At the end of October 2020, the SUNTA board voted unanimously to change SUNTA’s name to the Critical Urban Anthropology Association or CUAA. We reached this decision at the end of a 4-hour virtual retreat during which we discussed the organizational and intellectual challenges that we face as a section. The SUNTA membership endorsed the name change during the SUNTA virtual business meeting on November 13, 2020, during the Raise Our Voices event. We are now ready to ask the membership to vote officially on this.
Rationale for the Name Change
SUNTA’s official name is the Society for Urban, National and Transnational/Global Anthropology. The section changed its name from the Society for Urban Anthropology in the late 1990s, to emphasize the rethinking of the urban in light of the prevailing globalization paradigms of that era. In the twenty or so years since SUA became SUNTA, urban studies in anthropology has blossomed in ways that exceed this formulation, and in today’s intellectual context, identifying the section’s orientation as urban, national, transnational and global has become unnecessary (what urban research these days is not also engaging in the national, transnational or global, after all?). We feel the best way forward is to re-center the urban in ways that makes the section’s mission and interests legible to the wide audience of anthropologists and other scholars who are doing relevant research. It would also signal a new orientation toward critical social theory, which in the last 20 years has reshaped urban studies as a dynamic interdisciplinary field involving many anthropologists. We have found that current graduate students and early career anthropologists are especially excited by the critical urban orientation that we are proposing.
Benefits of a Name Change
The name change will benefit the section in the following ways:
- Clarifying the section’s identity and purpose. The identity of the section as the primary space for advancing urban research will be solidified with the name change.
- Signaling an orientation towards critical social theory. The critical in critical urban anthropology marks an intellectual space that moves beyond conventional urban studies. It signals a fundamental interest in considering the urban question within critical social theory, locating the status of urbanization, urbanism, migration, movement, space, place and other urban matters within decolonial, antiracist, feminist, queer, anticapitalist and other intellectual projects that are animated by critical social theory.
- Building membership. As with other sections, we are losing members. The name change will certainly make the section more popular. It will signal an intellectual revitalization of the section, and a reconsideration of urban research in light of current theoretical and ethnographic trends. Considerable thought was given to our declining membership and what it would take to reverse this trend. The new name is popular with our current members. We think it will also be popular with scholars who are new to the field and to graduate students.
- Strengthening ties to the journal. The name change will align the intellectual mission of the section more closely with that of its journal, City and Society, which thrives already as a space for publishing critical urban research.
We hope that you will join us in supporting this name change. You will be asked to vote on it in the upcoming AAA elections. Please vote YES!
Jeff Maskovsky, Past President
Suzanne Scheld, President
Susan Falls, President-Elect
Rudolph Gaudio, Secretary
Deborah Altamirano, Treasurer
Deborah Pellow, 3rd Year Councilor
Christina Schwenkel, 2nd Year Councilor
Rashmi Sadana, 1st Year Councilor
Claire Panetta, Student-Councilor
Julian Brash, Editor, City & Society