What can I say, I live in the UK where we don’t have a Thanksgiving to celebrate today (although for some reason they still have Black Friday), but I am feeling very, very thankful.
to everyone who cast their vote in this year’s AAGE election. It is an honor and a privilege for me to accept the role as President-Elect of AAGE, and following the examples of my predecessors, I look forward to what all of us can achieve together over the next three years. I also want to congratulate Ender Ricart who was elected to Secretary of AAGE, and thank her for taking on this key responsibility.
This year’s election saw a record turnout, and that to me is a good sign that there are dozens of members out there eager to participate and make the most of their membership. Over the next three years, my goal is to create the opportunities for members to get more involved in AAGE, whether you are a retired professional or a first-year Masters student. These opportunities will include chances to highlight your work in a blog post or member news column on our website, better forums for collaborating, networking and organizing events, mentoring of student members, contributing to our organizational history project, and creating links with other organizations. These opportunities should support individuals’ goals while at the same time strengthening the activity within AAGE in a way that attracts greater attention from outside. I hope that everyone who attended the AAA and GSA conferences this year is feeling energized and ready to start thinking about how to make the most of AAGE to disseminate research, find resources, and find your place in this global intellectual community. While I was unable to attend, I hope to hear more about all of your papers and posters soon.
AAGE would not be able to take steps toward expanding our activities were it not for the tremendous efforts and personal dedication of our two past presidents, Samantha Solimeo and Iveris Martinez. It was Samantha who, back in 2011 asked me to take over editorship of the AAGE journal, Anthropology and Aging Quarterly, through which we had the opportunity to work more closely and cultivate a shared vision of the organization. Having brought a new level of professionalization to the journal (e.g., registering an official ISSN number, organizing a peer-review system), Samantha went on to tackle the organizational challenge of AAGE as a whole. After several months of detective work, she managed to find the organization’s badly outdated by-laws and create a plan to revise them in line with the most recent regulations for 501c3 non-profit organizations. It was not until mid-2015 that Samantha’s work finally achieved this tremendous goal, putting us on a much firmer footing and earning her our endless gratitude.
Iveris worked alongside Samantha during this process and has also been integral in the task of organizing Although I was unable to attend, I was very excited when I found out about the plans to have an AAGE workshop/conference in Miami Florida last February. The report on the conference can be read here. Unni Karunakara’s key note address at the event was published in the June issue of Anthropology & Aging here. I look forward to working more closely with Iveris in my year as President-Elect.
Although I am excited about taking on this new role in AAGE, it does mean that I will also have to step away from my former role as Editor of Anthropology & Aging. I am grateful for the last four years working with the journal staff, editorial board, reviewers, and most importantly, the contributors without whom we could have no journal at all. I am proud of what we have been able to accomplish over my tenure as Editor, and I know that we are on track to continue improving the journal as the organization expands and brings in new ideas and talent. For me, Anthropology & Aging is more than a convenient venue for publishing our work and furthering our careers (although this is an important part of it to be sure). It is also a place where we share ideas to push the field forward, an intellectual home where the inhabitants speak my language, a resource that brings our work to a global audience. It is, in other words, a symbol of AAGE’s values and a means by which we try to achieve those values. In 2016, Anthropology & Aging will be publishing volume 37, and while four years may not be very long in the history of the journal, we have made some significant changes that I hope will have a lasting effect.
When I took on the role of editor, I remember clearly being told that the time commitment was somewhere along the lines of “four hours a month.” That may have been so for the journal that we were, but not for the journal that I came to envision. It was a steep learning curve. Having never edited a journal before, I proceeded cautiously at first, expanding the editorial board, then making small changes to the layout design. These changes were just the beginning. I soon got the idea that the newsletter content, like conference guides, member news, elections information, and other business could be moved from the journal to the website, and that by concentrating mainly on scholarly and research content, the journal could become a more attractive place to publish and potentially reach a wider audience. After my first year as Editor-in-Chief, we produced four issues with more of this academic content than we had had in the previous eight years, including a double special issue, and an issue inaugurating the new Portfolio section of visual representations of aging around the world.
In the second year, the journal moved from being a largely static pdf, circulated only among the membership, to an open-access journal integrated with the new organization website. The special issue on the Body was a particular success during this time, comprising five peer-reviewed articles, a five-page portfolio of artwork, and a commentary/response format piece by our new Secretary, Ender Ricart. This was a fun, but exhausting issue to put together, and by the end of it, I had asked Phil Kao and Jonathan Skinner to take the reins of the next few issues while I was on a one-year fieldwork fellowship in Japan. Between Phil, Jonathan, and myself working from the field, we managed to produce two more issues: Silver Linings: Older People Defying Expectations, and Aging, Sex and Well-Being in Brazil.
Phil had been an AAGE member at least as long as I had, and was completing a Post-Doc at University Pittsburgh when he started as my co-editor. It was thanks to Phil that we were able to finally create the website we use today, based on the Open Journal Systems platform. Not only does the website function in a more coherent and intuitive way for visitors, but it contains the entire review and editing process. This was the same platform used by major groundbreaking anthropology journals like HAU, as well as smaller niche journals like ours. We have since produced three issues using the new website, enough to break it in a bit and figure out the kinks. Time enough as well to allow the journal managers to apply for additional index/abstracting through databases like EBSCO and ProQuest. The journal would be more accessible and more citable than it had ever been. A recent article in the Annual Reviews of Anthropology on Aging and Care by Elana Buch cited six different articles that had been published in Anthropology & Aging while I had been editor. While the author is a member of AAGE and familiar with the journal, she has obviously found it valuable as well.
I am sure that my role in the journal is far from over. That’s fine by me. Designing covers, getting to read the latest work from students just emerging from the field, and working with important and established scholars as board members and reviewers, has been an honor and a joy. Producing and issue, promoting it to the world and watching the hits climb on our analytics page is a little thrill. I will continue to do what I can during my term as President and beyond to encourage our members around the world to publish in Anthropology & Aging, and to raise the profile of the journal and the field in the years to come.
With a solid organizational foundation and a vibrant journal, AAGE is now in a strong position to grow and flourish. Over the last year, I have had the opportunity to get to know more members working and studying in Europe, and have been impressed with some of the strong submissions to the journal from outside North America, where AAGE began and held most of its meetings. In thinking about the future of the organization, I can see a much stronger role for these Europe-based scholars, and for AAGE as a bridge between North America and the international community. We are also attracting interest from other groups with interest in the life course. Working with the Anthropology of Children and Youth Interest Group of the AAA, some of our members have formed a Collaborative Research Network to organize joint conferences and create a forum for new conceptualizations of the fundamental nature of the life course today. Links like these not only broaden the appeal of our work, but is a catalyst for bringing about new lines of inquiry.
In the spirit of keeping the momentum of projects like this going, I will make regular blog contributions and encourage other members to do the same. My introduction to AAGE began with conversations over dinner at the AAA meeting in San Jose, and I still think of this organization as a way to make those important connections and keep the conversation rolling between meetings. I look forward to many more chances to keep in touch, and hope everyone has a as much gratitude as I have this Thanksgiving.