The SEA is happy to announce that our 2015 annual conference will be held in Lexington, Kentucky on the campus of the University of Kentucky.

The dates are April 9-11, 2015.

The theme for the conference is: Technologies and the Transformation of Economies. We have a great organizing team at University of Kentucky and are looking forward to a wonderful event. Put on your thinking caps around the theme of technology. The official Call for Papers will be out in late August or early September.

Technologies and the Transformation of Economies

Program Chairs:
Hsain Ilahiane, PhD, and Marcie L. Venter, PhD, University of Kentucky

Venue: Lexington, Kentucky

April 9-11, 2015

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 digital age, 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; technology and political-economic change, 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 anthropologists, archaeologists, economists, geographers, sociologists, historians, and applied and practicing social scientists.


Horst, H. and Miller, D. 2012.  Normativity and Materiality: A View from Digital Anthropology. Media International Australia (145) 103 – 111.

Kelty, C. 2008. Two Bits: The Cultural Significance of Free Software. Durham: Duke University Press.

Latham, R. and Sassen, S. (eds.) Digital Formations: IT and New Architectures in the Global Realm.  Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Rheingold, H.  2003.  Smart Mobs: The Next Social Revolution.  New York: Basic Books.