Presidential Panel: Should the AAPA Change our Name?

The Presidential Panel will be held on Saturday, April 14, from 12:30 PM – 2:15 PM in Zilker 4 at the Hyatt Regency Hotel.

The Presidential Panel will be held on Saturday, April 14, from 12:30 PM – 2:15 PM in Zilker 4 at the Hyatt Regency Hotel.

Come and discuss whether the American Association of Physical Anthropologists should change our name? Over the past few years there have been strong opinions on both sides of the question. Those members proposing a name change feel that “physical anthropology” does not represent the modern discipline and the type of research that our members pursue today. They advocate strongly that we should move into the future with a modern rebranding of our association.

Those who are equally adamant against a name change point to the long 88 year history of the association (founded by Ales Hrdlicka and Dudley Morton in 1930) and the longer history of our journal, the American Journal of Physical Anthropology, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year.  In the same fashion as the NAACP who have retained their historical and anachronistic name, these members feel that the association should retain its historical legacy at the same time as we move in modern research directions.

The topic of the Politzer Student Travel award essay for 2017 was precisely “Should the AAPA change its name?”  Opinion was divided among our junior colleagues and for those who favored a name change, there was no consensus on what that name should be. It was not only the issue between “Physical” and “Biological” anthropology, but whether we should rebrand as an international association, rather than as an American association?

The question of a name change is also tied up with AJPA, which is not owned by the AAPA, but by Wiley Publishers, so we are not free to simply change the name of the journal if we do chose to change the name of the association. There are also broader questions surrounding our relationship with AJPA that extend beyond the relatively straight-forward question name change. The issues are not simple, but the 2018 Presidential Panel will give us the opportunity to explore them in detail and suggest proposals for the Executive Committee and the entire membership to take forward.

The name of our association is an important to our identity as anthropologists. This panel will offer all of us the opportunity to express our opinions and hopefully come to some consensus for our association in the 21st Century. Come and join the discussion — it is important.

Leslie Aiello, President, American Association of Physical Anthropologists