Congratulations to the 2016 AAA Award Winners

Margaret Mead Award

Jason De León

Congratulations to Jason De León, the 2016 recipient of the Margaret Mead Award for his scholarship, including the book, The Land of Open Graves: Living and Dying on the Sonoran Desert Migrant Trail.

The following quote from the nominators speaks to the intellectual quality, clarity and understandability and breadth of impact of De León’s work:

Jason is a brilliant young anthropologist and a charismatic public intellectual. His new book is a tour de force that brings diverse anthropological methods, social science and humanities epistemologies, and bodies of scholarly theory to bear creatively and effectively on an urgent contemporary social problem and political tragedy.

Similarly, committee members’ comments included:

This is an incredibly innovative book.  It combines data and analysis from three sub-fields—archaeology, biological anthropology, cultural anthropology.  There is also innovative ethnography.  The theory is new—starting with INS change of policy in order to use the environment as a deterrent and going on to the notion of the hybrid collective. It covers a whole new range of insights in the border between the US and Mexico and undocumented immigrants—a very important issue at this time.

The book includes a fictionalized account of the migrant trail, through which we are introduced to the “everyday terror of the desert”; extended transcripts of conversations with De León’s primary informants and friends; De León’s interspersed scholarship across anthropological fields that contextualizes narratives and conversations; vivid ethnography; the stark photographs by Mike Wells and the author; and the strong discussions on ethics (ethnographic and political), structural violence, inequality and racism. The book is gripping to read, and devastating and haunting.


Franz Boas Award for Exemplary Service to Anthropology

Richard Bauman

AAA is pleased to announce the 2016 recipient of the Franz Boas Award for Exemplary Service to Anthropology is Richard Bauman. Bauman is Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Anthropology, Communication and Culture, and Folklore at Indiana University. Bauman’s work significantly reshaped linguistic anthropology to make it a stronger presence within the discipline and enhanced anthropology’s visibility in such disciplines as communication, media studies, folklore, history, linguistics, literary and performance studies.

Boas argued that such forms as narratives, songs, poetry and prayers were central to anthropological study, providing a crucial basis for understanding “the mode of life and the chief interests of the people.” This research agenda came to fruition half a century later when Bauman published “Verbal Art as Performance” in American Anthropologist in 1975 and a book of the same title two years later. Bauman refocused the tools of the ethnography of speaking beyond elicited texts to embrace unique events, arguing for the need to look at particular assemblages of people, environments, contexts, histories and interests as they emerge in the ethnographic study and close analysis of specific instances in which performers and audiences bring social worlds into being.

Bauman served as president of the Society for Linguistic Anthropology (1991–1993); on the AAA’s Board of Directors, Executive Committee, and Administrative Advisory Committee; on the Advisory Council of the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research; and as president of the Semiotic Society of America. One of his most important contributions to the discipline has been as an exemplary mentor to graduate students and scholars at early stages of their careers.


Anthropology in Media Award

Mark Schuller

AAA is pleased to announce the recipient of the 2016 Anthropology in Media Award is Mark Schuller. Since receiving his PhD in 2007, Schuller has become one of the most productive and dedicated scholars on the contemporary anthropological scene.

Schuller’s book, Killing with Kindness, is a study of how the conditions under which international aid is distributed to local NGOs in Haiti render that aid significantly less effective than it otherwise might be.     Schuller demonstrates that such failures are not due to the presumed profligacy of local populations but, rather, that it is the political structures within which the world of international aid functions that produce such negative outcomes. This book is written in an accessible style; it is being widely read and debated by policy makers, aid personnel and NGO employees. Schuller continues to be involved with post-earthquake reconstruction in Haiti and to advocate for Haitian interests within the context of international aid and relief communities.

Schuller also co-producer/co-director of the film, Poto Mitan: Haitian Women, Pillars of the Global Economy, in which five Haitian women tell their own stories and offer their own analyses of the ways in which globalization has served to worsen living conditions for the majority of the population. Schuller has toured widely with this film, showing it in academic and non-academic settings. The accompanying website includes links to further resources and information:

Along with the publication of scholarly articles, Schuller also maintains a blog about Haiti on the Huffington Post, which attracts a broad readership. Through the blog Schuller uses scholarship to shape the public’s understanding of contemporary issues of concern and critical significance.

Schuller embodies the best attributes of the contemporary engaged and activist anthropologist. Last year, he was the recipient of the Margaret Mead Award, presented by the AAA and SfAA. The Anthropology in Media Award similarly honors a scholar who effectively communicates anthropological ideas and research to broad audiences beyond the academy.      


