we’ve received from those who have taken part, we look forward to building the program further in the coming years, striving not only to connect junior and senior academics, but to make opportunities for workshopping articles and to facilitate collaboration across academy/industry lines, particularly critical given the shifting institutional landscape of contemporary anthropology.

At this year’s AAA meetings, CASTAC members put together lots of great panels; CASTAC organized a roundtable discussion on computation and anthropology featuring Heather Horst, Graham Jones, and Mary Gray. At the Barcelona meeting of the Society for Social Studies of Science, CASTAC co-sponsored an ethnographer’s lunch with the Future Anthropologies Network and #xcol. Together with the Media Anthropology Network and the Digital Anthropology Interest Group, we hosted an e-seminar on the uses of Facebook as a field site and venue for research dissemination, featuring our own Jordan Kraemer. You can read the e-seminar proceedings.

Screen shot of Assemblage, the new CASTAC membership directory header and menu.

Thanks to the work of Angela VandenBroek, our intrepid web producer, CASTAC also now has an online directory called, of course, Assemblage. Sign up for your own profile! We’ve also continued to experiment with social media platforms, and you can join us in discussion on Slack, by signing up here.


Looking ahead

Over the next year, we’re excited to maintain the programs that have been growing over the last few years. Huge thanks are due to outgoing co-chair Jenny Carlson, who now joins the board of the General Anthropology Division of the AAA as a Member-at-Large as well as the pantheon of former CASTAC chairs, and to Jordan Kraemer, whose work as blog editor has been both careful and dynamic. Platypus has thrived with her attention, and we’re looking forward to seeing what new blog editor Ian Lowrie cooks up over the years to come.

Co-chair Nick Seaver is on the organizing collective for this year’s meeting of the Society for Social Studies of Science in Boston, so look forward to CASTAC-sponsored events there.

Many CASTAC members have been working tirelessly in response to recent political developments in the United States, and we are happy to support these efforts however we can, drawing on the diverse expertise of our members. If you have any other ideas about things you’d like to see CASTAC try or ways we can support innovative work at the intersection of anthropology and STS, drop us a line: co-chairs@castac.org.

See you in Washington, D.C.!


Your co-chairs,

Beth Reddy (Bucknell University)

Nick Seaver (Tufts University)


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