SJSU at the Southwestern Anthropological Association (SWAA) Conference

SJSU students attended the 93rd Annual Conference of the Southwestern Anthropological Association, “Transcending Boundaries”

What started with an offhand comment on joining Dr. Marlovits and Conor Brown at the annual SWAA conference turned into an ambitious time feat across four research topics. Dr. Marlovits’ undergraduate and graduate students were eager to represent SJSU in a panel titled, What are Skateboarders Grinding Against? Unofficial Spaces, Identities, and Performative Imaginaries. Undergraduates from Dr. Marlovits’ Skate lab, Conor Brown and Valeria Foxworthy Gonzalez, each developed a literature review of distinct skateboarding chronological representations. The first-year graduate students in Dr. Marlovits’ Applications Core II class culminated in two research projects on local San José skateboarding scenes. 

The students succeeded in coordinating among themselves, department Chair Dr. Charlotte Sunseri, and department analyst Anges Borja to receive grants for the conference. Other faculty members pitched in with their research knowledge, one going above and beyond to support the student-led research. Lecturer Gustavo Flores welcomed the panelists to practice their presentations to his class, shared research insight, and shared footage for a video compilation for the student research.

Connor began the panel with the cultural origins of skateboarding in Southern California. His paper presentation focused on regional technological, economic, and demographic particularities. He explains how these particularities, created by post-war suburbanization, became reimagined as a catalyst for a youthful, innovative, and artistic rebellion against the status quo.

Valeria followed with case studies in a presentation that situates relations of cultural/queer theory regarding non-normative subjectivity and embodiment in women, non-binary, and Queer skateboarders. She collected research data on the inspirational lives of Bonnie Blouin, Leo Baker, Unity skaters Jefferey and Gabriel, and Britney Howard. Each story represents a transformation in skateboarding from pre-dominant masculine spaces to emergent LGBTQ+ places.

Picking up skateboarding as a sense of inclusion, graduate students Jario Rosas Heredia and Spencer Shook represented their research team’s study on kinship and belonging in San José skateboarding communities. Their team interviewed the local skateboarding community to understand their complex relations to space, belonging, identity, and skateboarding as an art form. The graduate student’s research represents Downtown San José as a place for skateboarders’ creative rebellion for the neoliberal privatization of architecture.

Finally, graduate students Mayela Sanchez and Jonathan Santaella represented their team by sharing their research on the operationalization of skateboarders’ performative imaginaries. ​​Their team employed the photographic probe method to generate data on how skateboarders can reimagine vacant and polluted public spaces. The findings revealed common behaviors among skateboarders and information for urban planning, giving prospects for inclusive infrastructure city planning.

The audience absorbed the skateboarding panel, and word of the panel’s complementing research spread to other conference attendees. Conversations sparked between the SJSU student research and other forum presentations. The students pulled off a memorable conference from a united front of research between undergraduates, graduates, professors, local skateboarding communities, and department funding. This regional conference allowed anthropology students to engage with the local skateboarding communities, build teaching and research experience, and represent themselves professionally to other scholars.

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