A Look Back at 2021

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Like every other organization, the Association regained its footing under the “new normal” in 2021 with all of the ins and outs/ups and downs that entailed. Thank you for all that you’ve helped the AAA accomplish in 2021. Here are just a few highlights from the past year.

Five-Year Strategic Plan

The Association’s new five-year strategic plan is the culmination of nearly a year’s work involving the Executive Board, MPAAC, the Section Leadership, and the general membership. This plan lays out four strategic priorities, including building a trustworthy and accountable organization, promoting equitable circulation of anthropological knowledge, expanding our community of anthropologists working in government, NGO, and business settings; and increasing public awareness of the important contributions made by our members.


In 2021, 127 memberships were gifted by members, professors, friends, and loved ones. Member Advocates brought 116 new members into the AAA community. We welcomed 65 recent graduates who either self-nominated or were nominated by their professors for free AAA memberships through our New & Recent Graduate Program. This past year, 63 outstanding K-12 students received the Junior Anthropologist Award, and the K-12 Educator membership categories added 32 members. Additionally, the AIA + AAA partnered providing 36 complimentary membership and annual meeting registration waivers to American Indian and Alaska Native Enrolled Tribal Citizens.

The Department Services Program (DSP) saw record numbers this year, adding 123 new DSP partners. There are now 321 DSP partners worldwide.

Advocacy and Public Outreach

AAA issued 17 statements and 38 letters of support both independently and in collaboration with our sister organizations on topics such as anti-Asian violence, tenure, and efforts to restrict education about racism in American History.

We added four additional podcast collaborators to the AAA Podcast library bring the total number to 27.

On Anthropology Day (February 18), 244 groups representing 15 countries and regions signed up to celebrate the discipline in new and exciting ways.

Meetings and Professional Development

The Annual Meeting returned this year, with 1,800 members joining us in Baltimore and 2,600 participating online. There were 335 in-persons sessions, some of which were streamed live, and 282 virtual sessions. Registrants can browse all the meeting recordings in the event app, Pathable, until June 2022.

The AAA Summer Internship Program (now known as the Louise Lamphere Internship Program) went virtual again this year. In addition to working on Association projects, Alex Owens, Beatriz Torres Rios, and Hayat Zarzour also lent their talents to our partners at the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage and the Naval History & Heritage Command.

Education & Research

This year, the Education, Research and Professional Development Department:

  • Began planning for a “soft launch” of the World on the Move traveling exhibition, to take place in Washington, DC, in the summer of 2022
  • Organized a hybrid Anthropologists Go Back to School (AGBTS) event, in which anthropologists around the world introduced public middle and high school students in Baltimore, MD to the discipline
  • Established an Education and Outreach Advisory Board, primarily made up of AAA members who teach in high schools, to help set the direction of the Association’s K–12 outreach
  • Guided the Undergraduate Research Fellows through the process of writing up their work and submitting it for peer review
  • Published work by the 2020 high school interns, and coordinated virtual 2021 high school and summer internships
  • Offered a virtual Summer Institute and monthly networking calls for leaders of partner departments in the AAA’s Department Services Program


In 2021 Anthropology News published 191 articles from 241 contributing authors. The AAA also published three issues of our digital-only, public journal Open Anthropology with new editors Cathy Costin and Michael Ennis-McMillan at the helm.

The AAA’s publications team also oversaw the completion of an anthropology-specific taxonomy and met with editors and section leaders at various times throughout the past year as the AAA looks toward its next publishing contract.


Thanks to a generous grant from the Wenner-Gren Foundation, the Association is upgrading an important educational resource; the UnderstandingRace.org website.  This online resource gets 10,000 visitors a month and uses current findings from across the subfields of anthropology to challenge the notion that racial identities are biologically based and fixed. Its teaching guides help to rectify misconceptions about human biological variation and contribute to timely public conversations regarding social injustices.

Thanks to the generosity of nearly 200 peers who contributed between $10-$100 each to a fund to provide financial assistance for the 2021 Annual Meeting, we were able to provide complimentary registration to 66 members.

Your charitable gifts make it possible for AAA to continue to imagine innovative ways of serving our members and advancing the field, for which we are deeply grateful.