At the AAPA business meeting at the 87th Annual Meeting in Austin Texas (Friday, April 13, 2018), the Executive Committee stated its intention to hold a non-binding survey of all AAPA members to assess their opinions on whether the AAPA should change its name, and if so, what that name should be.  

  • The purpose of this non-binding survey is to allow all members to express their opinion on this important issue.
  • Based on the outcome of this survey, the Executive Committee will hold a binding vote of members of the association (all regular members) on whether the name should be changed and what the name should be.
  • Depending on the results of the binding vote, the Executive Committee will  initiate the name change procedures at  the 88th annual business meeting in Cleveland, Ohio (March 29, 2019).
  • In accordance with the AAPA bylaws, a final vote on name change will be held at the 89th annual business meeting in Los Angeles, CA (April 17, 2020).

You can access the survey here. Before you participate in this survey, please read the following and familiarize yourself with the issues.


The main issues are:

  1. Does “Physical Anthropology” continue to be the best descriptor for the type of research carried out by our members?
  2. Should our association continue to be identified as the “American” association?
  3. If a new name is desired, what should be the name?

These issues were discussed in length at the Presidential Panel at the Austin meetings and were the topic of the 2016/17 Pollitzer Student Travel Award essay competition. The Austin Presidential Panel  was audio recorded and a transcript of the session is available here.


Summary of the main points:

Should the AAPA change our name? 

Many of the Pollitzer essays cited Agustín Fuentes’ 2010 Yearbook of Physical Anthropology essay (The New Biological Anthropology: Bringing Washburn’s New Physical Anthropology Into 2010 and Beyond) where he asked “…are we biological anthropologists yet?” The majority of the students replied “YES” (81 out of 118 essays).

Arguments FOR a name change:

  • “Physical Anthropology” evokes a narrow, antiquated, racist, and embarrassing past. The discipline has changed and we should change the name of the association in accordance.
  • Members self-identify as biological anthropologists and a significant number of academic departments, sections, degree courses, textbooks have dropped “Physical Anthropology” in favor of “Biological Anthropology” or other descriptors such as “Evolutionary Anthropology.”
  • “Physical Anthropology” does not cover the nature of the modern field, which is integrative, dynamic and process-oriented.
  • “Physical Anthropology” impedes public understanding of our discipline because it does not convey what we do.
  • Dropping “Physical Anthropology” in favor of another descriptor would give the field more credibility.

Arguments AGAINST a name change:

  • Our field has historically been known as “Physical Anthropology” and there is little difference in meaning between “Physical” and “Biological.”
  • Both names reflect the work we do as scientists today.
  • “Owning” our history is essential to our field and changing our name appears to erase or deny the ugly and uncomfortable past.
  • We send a powerful message by retaining our name and using it to educate our colleagues in other fields and the public about the history and future of scientific inquiry.

Should the association be identified as the “American” association?

Some of our members have expressed the opinion that we should reconsider branding our association as “American.”

Arguments FOR dropping “American” from our association name:

  • We have members who reside and work outside of the US, hence the term “American” does not adequately describe the nature and inclusivity of our association.
  • “American” includes other countries besides the USA.

Arguments AGAINST dropping “American” from our association name:

  • We are the “American Association of Physical Anthropologists” NOT the “Association of American Physical Anthropologists.” Many other national associations, both in the US and abroad, have international members and have not felt the need to change their name because of this.
  • Changing our name to, for example, the “International Association of Physical Anthropologists” implies a degree of hegemony in relation to our international colleagues.
  • By taking it upon ourselves to change our name to an "international” association we deny equal involvement of all of our international colleagues and sister organizations.  

What should the new name be? 

Over the past 18 months the following names have been suggested for our association. When you take the non-binding survey, you will be asked to give your first, second, and third choice for a new name. You also will have the opportunity to comment on your choices and to suggest other names if you wish to do so.  Suggested names are offered in alphabetical order and do NOT indicate an order of preference.

  • American Association of Anthropological Sciences
  • American Association of Bio Cultural Anthropology
  • American Association of Biological Anthropologists
  • American Association of Evolutionary Anthropologists
  • American Association of Integrated Integrative Biological Anthropology
  • American Association of Physical and Biological Anthropology
  • Association of Biological Anthropologists
  • Biological Anthropology Association
  • Biological Anthropology Association of North America
  • Biological Anthropology Association of the United States
  • International Association of Biocultural Anthropologists
  • International Association of Biological Anthropologists
  • International Bio, Cultural Anthropology and Outreach Association
  • International Conference for Biological Anthropologists
  • Society for American Biological Anthropologists
  • Society for Biological Anthropologists

Please participate in the AAPA non-binding name-change survey and make your opinion known on this important issue!  

The survey will be open until November 30, 2018.


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