Beginning in 2010, the Society for the Anthropology of Work has given an award each year for a book highlighting the theme of work. The criteria are relevance to the anthropology of work, significance of the research, clarity and effectiveness of the presentation, and appeal to a wide readership in anthropology and beyond. Books which are based on fieldwork and have not received other awards are given preference. Two years out of three the award is for a single-authored or co-authored monograph and every third year for an edited collection.
The first recipient in 2010 was Frances Rothstein for Globalization in Mexico: Three Decades of Change (University of Texas Press, 2007). In 2011 the recipients were Ann Kingsolver and Nandini Gunewardena for their edited volume The Gender of Globalization: Women Navigating Cultural and Economic Marginalities (SAR Press, 2008).
Last year many of the 18 nominees had strong advocates on the selection committee. The four ranked highest by the committee as a whole were selected as finalists. From this strong field the committee chose Carrie Lane as the 2012 winner for A Company of One: Insecurity, Independence, and the New World of White-Collar Unemployment (Cornell University Press and ILR Press, 2011).
She was honored for integrating a large body of scholarship on neoliberalism and her own in-depth research in the Dallas area to show how contemporary white collar workers deal with their careers and sense of identity in an era of job insecurity. Her three years of research interviewing laid-off high-tech workers ‒ focusing on their “own words and experiences” and participating in networking events ‒ provides the basis for an incisive discussion of work today.
The topic of unemployment is important theoretically and as a public issue, making this a timely, ground-breaking study. The coverage of the relevant literature on meritocratic individualism, among other themes, is masterful. Particularly strong is the assessment of changing gender roles in comparing the current wave of unemployment to previous recessions. Lane interweaves the words of her interlocutors into her analysis of unemployment, exploring the work of non-work and the repercussions of the ongoing crisis. She demonstrates how laid-off workers buy into an ideology that puts the burden of global economic and political problems on their own shoulders. Her excellent writing makes this book appealing to a wide audience within and beyond anthropology.
At the awards ceremony at the SAW business meeting during the AAA meeting in San Francisco last November, the other three finalists were present along with the winner to be honored as well: Peter Benson for Tobacco Capitalism: Growers, Migrant Workers, and the Changing Face of a Global Industry (Princeton University Press, 2012), Jakob Krause-Jensen for Flexible Firm: The Design of Culture at Bang Olufsen (Berghahn Books, 2010), and Caitrin Lynch for Retirement on the Line: Age, Work, and Value in an American Factory (Cornell University Press and ILR Press, 2012).
This year, 2013, the prize will be awarded for an ethnographic monograph. Nominations for the 2013 prize are invited from readers, authors, editors and publishers. The due date is May 31. To submit a book for consideration, please send an email to Jim Weil (email@example.com) and Eve Hochwald (firstname.lastname@example.org), the book prize committee co-chairs. The nominator will be asked to send a letter describing the book’s contribution to the field, and to arrange that copies of the book be sent to members of the nominating committee.
Our column welcomes all materials of interest to SAW members. Please direct inquiries and ideas to SAW Section Editor Susanna Donaldson at email@example.com