Association for Feminist Anthropology (AFA)

Asli Baykal

Posted May 1999



Focus and Goals: The goals of AFA according to Article II of Bylaws are to foster development of feminist analytic perspectives in all dimensions of anthropology; to facilitate communication among feminist anthropologists and between them and feminist scholars in other related fields; to provide information on issues related to gender differences and to gender-based discrimination to the discipline and the public; and to encourage integration of feminist research from the different subfields of anthropology and to bring the focal concerns of feminist anthropology into the development of the subdisciplines.


Organization Website:


Total Membership in 1999: 955


Type of Organization: AFA is mainly an academic organization although some of the members are practitioners. Most of the members are women.



Essential Information


Date founded:
AFA was founded in 1988 at the American Anthropological Association meeting in Phoenix.

Newsletter or Journal:
The Association has a yearly-published journal, Voices, and a column in Anthropology Newsletter.

Annual Membership fees:
Membership costs $15 for regular AAA members, $5 for students, and $8 for retirees.

Affiliation with other groups:
AFA cooperates and co-sponsors panels with the Association of Black Anthropologists, Society for the Anthropology of North America, AAA’a Commission on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Issues in Anthropology, and Society of Lesbian and Gay Anthropologists.

Some relevant websites are

Global Fund for Women


Minangkabau of Indonesia

South Asian Women’s Network

Theory in Anthropology: Feminist Anthropology

Women in African Resources

Women’s Issues

Women’s Studies Resources

Contact Address:


Prizes, Projects, or other Special Programs


AFA gives Sylvia Forman Essay Prizes to an undergraduate and three graduate students, $300 each, every year. It also provides travel grants for AAA meetings for six people, again $300 each. Moreover, AFA has a mentoring program for students at all levels, which is basically matching a student who is interested in feminist anthropology with a member with similar interests.


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A Brief History of AFA


AFA was established in 1988 at AAA meeting in Phoenix by the people who were identified with ‘anthropology of women’ in 1960s and later with ‘feminist’ or ‘gendered anthropology’. Initially, Sylvia Forman suggested the founding of working commissions to organize and link feminist academic and policy work. The first three working commissions were: Women’s Body Control, which was renamed as Commission on Women’s Reproductive Rights and Bodily Autonomy, Women and Human Rights, and Gender and the Curriculum. Forman also organized annual workshops on Teaching About Race and Gender with the Association of Black Anthropologists.

Besides working commissions and sponsoring panels at AAA meetings, AFA has supported the efforts to promote equity, inclusiveness, and human rights within the AAA. The Association has been concerned with establishing childcare at the AAA meetings. At the New Orleans meetings in 1990, AFA Board reacted to the Lousiana state legislature’s actions to restrict women’s reproductive rights. In 1992, it urged the AAA Board "to address the issue of underemployment and exploitation of both faculty and graduate students in American colleges and universities."


About AFA


The Goals of AFA
The Association for Feminist Anthropology modifies its goals each year and reaffirms some of them. At the 1998 Annual AAA Meeting the goals were outlined as: improve the outreach of AFA to feminists from all four fields of anthropology; include U.S. women of color in all activities, but especially to utilize travel grants to assist women of color in attending the AAA meetings; increase outreach and mentoring to students at all levels; broaden constituency, especially to include part-time feminist academics and feminists outside the academy; expand membership to reach 2000 members by the year 2000; increase the visibility and leadership of feminist anthropology both within the discipline and the outside world; increase organizational networking within the American Anthropological Association; focus more attention on teaching and feminist pedagogy.

Thus, the Association tries to be diverse and inclusive. However, it has not been possible to obtain information on the composition of membership, and therefore, it is hard to figure out the extent of diversity within AFA. The current AFA Board is mainly composed of sociocultural anthropologists and archaeologists The current Chair is an archaeologist. There is a bioanthropologist and a linguistic anthropologist on the Board. The Board members are all academics. Most of them are employed in anthropology departments. A few of them are in Women’s Studies and International Studies departments. One of the Board members is at College of Medicine and another is at the Department of Public Health Sciences.

