Meeting Information

SEA’s 2012 Meeting was held March 22-24 in San Antonio, Texas.

Conference sessions was at the Sheraton Gunter Hotel located near the city’s famous Riverwalk with shops, music, museums, restaurants and galleries. Given the theme of this year’s meeting, it is notable that this urban center has never lost its sense of space and history. Richard Reed, Professor and Chair of Sociology and Anthropology at Trinity University and the staff of Trinity’s Office of Conferences and Special Programs coordinated registration and all local arrangements.

HotelThe Gunter is one of San Antonio’s most historic hotels, a short walk from the Riverwalk, Institute of Texan Cultures, Tower of the Americas, El Mercado, the myth-clad Alamo and the historic San Fernando Cathedral. Gunter is offering SEA rooms at a great discount, with newly appointed guest rooms with ergonomic work space and complimentary wireless internet access. There is a year round outdoor pool, fitness center, Gunter Bakery, and McLeod’s Bar.

The Gunter Hotel will be a ten – fifteen minute ride from The San Antonio International Airport. Taxicabs are available directly outside the baggage claim exits (up to four people can ride for the price of one). SA Trans, operates an airport to hotel shuttle van, and one way or round trip tickets can be purchased outside the baggage claim exits.

The Gunter offers SEA participants a very special room rate of $106 a night, single or double occupancy (plus applicable taxes). ALL reservations for hotel rooms must be made by February 25, 2012. You may register by calling Sheraton’s central reservations at 1-888-999-2089. NOTE: You must request the Trinity University SEA Conference rate. As Trinity has negotiated the special rate, your affiliation with the Trinity University reservation is necessary. The rate is only available until February 25, 2012. All reservations must be guaranteed by a major credit card number or advance payment of the first night’s room and tax. The Gunter Hotel is Valet Parking only, at $28.00 per night plus tax (in and out privileges).


Throughout history the economic growth, decline, and resurgence of urban centers has been variously affected by political developments. The morphology of cities has followed ideological ideas about the role and function of urban centers, often consciously put into place by local, state, and colonial leaders. This annual meeting will explore the impacts of the political economy underlying the growth and development of cities on the lived experiences of urbanites. How do these policies affect the ability of city residents to earn reasonable livings? How do they facilitate or discourage the creation of local structures to create meaningful lives? How does the environmental impact of dense urban populations restrain or modulate city growth?

We are especially interested in the ways that various political economies encourage or discourage the movement of specific urban groups. In deep history, political leaders increased urban populations by encouraging artisans and traders to establish themselves locally and increasing labor availability through practices like slavery. They created neighborhoods with specific functions and purposes, many of which were associated with particular ethnic groups. In more recent history, governments created ghettos or ethnic enclaves within urban centers and discouraged city growth through tools such as urban residence permits. Today, political instruments such as zoning regulations, planned development initiatives, and slum rehabilitation programs all constrain or mediate economic activities and population movements into and within urban centers.

These topics have been studied in various ways by archaeologists, socio-cultural anthropologists, and economists. Thus, economic anthropology offers a valuable perspective to understand these issues as the discipline is concerned with the interplay of urbanism, political economy, cultural identity, social change, and development within past and present local contexts.

Among the issues that this meeting hopes to address are the following:

Urban planning over time

  • What specific tools and strategies have political leaders used to encourage and discourage urban growth and economic activities in different times and places?
  • In what ways have political leaders attempted to create specific urban forms? To what extent do these forms facilitate the integration or the separation of different urban groups (e.g., occupational groups, ethnic groups)?
  • To what extent have decision makers invoked the political and economic explicitly? To what extent have they used religious, ideological, or socio-cultural reasons?
  • How effective have these planning measures been? To what extent have leaders faced unanticipated consequences, such as environmental degradation or ethnic violence? To what extent have ordinary urban residents attempted to create their own sense of meaning and place, distinct from that of elites or leaders?
  • How have these forms of growth and planning affected the lives of urban residents?

Voluntary movement to/from and within cities

  • What strategies have political leaders used to encourage migration to or from urban enclaves/districts and the placement of groups in particular neighborhoods – in different times and places? These might include strategies such as: providing neighborhoods for long-distance traders, resources and markets for artisans, advertisements of jobs, gentrification.
  • To what extent have these strategies been effective in creating the kinds of urban centers envisaged by leaders?
  • To what extent have urbanites used voluntary movement to, from, or within cities to create more meaningful lives and better living standards?
  • To what extent have forms of voluntary movement within cities led to greater integration and/or differentiation among different urban groups? For example, to what extent do forms of voluntary movement exacerbate or assuage local class or ethnic distinctions?

