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ANTHROPOLOGY-MATTERS  March 2010

ANTHROPOLOGY-MATTERS March 2010

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Subject:

AAA CFP: The Social Life of Achievement

From:

Nick Long <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Nick Long <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Mon, 1 Mar 2010 12:37:25 +0000

Content-Type:

multipart/alternative

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text/plain (136 lines) , AAA CFP.doc (136 lines)

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Hi all - many apologies for sending this twice: for some reason, the  
body of the message did not copy in properly first time round!



///\\\///\\\///\\\///\\\///\\\///\\\



American Anthropological Association Annual Meeting

New Orleans, November 17th- 21st 2010





The Social Life of Achievement



Organizers:            Dr. Nick Long & Professor Henrietta Moore,

Department of Social Anthropology, University of Cambridge




Social theory has often seen human action and agency as motivated by a  
drive to ‘achieve’, or to be successful in particular spheres. This  
panel seeks to establish a critical dialogue between these theoretical  
approaches and ethnographic studies of how notions of ‘achievement’  
circulate in the contemporary world. How do certain notions of being  
‘an achiever’ come to acquire normative force? What subjectivities,  
experiences, and social relations do these discourses engender as they  
circulate within and between a variety of social contexts? How do  
these effects come to influence the motivations behind, and the  
character of, human action?

As ever more countries around the word seek to increase their  
competitiveness in a neoliberal ‘knowledge economy’, notions of  
economic, academic, and personal ‘achievement’ are freely circulating  
in public policy and social life (Ong 2006; Obama 2010). Moreover,  
policy interventions often draw on work within the social sciences  
that posits a drive to become competent as both innate and universal  
(see e.g. Barth 1959; Rowlands 1994; Elliot & Dweck 2005). Policy  
makers see practical value in circulating ideas of ‘achievement’  
because they believe the trope speaks to a fundamental facet of the  
human condition: an innate desire to be better (e.g. McClelland 1961;  
Duncan Smith 2010). This raises a series of important anthropological  
questions. Can we assume that such desires are really human  
universals? What other impulses might come into play – and do these  
have biological or social origins? And even if one is motivated to  
‘achieve’ or ‘become better’, are the consequences of success as  
straightforward as they seem?


This panel seeks to develop new approaches to ‘achievement’ with the  
goal of better understanding the practical consequences – both socio- 
cultural and psychological – of achievement (and failure). In doing  
this we build on two exciting new research directions. The first is a  
growing body of social science research which has found that the  
effects of ‘achievement’ vary profoundly according to social and  
cultural circumstances (e.g. Fordham 1996; Fong 2004; Long 2007;  
Demerath 2009; Long 2010). It may prove emotionally unsatisfying, may  
foster feelings of guilt or self-doubt, and may change the social  
perception of the ‘achievers’ in both positive and negative ways. The  
second is research in developmental psychology which shows that the  
ways in which achievement is experienced during childhood – in  
particular the ways in which children are praised – are very  
influential in shaping their own theories of self, affecting their  
propensity to take risks, be confident or be efficacious in the future  
(e.g. Dweck 1999; Grant & Dweck 2003).


We are therefore interested in exploring achievement’s social life:  
what are the social meanings, and subsequent experiential dimensions,  
of ‘achieving’? How does this affect the ways in which people both  
perceive themselves and relate to others? What can be gained from  
looking at these processes in sequence over the life-course? Answering  
these questions allows us to a) see what might be at stake in policies  
seeking to encourage ‘achievement’; b) offer a more nuanced range of  
tools through which to interpret the causes and consequences of human  
beings’ motivations to succeed (or not) in any given sphere; c)  
consider what is gained and what is lost when analysts frame something  
as ‘achievement’, as opposed to other possible idioms, such as  
‘fulfilment’ or ‘consummation’. The panel thus also reflects on how  
ideas of ‘achievement’ have come to circulate within academic discourse.


We anticipate that this panel will give rise to an edited publication  
on anthropological approaches to achievement.


Please email abstracts, of no more than 250 words, to Nick at [log in to unmask] 
  by 17th March 2010. And if you have any questions or queries, please  
don't hesitate to get in touch!




-- 

Nick Long,
Department of Social Anthropology - Room G.7,
Free School Lane,
Cambridge
CB2 3RF

Tel: +44 (0)1223 763963
Fax: +44 (0)1223 335993

http://www.socanth.cam.ac.uk/staff

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