Robert B. Textor and Family Prize for Excellence in Anticipatory Anthropology

4. November 2015 Berlin, Rework, Fellows 15/16
Seth Holmes

Seth Holmes is this year’s recipient of the Robert B. Textor and Family Prize for Excellence in Anticipatory Anthropology for his book Fresh Fruit, Broken Bodies: Migrant Farm Workers in the United States.

Holmes writes a trenchant ethnography that offers new possibilities for an engaged, empathic anthropology.  Working and living alongside the Triqui people of Oaxaca, Mexico he sees and experiences the searing inequalities they face in the aftermath of NAFTA.  Holmes chronicles US policies and American expectations of beautiful, cheap foods to the impoverishment of indigenous farmers in rural Mexico, who migrate to North America in search of a better life.

Holmes’ immersive ethnography of the Triqui migrant experience exemplifies excellence in anticipatory anthropology on multiple levels.  Through an “embodied anthropology of migration,” he captures the courage and tenacity of forced migrants, who are often caught by border patrols and imprisoned, as was Holmes himself. He compels readers to see how the sub-human conditions, the risks, fears, vulnerabilities and traumas that the Triqui endure are now also key ingredients in American “fresh fruit.” By picking berries alongside his Triqui interlocutors, Holmes shows “how the poor suffer”—not only through the physical pains and illnesses of stoop labor, but through structural vulnerabilities and racism tied to what he calls the “ethnic-citizenship hierarchy” in the US.  Holmes reminds us that 95 percent of agricultural workers in the United States were born in Mexico, and that 52 percent of them remain unauthorized, receiving little in return for their back-breaking efforts.  Holmes urges ethical and pragmatic solidarity with Mexican farmworkers in the US, pointing to future possibilities for immigration reform and for sharing our world more equally.


AAA/Oxford Teaching Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching of Anthropology

Bianca Williams

The AAA and Oxford University Press are pleased to announce the recipient of the AAA/Oxford University Press Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching of Anthropology is Bianca Williams.

The courses Williams regularly offers are not only theoretically rigorous, but exciting and relevant to students’ lives. Her course offerings include titles like Black Women, Popular Culture and the Pursuit of Happiness; Life in America: Identity and Everyday Experience; Civil Rights and Black Power Movements; and Ethnography of American Blackness(es). Her students are assigned to read fiction, poetry and self-help books; view hip-hop, dancehall and R&B influenced music videos and films; and analyze songs from a variety of musical genres, while reading and interpreting “traditional” academic scholarship.

Williams details her approach to teaching in a recently published chapter submission entitled “Radical Honesty: Truth-telling as Pedagogy for Working through Shame in Academic Spaces.” She defines radical honesty as “a pedagogical practice of truth-telling which seeks to challenge racist and patriarchal institutional cultures in the academy […] Radical honesty emphasizes the significance of personal narratives, and opens a space for creating strategies that enable scholars and students to bring their ‘whole self’ to the classroom, while getting rid of the shame that frequently accompanies their bodies in academic settings.” Indeed, Williams models her belief that being a professor is not just about theorizing about the important issues on which she instructs students, but about fostering change through activism beyond the classroom.

Through her courses, students learn about more than the raced and gendered dynamics in US society—they learn about themselves, and their role in changing the world in which they exist.


CoGEA Award

Patricia Zavella

The AAA’s Committee on Gender Equity in Anthropology (CoGEA) is pleased to honor Patricia Zavella (University of California, Santa Cruz) with the 2016 CoGEA Award in recognition of her sustained academic career devoted to the study of women’s work, gender discrimination and inequalities based on sex. The committee felt that Zavella’s career accomplishments advancing the status of women, and especially Latina and Chicana women, were especially noteworthy.

Zavella has made trailblazing contributions to Chicana feminism, inspiring future scholars, students and activists to fight for social justice and combat forms of discrimination.

Zavella joined UC Santa Cruz in 1984 and served as chair of the Latin America and Latino Studies
Department from 2007–2011 and again from 2014 until June 30, 2016. She also previously served as director of the Chicano/Latino Research Center. She received her undergraduate degree from Pitzer College, and her master’s degree and PhD from UC Berkeley. She had a postdoctoral fellowship at Stanford’s Center for Chicano Research before joining the UCSC faculty.

Zavella’s research has earned her a high-ranking place among feminist scholars and especially among scholars of Chicano/Latino women.  In addition to a prolific publishing profile, Zavella was a co-winner of the 2010 Prize for Distinguished Achievement in the Critical Study of North America given by the Society for the Anthropology of North America. Zavella also received the 2003 National Association for Chicana and Chicano Studies, “Scholar of the Year Award,” given to individuals of extraordinary distinction in the hemisphere who combine superlative social activism, teaching and research.


