Vision Statement

December 2013

World on the Move – 100,000 Years of Human Migration

In today’s world, there is a lot of discussion about how we move around much more than we used to, and about what that is doing to our communities. In some places, there is concern that too many “immigrants” will use up the resources of a country, or change it beyond recognition. In others, communities are disrupted and destroyed by the need to move to make way for mining, tourism, or agriculture, to find jobs unavailable at home, or to escape the effects of climate change. The American Anthropological Association’s new Public Education Initiative will address these concerns from an anthropological perspective.

The new AAA project’s central messages are:

1)    The forms of mobility that concern us now are not new: people have being moving around for as long as we have traces of humans on the planet. Today, every one of us has a mobility story in our own lives or in our family histories.

2)    There are many reasons for mobility. This initiative will focus on: climate change; changes in economic activities; competition for political power. It will show how these are tied to each other.

3)    Mobility (for whatever reasons) always brings changes in how we live: what we eat, how we dress, what we speak, where we live, what we believe. Mobility is also connected to changes in policies and public debates.

4)    Sometimes human migration worries us because we fear losing what we know, what we have – the comfort of our world.. Sometimes, though, mobility is about freedom. How should we feel about it now, in our own lives? What is it like to be a stranger or to find yourself in a new world? How does it feel when your mother moves far away or when the people who move in next door look and act in unfamiliar ways? How can we use what we learn in this exhibit to recognize the humanity in all of us?


The AAA is the world’s largest and oldest association of anthropologists, with over 12,000 members from all over the world. It remains faithful to the distinctive North American interdisciplinary approach to understanding the human condition. Our initiative will incorporate knowledge from archaeologists, who can track human movements back thousands of years; biological anthropologists, who look at genetic evidence, the environment and health; linguistic anthropologists, who study language change and the making of social boundaries; and sociocultural anthropologists, who look at the link between culture and economic and political activities. We have experience with large-scale public education initiatives, as the Association’s RACE: Are We So Different? project currently includes an award-winning website ( and a museum exhibit currently traveling the US.


We seek to engage the general public, from families to school groups, community associations to policy-makers. Our goal is to engage them in a broad discussion that incorporates a more historical and critical understanding of human movements, what causes them and the impact they have on communities and individuals. We believe part of our mission as a discipline is to translate concepts and challenge perceptions so that the familiar seems strange – and the strange seems familiar.

To reach these multiple audiences, we envision a series of products, including:

  • A traveling museum exhibit with space for localized interpretation
  • An interactive website
  • Network structure building via social media and/or apps
  • Conferences and symposia for scholarly exchange
  • DVD with “story corps” content
  • Educational material, brochures, and posters for use at different grade levels
  • Interactive media: gaming platforms, twitter, fb, user-generated media. We envision developing platforms on which individuals can share their personal stories and perspectives.