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Bristol hosts RAI Student Conference 2018

Sam Legg (University of Manchester), performing a piece from his 'Academic People Watchers' project.

2 October 2018

In September, the University of Bristol was proud to host the Royal Anthropological Institute’s (RAI) Student Conference 2018, with the theme ‘Where are we going? Reflections on the future of human beings and the anthropological disciplines’. Students from institutions all around the country came together to present their work, some with the ink still drying on recently finished dissertations and progress reports.

Originally dubbed a ‘pop up’ conference due to the short notice with which it was organised, the event was expanded from a planned one-day event to a two-day programme due to the sheer number of quality submissions received. And these submissions sure enough translated into engaging presentations, with anthropological perspectives on health, science, technology, education, the arts, politics and more.

Space does not permit a review of all the great content from the event but some selected highlights were as follows:

  • Ray Williams (University of Oxford, undergraduate) recuperating concepts from classical anthropology for contemporary use;
  • Ali Blatcher (University College London, PGT) giving an auto-ethnographic testimony about her experience on a reality TV game show; 
  • Sam Passmore (University of Bristol, PGR) on mapping the mind-boggling number of possible kinship terms; 
  • Lidija Burcak (Goldsmiths, PGR) with her visual anthropology work ‘Broken Skin’, an unflinching look at the lives of psoriasis sufferers.

The high level of the presentations was matched by a keen audience engagement throughout the event, keeping discussions spilling over from the Q&A sessions into the coffee breaks.

This also ensured plenty of questions for Professor Graeme Were, Head of the Department of Anthropology and Archaeology at the University of Bristol, following his keynote speech on how museums in Papua New Guinea are keeping the past alive via digital technology.

The final afternoon ended on a musical note with Sam Legg (University of Manchester, PGT) performing songs from his ‘Academic People Watchers’ project, bringing to a close a stimulating and inspiring couple of days. If the work presented here by this next generation of anthropologists is anything to go by, then the discipline is in safe hands.

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