Solon T. Kimball Award for Public and Applied Anthropology

Shirley Fiske
Shirley Fiske

Shirley Fiske is this year’s recipient of the Solon T. Kimball Award for Public and Applied Anthropology, which “offers an opportunity to honor exemplary anthropologists for outstanding recent achievements that have contributed to the development of anthropology as an applied science.”

Since graduating from Stanford in 1975, Fiske has put into practice, in her own words, “a strong belief in the practical and predictive value of the concept of culture and the explanatory value of anthropology.”  Shortly after graduating, Fiske began working for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Washington DC, becoming instrumental in convincing NOAA leadership of the value of social science.  Promoting anthropological and other research through the nation’s Sea Grant programs, she laid the foundation for enduring anthropological contributions to the study of fishing communities, seafood processing, coastal hazards and traditional ecological knowledge.  Her legacy lives on in multiple anthropologists occupying positions on fishery management councils around the United States, along with new scholarship from the students of those she inspired.

From 1999 to 2007, Fiske worked with Hawaii’s Senator Daniel Akaka as senior advisor and legislative assistant for energy, natural resources and public lands, oceans and fisheries, climate change and the environment.  Quite naturally, out of this work, she assumed a keen interest in climate change, eventually chairing the American Anthropological Association’s Task Force on Global Climate Change.  Fiske’s work will serve as a baseline for future anthropological work on climate change, as well as inspiring a new generation of anthropologists in the value of public service.


Alfred V. Kidder Award for Eminence in the Field of American Archaeology 

Jeremy Sabloff
Jeremy Sabloff

Jeremy Arac Sabloff is the 2016 recipient of the Alfred Vincent Kidder Award for Eminence in the Field of American Archaeology.

The core of Sabloff’s work exemplifies a rare intellectual commitment to the balancing of science and humanism. His profound scholarly and ethical contributions to the study of the rise and fall of ancient Maya civilization, Mesoamerican urbanism, and new theoretical and methodological approaches, have made a lasting impact on anthropological archaeology in the Americas and beyond. . Sabloff’s wide-ranging interests have been published in more than a dozen books and more than 130 articles, to provide innovative and insightful perspectives on the archaeological study of trade, ancient economics, settlement patterns, urbanism, intellectual history, theory and method,. and how crucial it is that archaeologists engage the public in our work and in the shared responsibility of heritage management (e.g., his book Archaeology Matters: Action Archaeology in the Modern World).

Sabloff is one of the most respected public intellectuals and scholars in archaeology worldwide. He continues to be an innovator, a catalyst for change, a respected and sought-after synthesizer, and a unifier of disparate perspectives and approaches. Sabloff does all of these things while combining a tremendous seriousness of purpose with a lightness of being that make him welcome in all circles.

Sabloff is a superb archaeologist, a practitioner and historian of science, a humanist and activist public intellectual. He embodies the credo of Willey and Phillips that “Archaeology is Anthropology, or it is nothing” by making the practice of archaeology much more anthropologically informed and useful to the public, to students and to his colleagues.


AAA Minority Dissertation Fellowship

Meet a Roadrunner Milena Melo
Milena Melo

The AAA and the Committee on Minority Affairs in Anthropology (CMIA) are pleased to announce the selection of Milena Melo as recipient of the 2016 AAA Minority Dissertation Fellowship.

Melo is a PhD candidate in anthropology at the University of Texas at San Antonio. As a low-income, undocumented, female student of color, Melo is committed to conducting anthropological research that reduces barriers to healthcare and that highlights the social inequality and disenfranchisement faced by marginalized and minority populations in the United States.

Melo’s work on issues related to anthropology, healthcare and public policy is prescient, and exemplifies the type of significant contribution to the discipline that the CMIA Dissertation Fellowship was established to support.

For the past five years, Melo has researched and published on the intersections of policy, healthcare, health disparities, citizenship, lived experiences of chronic illness, poverty and access to healthcare in public and private institutions in South Texas. She is currently completing her National Science Foundation funded dissertation which investigates the treatment experiences of a population that exists at the fringes of the US healthcare system: undocumented Mexican immigrants in South Texas who suffer from end-stage renal disease. Thus far she has presented eight papers about the project and participated in a School for Advanced Research seminar to produce a chapter for an edited volume on the effects of the Affordable Care Act. Melo is also a recipient of the Ford Foundation Dissertation Fellowship.

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