Forced movement to/from and within cities

  • What strategies have been used to forcibly move populations to, from, or within cities? These might include: bringing slaves to newly formed urban centers, compelling certain ethnic groups to reside in particular neighborhoods, zoning regulations that prohibit certain occupations, urban renewal, development projects that require community resettlement.
  • To what extent have these strategies been effective in creating the kinds of cities envisaged by leaders?
  • Much existing literature suggests that forced movement is usually detrimental to those forced to resettle; their standards of living decrease and their cultural lives are significantly disrupted. Are forced movements of these kinds ever justified? If so, in what ways can their impacts be made less disruptive?
  • What are the long-term political and socioeconomic consequences of these kinds of moves on the descendants of these resettled populations?

These questions are especially important as the world’s population of 6.7 billion is now on verge of becoming predominantly urban. Today, all the continents have or soon will have 50% urban populations. Anthropology, with its knowledge of both past and present forms of urban growth, offers viable frameworks for understanding the enduring aspects of these issues.

Poster Presentations

An equally important part of its annual conference is its engaging poster session. In addition to posters on the conference theme, the SEA welcomes posters on any topic related to economic anthropology. Students and scholars whose work may not fit the central theme of the meeting are encouraged to submit a poster. The inclusive poster session is a major event of each year’s SEA conference.

Meeting City

The meeting will be held at the Sheraton Gunter Hotel in San Antonio, Texas with Richard Reed (Trinity University) serving as Local Arrangments Coordinator. San Antonio, a historic North American city formed around five 18th century missions, is now undergoing urban growth oriented around mixed use development in the municipal core and the integration of the contemporary city with the older missions. Thus, it is a great place to have a meeting focused on the political economy of cities. Moreover San Antonio will be fun, with great weather and amenities. The hotel is next to the city’s famous Riverwalk, with numerous shops, music venues, restaurants, museums and art galleries.

SEA Provisional Program

Thursday, March 22, 2012

4:30 pm Registration
5:00-6:00pm Editorial board meeting
6:00-7:30pm Executive board meeting

8:00 Opening Plenary
Welcome by Kate Browne (Colorado State University), SEA President
Welcome to San Antonio and Speaker Introduction by Richard Reed (Trinity University)
Christine Drennon (Trinity University), “Fluid San Antonio: Essentialism in the Mythical City”
Followed by Informal Cash Bar

Friday, March 23, 2012

8:00am Registration
8:30am Opening Remarks, Dolores Koenig (American University) and Ty Matejowsky (University of Central Florida)

8:45-11:50am Session 1 Planning and Planners: Creating Urban Landscapes
Sesson Chair: TBA

8:45-9:25 Denise Lawrence (Cal Poly Pomona), “Aesthetic Governmentality: Immigrants, Gentrifiers and Planners”

9:25-10:05 Robert Rotenberg (DePaul University), “Design Standards as Urban Planning: From Technical Specification to Community Look”

10:05-10:20 Coffee Break

10:20-11:00 Tiwanna DeMoss (American University), “From Informal Settlements to Formality: A Resettlement Community’s Adaptation to Township Urban Planning and Spatial Conformity in Port Elizabeth, South Africa”

11:00-11:40 Ana Pimental Walker (University of California, San Diego), “From Legalizing Housing to Legalizing Labor: New Trends in the Participatory Budgeting of Porto Alegre
11:40-11:50 Discussion

12:00pm Business lunch
SEA business meeting
Presentation of Schneider prize paper

2:00-5:05pm Session 2 The Political Economy of Urban Space: Past and Present
Session Chair: TBA

2:00-2:40 Bernadette Cap (University of Wisconsin-Madison), Meaghan Peuramaki-Brown (University of Calgary), and Jason Yaeger (University of Texas-San Antonio), “Urban Development and Economy at the Classic Maya Site of Buenavista del Cayo Belize”

2:40-3:20 Arthur Murphy (University of North Carolina at Greensboro) and Ignacio Enrique Silva Leyha (Instituto Tecnologico de Oaxaca/Universidad Regional del Sureste), “The Urban System of the Central Valleys of Oaxaca”

3:20 Coffee Break

3:45-4:25 Landon Yarrington (University of Arizona), “The Paved and the Unpaved: Toward a Political Economy of Infrastructure, Urbanization, and Mobility in Haiti and the Caribbean

4:25-5:05 Rebecca Frischkorn (American University), “The Zambian Ministry of Home Affairs, the Regulation of Space and Urban Refugees

5:15-6:45pm Poster Session 1 Cities, Migration, and Urban Growth
Russell Edwards (University of Central Florida), “The Best Laid Plans: Understanding Implications and Perceptions of Tourism Zones in Urban Colombia”

Eli Elinoff (University of California, San Diego), “Contingent City, Contingent Citizen: Bureaucratic Interventions, Urban Possibilities, and the Politics of the Contingent Urbanism in Northeastern Thailand”

Agapi Filini (Centro de Estudios Arqueológicos), “Teotihuacan: ritual economy and the intensification of urbanization processes in a pre-capitalist setting”

Diane Garbow (Temple University), “Rescaling the Meanings of Migration: The Politics of Citizenship in the Transformation of the City of Brotherly Love”

