Society for Psychological Anthropology

SPA Biennial Meeting 2021

6-10 April, 2021

This year’s SPA 2021 Biennial took place online. Delegates can watch recordings of the sessions embedded in the programme.


The SPA would like to acknowledge generous support from the National Science Foundation for the development of the Plenary Panels.


Questions about psychology and culture have characterized the field of anthropology from its inception, and have fundamentally shaped the discipline’s engagements with human differences.  Psychological Anthropology’s deep roots in the history and development of anthropology is both a strength and liability.  More than ever before, questions about whether we should “let anthropology burn” (Jobson 2020) have come to the fore, centering on whether a discipline so fundamentally rooted in the colonialist enterprise is even remotely redeemable; and if so, how.

In the context of these debates, psychological anthropologists have some extra work to do.  On the one hand, a major commitment of psychological anthropological work has been to interrogate the status quo and to destabilize categories of knowledge.  Yet, at the same time, this endeavor has been built on systems, structures, and modes of knowledge production that are deeply colonialist.  Some within anthropology and related disciplines have even suggested that the very premise of psychological or psychologically informed inquiry is hopelessly retrograde.  This has led in more recent decades to a disciplinary perception of psychological anthropology as theoretically, methodologically, and even ideologically conservative.

While many (if not all) of us would reject such characterizations, we must be willing to look unflinchingly at the possibility that there is something to this critique.  Our subdiscipline undeniably derives from forms of practice and knowledge-building that are often deeply problematic and that need radical revisioning.  We are called upon to do better, to push beyond conventional comfort zones.  Yet, at the same time, our subdiscipline also derives from forms of practice and knowledge-building that are deeply humanistic, respectful, and compassionate.  The question then becomes: how can we leverage the unique intellectual and human resources of our sub-discipline to move us forward into new ways of thinking, research, writing, and engagement? 

With the conference theme of Interrogating Inequalities, we encourage scholars to radically re-encounter their own data, methodologies, theoretical commitments, engagements with the anthropological canon, forms of writing and research dissemination, and the subdiscipline more broadly.  Our aim with this theme is to prompt participants to reflect not only on the colonial dimensions and decolonial possibilities of anthropological work, but also to radically reimagine what it means to be a psychological anthropologist in today’s world.

Presentation formats

SPA invited two primary panel formats:

  1. Traditional panels with five 15-minute papers per 90-minute session (leaving one required 15-minute slot for Q&A/ discussion).
  2. Roundtables: at a roundtable a group of scholars (no more than 5) would discuss themes/issues of general scholarly interest in front of (and subsequently with) an audience. While a roundtable can include short (5-10 min) provocations/presentations, the main idea is to create a lively debate, not to focus on any one presenter. In your roundtable proposal, you can list/name the participants in your long abstract, or you can leave the list open and take in ‘provocation/presentation’ proposals during the Call for Papers and choose five of those to be on the roundtable.

The SPA strongly encouraged panel organizers to prioritize diversity and inclusivity across all dimensions when making their selections, including (but not limited to) academic affiliation, stage of academic career, geographic region of origin and/or interest, theoretical orientation, race, ethnicity, gender identity, and sexuality.


SPA has the “two roles per person, each role once” rule: participants can have two roles PLUS be an organizer of one session. So:-

  1. An organizer can only propose one session; this does not count against their two-role limit
  2. Giving a paper or being a roundtable participant each counts as one role
  3. You can do a roundtable and a paper and so have up to two roles
  4. But you can only have one paper, so you cannot have two papers for two roles
  5. You can give a paper in your own session, which then counts as one role.

Recording policy

The panels and plenaries were recorded for delegate and public consumption, respectively. Read the full policy.


Please email spa2021(at)