Major Issues Discussed

The major issues for AFA are reproductive rights; sexuality; lesbian and transgender issues; corporeality; international, non-Western feminism; globalization; political economy; women and development; women in resistance and women refugees; social movements, particularly environmentalism and ecofeminism; the study of intersection of race, class, gender and sexuality; capitalism; social and economic justice; women and poverty; women and welfare; domestic violence; and women and health. The Association, in fact, has yearly themes. The theme of 1997 was black feminist anthropology, and those of 1998 were pedagogy and population. For 1999, media has been suggested by some members to discuss the uses and abuses in the media, portrayal of feminists/feminist anthropologists in the media, utilizing the media to reach a wider audience, and portrayal of women in general.

According to a survey made in 1998, members stated diversity, i.e. the inclusion of women of color, archaeologists, physical anthropologists, and linguists as their concern. Some members demanded more and better jobs in the academy and an end to the exploitation of adjunct lecturers. The need to improve the standing of women in the discipline, to fight male bias, and to get more women tenured in anthropology departments were also voiced by the members. Moreover, some members argued that feminist anthropology should be mainstreamed to make sure that it is represented in all four fields. They also wanted to clarify that feminist anthropology is not just about gender, and gender is not just about women. Another concern was the sharing of ideas on feminist research methods and pedagogy, and the fostering of greater collaboration between practical, community based activities and research and writing programs. Unfortunately, information on their community-based activities was not available at the time the research was conducted.

Some of the AFA members have noteworthy accomplishments. Yolanda Moses had been the President of the AAA, and Louise Lamphere, former AFA Chair, has since served as President of the AAA. Lamphere, Margery Wolf, and Emily Martin have been Presidents of the American Ethnological Society (AES), and many AFA members have served on the Board of AES at different times. Furthermore, many members are on the editorial boards of prestigious journals and publishing companies. It was not possible, however, to find out how many members are teaching in community colleges and four-year undergraduate colleges.


The major activity of AFA is sponsoring panels. Co-editing books out of panels and projects is a common practice among the members. The Association also supports variety of efforts within the AAA to advance equity, inclusiveness, and human rights. The members are concerned about women’s reproductive rights, unemployment, and exploitation within the academy. AFA collaborates and co-sponsors panels with the Association of Black Anthropologists, Society for the Anthropology of North America, AAA’s Commission on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Issues in Anthropology, and Society of Lesbian and Gay Anthropologists. Contributions of AFA to the 1998 AAA Conference are as follows:

"Questing for Perfection: The New Eugenics?" (the Presidential Session)

"Engendered Modernities: Ethnographic Perspectives"

"Gendered Politics of Reproduction"

"Globalization, Restructuring and Women’s Poverty" (co-sponsored with the SANA)

"Population, Identity and Gendered Roles in Japan"

"Teaching Sex: A Facilitated Discussion" (and workshop)

"Feminist Pedagogy and the Anthropology Classroom"

"Kinship and Consumption: A Productive, Reproductive Paradox"

"Women and Holistic Health Care in the U.S."

"Rereading Policies and Norms: Sexuality, Motherhood, and (Re)Production"

"Rethinking Femininities: Class, Religion and Nation in Bengal"

"Reproduction and Sexual Citizenship"

"Regulating Populations: Gender, Space and Modernity"

"Women, Work and Female-Headed Households"

The Association, moreover, has censured some departments for discrimination and for not being representative. Finally, AFA aims to form a student slate for student membership in the next elections. in order to formalize student representation on the Board.

AFA Publications

-From Labrador to Samoa: The Theory and Practice of Eleanor Burke Leacock

-Gender and Race through Education and Political Activism: The Legacy of Sylvia Helen Forman

-Feminism, Nationalism, and Militarism

-The Association for Feminist Anthropology Membership Directory (August 1996)


AFA has been quite successful in increasing the visibility of feminist anthropology. They have sponsored many sessions and edited many volumes. They have been good at stimulating certain topics and drawing attention to issues, such as violence, human rights and women’s reproductive rights. According to Clark, the curriculum project has been particularly successful and textbooks include gender more now. Although it is not clear how diverse the Association is, diversity and inclusiveness has been one of the major concerns of AFA.


Association for Feminist Anthropology web site (

Former AFA web site at the AAA’s site (
Bratton, Angela, Feminist Anthropology,
Clark, Gracia, personal communication, 2/23/1999.

See also an analysis of linkages between Gender Studies and Anthropology departments and practitioners through space and time.


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