The Australian Anthropological Society 2015 conference, Moral Horizons, was hosted by the Anthropology Program at the University of Melbourne from 1-4 December. The aim of the conference was to create a dialogue around moralities, both as experienced by community members in the diverse ethnographic settings in which we work, and within our own anthropological practices. The 501 registered delegates enthusiastically participated in this dialogue, with over 340 papers delivered across the 44 panels. In addition to strong representation of scholars from across Australia, we were delighted to host delegates from 18 nations, demonstrating the increasingly international reach of our engagements.
Scintillating keynotes delivered by eminent global scholars Michael Lambek, Nancy Scheper-Hughes and Annelise Riles traversed diverse theoretical and geographic terrain: from the shifting horizons of practical judgement in Mayotte marriages; to death squads, war crimes and organ trafficking as evidence of evil as an intrinsic aspect of the human; to comfort women and the potential of a conflict of laws approach for dealing with the poly-temporalities of human rights abuses. Notwithstanding the diversity of approaches, common threads emerged in the significance attributed to temporal dimensions of moral reasoning, and the global nature of contemporary ethical questions.
The two provocative plenary sessions, convened by Ghassan Hage and Gerhard Hoffstaedter respectively, pushed us to question the continuing impacts of colonialism in the societies in which we live and work, while considering the role anthropologists can and should play as advocates, teachers, researchers and public intellectuals. Well-attended auxiliary sessions, from the Native Title and Reconciliation Action Plan Workshops through to the Postgrad sessions, targeted such questions to more specific and applied ends. The conference itself facilitated considerable public engagement via some 1,750 #moralhorizons tweets that reached over 1.5 million people. In addition, feedback from panel convenors indicates that several edited volumes and journal special issues will be developed from conference panels.
The organising committee is grateful for intellectual contributions made by our distinguished guests, panel convenors, film stream curators and ANSA, in addition to practical assistance from the AAS Executive, NomadIT, our fabulous volunteers, and the School of Social and Political Sciences, the Faculty of Arts Conference Support Scheme, and the Venue Management office at the University of Melbourne. We look forward to the next instalment at the University of Sydney in 2016!
Catie Gressier, Monica Minnegal, Amanda Gilbertson and Paul Green