The Central States Anthropological Society (CSAS) was established as the Central Section of the American Anthropological Association (AAA), and it has informally been called the Central States Branch. Samuel A. Barrett led the creation of the new organization. The motivation was the difficulty for anthropologists of the central United States to attend AAA meetings, for the AAA had come to convene only in large northeastern or Middle Atlantic cities. The section's stated purpose was to promote "the cause of anthropology by means of a closer fraternization of the central states." "Central states" meant the entire region lying between the Appalachian and Rocky mountains. In fact, however, CSAS has been most successful and influential in the midwestern states.
The AAA approved the organization of the Central Section through a constitutional amendment adopted in December 1921. The section's constitution was adopted at its first meeting in 1922. It provided for two categories of membership—members who belonged to the AAA and associates who belonged to only the section. Both could vote and hold office. The constitution vested governance in an executive council made up of members elected to an executive committee together with the society's officers. The members of the executive committee itself were originally elected by a larger council, but the council was abolished in 1947. Since then the committee has been elected directly by the membership.
The original constitution provided for officers including a president, two vice presidents, a secretary-treasurer, and a corresponding secretary. The section failed to fill the latter office until 1952; and three years later the position was abolished as was the position of secretary-treasurer. Replacing them were two offices, a secretary and a treasurer. In 1957, the two offices were again combined as secretary-treasurer. In 1967, the officers came to include a newsletter editor and, in 1975, a proceedings editor. Both editors sat on the council as nonvoting members. The CSAS created other officers in 1975, including an immediate past president and a "student-liaison person," both of whom took places on the council. Also in 1975, the first vice president was designated to become the next president and the second vice president was designated to succeed the first vice president. (See Appendix A for a list of CSAS presidents.)
The main function of the Central Section has been the annual meeting. During the first few decades, these featured papers by many outstanding midwestern anthropologists. In keeping with the strong regional interest in archeology, the content was heavily archeological. This strong bent continued even after 1935 when many Central Section members joined the newly formed Society for American Archaeology (SAA). Until the 1950s, there was a strong connection between these two organizations, and they held joint meetings for many years. So strong was the connection, in fact, that the Central Section came to doubt its ability to hold a successful meeting on its own and feared that reduction of the archeological content of its programs would lead the archeologists to go off on their own and pull many section members along with them. Not until the SAA began to hold meetings outside the Middle West and the Central Section joined in meetings with other organizations did the Central Section strengthen its sociocultural interest, which has since become dominate. By 1951, the Executive Board of the AAA voted to accept the organization's official name change to Central States Anthropological Society.
A condition of the special relationship with the AAA was support for the American Anthropologist. In return, the AAA provided a service in collecting the regular AAA dues from section members and turning a portion over to the section. This arrangement continued until 1959, when the AAA began to keep its entire dues and collected an additional amount for the section. In 1967, the AAA announced that it could no longer continue to offer such services without compensation. At that point, the CSAS broke the relationship. By 1972, the AAA was again providing the society billing services for a fee. In 1985, the CSAS became a constituent society in the AAA reorganization.
The Central States Branch established its own publication program when, from 1946-1952, it issued a mimeographed newsletter called the Central States Bulletin. In 1966, CSAS began to issue the Central States Anthropological Society Newsletter. In 1973, it also began to publish the Central States Anthropological Society Proceedings, which, in 1978, became Central Issues in Anthropology. Other than for these publications, most reports of and announcements about the organization have appeared in the AAA publications. During the 1950s and 1960s, the CSAS began efforts to promote improved graduate training. In 1953, it began to sponsor a Prize Paper Contest for students. In the 1960s, it surveyed regional graduate education and also explored possibilities for assisting with field training, lectures by visiting foreign anthropologists, and several other programs. In addition, special programs at annual meetings concerned education and teaching. The first of CSAS's two scholarship programs, the Leslie A. White Memorial Fund, was established in 1983 to support research in any subfield of anthropology by "young scholars" ("young," not in chronological years, but in the sense of new to the discipline). In 1989, a second award, the Beth W. Dillingham Memorial Fund, was set up expressly to provide assistance to young scholars who are responsible for the care of dependent children while pursuing anthropological research. Today, the CSAS remains dedicated to fostering anthropological scholarship and professionalism through its meetings and publications.
Further information about the history of CSAS can be found on the official website at http://www.aaanet.org/csas/.
Guide to the National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution, Revised and Enlarged, by James R. Glenn, 1996; with amendments, 2012 by Pamela Effrein Sandstrom.