Chihiro Ito (Research Institute for Humanity and Nature), “Transformation of Urban-Rural Relationships in Zambia: From the Analysis of People’s Mobility in Rural Livelihoods”

Robert Johnson (Wayne State University), “A compelling public interest: The effects of the use of the credit report in the hiring of African-American employees”

Corey Kerkela (University of Central Florida), “Greener Grasses: Understanding Socioeconomic Variables Effecting Maya Urbanization and Migration”

Sayema Khatun (Jahangirnagar University), “Transformation of Agricultural Land into Housing Projects around the City of Dhaka and Agency of Local People”

Dripta Nag (IPE Global), “The disintegrating Chinese community in Kolkata,India: A question on the effectiveness of 74th amendment”

Geoffrey Nwaka (Abia State University), “The Urban Poor and the Right to the City in Nigeria/Africa”

Andre Francisco Pilon (University of São Paulo), “Environment, Sustainability and Quality of Life: An Ecosystemic Approach to the Problems of our Times”

Janice Stiglich (University of Central Florida), “The Role of Non-governmental, Private, and Community Institutions in Shaping Employment Conditions of Female Domestic Workers in Lima, Peru”

Wendy Thompson Taiwo (Clarkson University), “Guangzhou/Lagos: Tracing the Routes of Yoruba Traders in China”

Keeanga Taylor (Northwestern University), “Racism, Riots and Real Estate: The Political Economy of Black Homeownership in the 1970s”

Friday evening: Dinner on your own

Saturday, March 24, 2012

8:30am Remarks, Dolores Koenig, Ty Matejowsky, and Richard Reed

8:45-11:50am Session 3 Building, Maintaining, and Changing Urban Economies
Session Chair: Yuson Jung (Wayne State University)

8:45-9:25 Monica Smith (University of California, Los Angeles), “Seeking Abundance: Consumption as an Economic Motive for Early Urbanism”

9:25-10:05 Alan Smart (University of Calgary) and Josephine Smart (University of Calgary), “Formalizing Hong Kong: Explaining Governmental Efforts to Eradicate and Control Informality”

10:05 Coffee Break

10:20-11:00 Lynne Milgram (Ontario College of Art and Design University), “Contesting Urban Livelihoods: The Politics of Marketplace Redevelopment in Baguio City, Philippines

11:00-11:40 Kinga Pozniak (University of Western Ontario), “A Model Socialist Steel Town Enters the Postindustrial Liberal Age: The Changing Political Economy of Nowa Huta, Poland”

11:40-11:50 Discussion

12:00-1:30pm Lunch on your own

1:30-4:40pm Session 4 The Political Economy of Urban Identities
Session Chair: TBA

1:30-2:10 Christina Dykstra (University of Wisconsin-Madison), “Community and Shifting Political Identities in the Upper Belize River Valley during the Late Classic: An Analysis of Ceramic and Architectural Attributes”

2:10-2:50 Walter Little (University at Albany, SUNY), “Urban Street Economies and Spatial Governmentalities in a World Heritage City”

2:50-3:05 Coffee Break

3:05-3:45 Brenda Chalfin (University of Florida), “Waste Matters: Public Toilets and Public Life on Ghana’s Urban Periphery”

3:45-4:25 Alex Wilson (York University), “City Branding Games: Toronto as Host of the 2015 Pan/Parapan American Games”

4:25-4:40 Discussion

4:45-5:45pm Poster Session 2: Issues in Economic Anthropology
Ana Juarez (Texas State University – San Marcos), “Making Cemeteries: Mexican Americans, Indigents, and Cultural Citizenship”

Carolyn Lesorogol (Washington University) and Randall Boone (Colorado State University), “Using Computer Simulation Models to Improve Understanding of Land Use Change”

Nestor Marquez-Diaz (University of Central Florida), Title TBA

Nicole Peterson (University of North Carolina at Charlotte), “‘We want to do something more than housework’: Enterprising women in Mexican fishing communities”

Siddiqur Rahman (Jahangirnagar University), “Reproduction of Urban Classes in Bangladesh in the Context of Globalization”

Rachael Tackett (University of South Florida), “Creating a New Commons: The Changing Political Economy of Public Spaces with the Advent of Digital Social Networks and Social Media”

Aeleka Schortman (University of Kentucky), “Always a Campesino?: Urban Dreams, Rural Fall-backs, and the Declining Viability of Small-Scale Farming in Urbanizing, Industrializing Northern Honduras”

Gordon Ulmer (Ohio State University) and Jeffrey Cohen (Ohio State University), “Ecotourism and Extraction in Madre de Dios, Amazonia Peru”

Richard Wallace (California State University, Stanislaus), “An Exploratory Study of the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) Shareholder Experience in the Central Valley of California”

6:30pm SEA Banquet: Rosarios Mexican Cafe y Cantina

Sunday, March 25, 2102

9:30-11:30am Optional Excursions
1) Riverwalk North to the Pearl Brewery
2) Riverwalk Extension, Mission Reach