Image adapted from Kat N.L.M.

Call for papers: 2015 SEA conference April 9-11



Lexington, Kentucky

April 9th – 11th, 2015

Keynote Speaker: Professor Barbara Mills, University of Arizona

MEETING FORMAT The SEA meetings provide a rare opportunity for a focused and coherent program of presentation, with time for critical discussion in a convivial intellectual setting. Papers are selected for a program that allows 15-20 minutes for presentation and 15-20 minutes for discussion in plenary sessions over two days. Papers and posters from the SEA annual will be considered for publication in a special issue of the society’s journal: Economic Anthropology. Submitting a paper for the plenary sessions represents a commitment that you wish to be considered for inclusion in the journal. We encourage archaeologists, cultural anthropologists, economists, and other scholars concerned with the meeting theme to submit abstracts.

POSTER PRESENTATIONS The SEA “happy hour” poster session is an inclusive and well-attended event at each annual conference. Papers not accepted for oral presentation are automatically eligible for inclusion in the poster session. Scholars whose work may not fit the central theme of the meeting are encouraged to submit a poster. The SEA always welcomes posters on any topic in economic anthropology.  

TECHNOLOGIES AND THE TRANSFORMATION OF ECONOMIES From early iron forging, to ceramic monetary systems, to recent currency “creations” such as bit-coin; from gathering and hunting food harvesting technologies, to farming communities seeking cell phone based climate forecasting, to booms and busts of silicon valley and the digital age, technology has been ever-present in human economic life, past and present. Technology, whether prehistoric inventions such as the wheel, or 21st century wireless communication, intersects with social and economic life and transforms human experience.

In the ancient world technological innovations were linked to the intensification of agriculture to feed growing populations; they permitted the extension of trade routes; and they expedited the extraction and transformation of mineral resources. In many instances, technological transformations made the impossible possible, allowing for the effects of climate and geography to be mitigated for the purposes of food production. The Early Modern Atlantic World itself was the product of technological innovations spurred by economic competition between world empires. In the subsequent Industrial Age, the connections between technology and economic expansion intensified, contributing to a scale of socio-economic inequality not previously seen.

In more recent times, we see an explosion of interest in the use of new technologies to solve pressing and cross-cutting problems of social, economic and political development. Scholarly literature and popular media are replete with success stories: workers and freelancers generating higher revenues thanks to the availability of mobile phones; migrants wiring needed cash home using mobile banking and financial formats; entrepreneurs engaging in direct exchange with customers using online platforms and electronic payments and currencies; farmers using internet-based market price bulletins and mobile phones to negotiate for higher prices for their agricultural products; e-health using wireless applications to promote health services in remote and underserved areas; e-government initiatives to curtail corruption and red tape procedures; and smart mobs employing social media (websites, YouTube, twitter, etc.) to mobilize and escalate protests in times of political and economic crises (Rheingold 2003). These technologies are engendering new ways of doing business and innovative economic exchanges, changing practices of self-representation, diverse modalities of engaging the nation state and emergent “recursive publics” (Kelty 2008), and novel forms of collaboration, irrespective of space and time constraints (Latham and Sassen 2005).

However, these new technologies raise critical questions: are the uses of these technologies changing political, economic and social dynamics? Is the “information/knowledge society” an inclusive one that accommodates the needs and aspirations of the poor and the marginalized?

Without doubt social-cultural life, whether in the present age of the internet of things, or past mechanical eras, is marked by a rapid speed of technical innovation, and societies eventually take advances for granted and create normative conditions for their use. As Horst and Miller (2012) recently argued “what we experience is not a technology per se but an immediately culturally inflected genre of usage.” Consequently, the key for anthropology is to investigate these nascent technologies before they become “rapidly mundane” (ibid). This is important because it enables us to understand how technologies are changing human lives and cultures around the world, but also vice-versa: how cultural meanings and practices can change technologies to ensure that they enhance people’s lives and values rather than constrain or limit them.

We seek papers that explore different historical and spatial “sites” where technologies, economies and social-cultural life intersect in powerful ways. Potential themes for exploration include: the linkages between the historical development of technologies, economic systems, and social-cultural change; the role of technology in exchange and trade; livelihoods and technology; technological innovations, choices, and political economic strategies; information technology and economic development; ontological questions of economic life in the technological age, and methodological issues in the study of technologies and economies. The topic is inherently interdisciplinary, demanding diversity in temporal scale, analytical unit and theoretical orientation, and thus we welcome submissions from socio-cultural anthropologists, archaeologists, economists, geographers, sociologists, historians, and applied and practicing social scientists.


Abstracts of proposed papers and posters should be no more than 500 words. Abstracts are due no later than December 15th, 2014. Abstracts must include the following sections: problem statement and theoretical frame, methodology, results, and implications. At the top of your abstract, please indicate your willingness to present a poster if the organizers are unable to accommodate your paper in the plenary sessions. Poster sessions at SEA are taken very seriously, and most conference participants attend these sessions. In order to be considered for inclusion in the journal issue tied to this theme, please plan to have a complete, publishable-quality version of your paper ready at the time of the conference. Additional information for potential authors will follow.


WEBSITE for registration is COMING SOON!  Registration is $100 for members, $125 for nonmembers and $70 for students. Please note that refunds can be issued up to one month in advance of the meetings in the case that your abstract is not accepted.


Hsain Ilahiane, Department of Anthropology, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY 40506, hsain.ilahiane[at]uky[dot]edu, phone: 859-257-6920.

Marcie L. Venter, Department of Anthropology, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY 40506, marcie.venter[at]uky[dot]edu, phone: 859-257-2710.

More info on the meeting