2020 Spring Conference of the Society for Linguistic Anthropology “Future Imperfect: Language in Times of Crisis and Hope”

Call for papers ending on

Boulder, CO
United States

In response to rising concerns regarding COVID-19, the SLA Executive Board, together with the SLA 2020 Organizing Committee, decided on March 6th postpone SLA 2020 until the fall. After working closely with the AAA and the Boulder Hiltons, we have set the new conference date for September 24-26, 2020. The full conference program, available for viewing on our Trello site, will largely remain the same as it was for April, with adjustments as needed. We are excited about the current program, and we look forward to enhancing it even further as we approach September.

This decision did not come easily, but was made after much deliberation and in careful consultation with the AAA, the CU Boulder CLASP program, our distinguished keynotes, organizers of other academic conferences in related (sub)fields, and numerous conference registrants. The SLA Executive Board unanimously agreed that rescheduling the conference for the fall is the safest and best course of action for now, while mitigating the complex financial implications of a full-scale cancellation and risks to the health of our SLA community.

Our conference organizers, our steering committee, and our local team of CLASP graduate students have all worked extraordinarily hard to build an exciting conference that brings in voices and perspectives from diverse institutions around the world. Our goal with this conference has always been to broaden the scope and reach of the SLA, so the possibility of a diminished conference, with limited international as well as domestic participation, was not a viable option. In addition, we felt we needed to be proactive with respect to the health and well-being of all of our conference attendees.

We hope that our confirmed new dates of September 24-26 will help you renegotiate your travel and lodging plans without too much disruption or financial burden. We note that several major airlines are now rescheduling flights free of penalty charges. The organizing committee will be in touch with panel organizers over the summer to make any necessary adjustments to the program.

Registration Refunds: In the event you cannot attend the rescheduled conference, you may request a registration refund by emailing slaboulder@gmail.com by Monday, March 30, 2020 (please note this is a hard deadline).

Existing & New Hotel Reservations: The Hiltons will automatically transfer reservations to the new dates in the originally booked pattern. If you booked a room in the original block and are unable to attend the rescheduled conference, you will need to cancel the transferred reservation to avoid unwanted charges in September. You may contact the hotel directly (by phone: 720-510-3687, or via email: marshall.kaer@sagehospitality.com) to cancel or make changes to your reservation any time after Friday, March 13; we ask for your patience as the hotel will need some time to move the registrations over internally. As before, the hard cancellation deadline will be 48 hours before your stay begins. Please note that because September is peak season in Boulder, the discounted conference rate will increase by $20 per night. If you did not reserve a room in the original conference block but would like to do so now, the hotel will be distributing a new discount link later in March, which we will advertise on our SLA 2020 and Trello sites.

Future Updates: From this point forward, the SLA Executive Board and the SLA 2020 Organizing Committee will post any updates about the conference to our two AAA community lists (the Society for Linguistic Anthropology Community and 2020 SLA Community), as well as the linganth discussion group and the older SLAOnline list. We will also keep the SLA 2020 conference website and our Trello site up-to-date with the most recent developments.

We thank you for your understanding in this very unusual situation. We hope that you will join us on September 24-26, in the heart of Boulder’s beautiful autumn season, and contribute to our ongoing vision of a well attended, diverse, vibrant, and productive SLA 2020.


The Conference Theme

As human societies face the tragedies of climate, war, racism, corruption, and displacement that are projected to define the 21st century, the SLA 2020 Spring Conference calls upon scholars to question the way forward in an imperfect future world. The future inhabits our uncertain present, generating complex intersections of crisis and hope. The imperfect, as a verb construction, describes an ongoing, incomplete action. With this conference theme, we wish to highlight the ever-unfinished and evolving condition of academic research and its contribution to pressing sociopolitical issues. How do we, in our role as researchers, reconcile time-honored methodologies with the novel challenges that have arisen in contemporary social life? How can our academic labor more effectively address the concerns of the future? We welcome submissions that make use of diverse methods, both micro and macro, to explore the precarity and forms of resistance that characterize our contemporary moment. We are especially interested in submissions that address the ways that language use may both enable and contest the sociopolitical shifts that continue to destabilize human equality (and indeed the future of humanity itself), whether at local, national, regional, or global scales.

In its focus on imperfect futures, the conference theme additionally proposes disruption and transformation as necessary concepts for critical language study. In social analytic research, these concepts each invoke traditional paradigms as they move toward more innovative ways of thinking and doing. We highlight disruption as a rethinking of relationships between researchers, participants, audiences, and methodologies. What counts as knowledge production in linguistic anthropology and related fields? Who gets to produce and circulate knowledge, and in what fora? How can we productively disrupt our reliance on knowledge systems that may be more suited to past instead of future concerns? Likewise, we highlight transformation as encompassing the many ways in which laypersons as well as researchers may change and advance the contours of language study to confront an increasingly anxious world. Through the reflexive interrogation of positionality and subjectivity, we search for emergent paths to take within—and beyond—the comfort zones in our research fields. Disruption and transformation, as mutually reinforcing, co-constitutive phenomena, create the opportunity for more critical and participatory directions in language study. This conference theme invites linguistic anthropologists and related researchers to reflect on ways to realize goals of racial, ethnic, socioeconomic, gendered, and other forms of social justice in times of crisis and hope.


Submission information

The submission portal is now open. Abstracts are due by 3:00 pm Eastern Time on Monday, December 2, 2019. (This due date is revised from the original due date of December 1.) Session abstracts are limited to 500 words; paper and poster abstracts to 250 words. The fee scale for the SLA 2020 Spring Conference is: $130 (SLA Professional), $150 (Non-SLA Professional), $50 (SLA Student), $70 (Non-SLA Student).

The SLA will prioritize submissions for organized panels, individual presentations, roundtables, posters, and installations that engage productively with our conference theme and involve creative and diverse participation across methods, disciplines, institutions, and professional levels. We especially welcome panels that involve graduate students, activists, and/or public figures in addition to faculty. We also encourage conference participants to consider presenting new or in-progress research in order to take full advantage of SLA’s interdisciplinary community of scholars. To that end, we encourage participants who have an innovative proposal that does not readily fit into the conference format to contact the conference organizers at slaboulder@gmail.com for independent consideration.

Registration with the American Anthropological Association is a required first step before submitting an abstract. To register with the AAA, please log into the AAA Anthro Gateway. Click here to check if you have an existing AAA user account; if not, you will need to create a free AAA account before logging in by following the prompt to “Create an Account.” Once you have logged in from your account, select “Add Meeting Registration” on the left-hand side, then choose the link “SLA 2020 Spring Conference” to proceed. After registering with the AAA, you will receive a confirmation email and a link to submit your abstract.

It is not necessary to be a member of the SLA to submit an abstract or attend the SLA 2020 Spring Meeting. However, SLA membership will enable you to receive a discount on conference registration and a subscription to the Journal of Linguistic Anthropology, as well as other perks. You may add your SLA membership to your AAA account at any time. Students may register for SLA membership at no cost.


CLASP Graduate Student Paper Competition

As part of the SLA 2020 Spring Conference, the CLASP program at the University of Colorado Boulder is pleased to announce a call for papers for a graduate student paper competition. The winner of the competition will be recognized and granted a plenary spot on the SLA 2020 conference program. Submissions of up to 8,000 words (excluding references) should be sent by December 1, 2019 to clasp@colorado.edu. Please see the Graduate Student Paper Competition webpage for more information on submission requirements.


Location and Conference Hotel

The SLA 2020 Spring Conference will take place in Boulder, Colorado, a college town located at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains and home to the University of Colorado Boulder. The SLA has reserved a block of discounted rooms at the main conference hotel, Embassy Suites at the Hiltons on Canyon (click here to view the 3D Tour). Offering majestic mountain views and elegant furnishings, the Embassy Suites characterizes itself as an urban retreat located in the heart of Boulder. Each reservation made at the SLA/CLASP Conference Booking Link – Embassy Suites Boulder comes with a two-room guest suite, a complimentary made-to-order breakfast, a complimentary Manager’s evening reception, and access to two bars, fitness room, and heated roof-top pool.


We look forward to welcoming you to Boulder in September.

Contact Information

Updates about the conference will be posted at the SLA 2020 Spring Conference website. For additional information, please contact the conference organizers (SLA Co-Chairs Judy Pine and Dominika Baran; CLASP Co-Chairs Velda Khoo and Olivia Hirschey Marrese) at slaboulder@gmail.com.
Contact person
Judy Pine, Dominika Baran, Velda Khoo and Olivia Hirschey Marrese
Contact person email address