Anthony Leeds Prize
The Society for Urban, National, and Transnational Anthropology (SUNTA) is pleased to award the 2016 Anthony Leeds Prize to John F. Collins for his book Revolt of the Saints: Memory and Redemption in the Twilight of Brazilian Racial Democracy (Duke University Press, 2015). Revolt of the Saints is about the politics of cultural heritage in the historic Afro-Brazilian Pelourinho district of Salvador de Bahia. Pelourinho was home to Portuguese colonists working in the sugar industry until the mid 18th century when Brazil’s capital was relocated to Rio de Janeiro. At that time, these elites left or leased their colonial mansions to immigrants or former slaves and relocated to coastal areas. By the early 20th century, Pelourinho thrived as an alternative cultural site within the city: a red light district, dance clubs, informal economies, reworked class relations, and alternative norms of sexuality existed in parallel to “respectable” racial and status hierarchies found in other parts of the city. Yet over time, much of the architectural beauty of Pelourinho crumbled into ruins and residents have struggled to survive HIV, drug addiction, and the streets.
It is this long duree of Pelourinho’s architectural, racial, and cultural formation that earned it its reputation as the birthplace of Afro-Brazilian culture, one that co-emerged with increasing global concerns over the preservation of cultural heritage. But protecting what were once majestic mansions also applied to the neighborhood’s inhabitants who began to be viewed by the state as deviant, criminal, drug-addicted and in need of development-oriented, state-procured assistance. Since 1992, state bureaucrats and social scientists have gathered extensive data on Pelourinho’s residents, established themselves as authoritative knowledge producers of Bahian culture, and reinvented residents’ history for the benefit of more powerful actors. IPAC—the Bahian Institute of Cultural and Artistic Patrimony—conducted most of this work. Their findings ironically justified relocating most of the Afro-Brazilian residents whose histories of cultural production led to the establishment of a global heritage site. Those who have remained in the neighborhood draw, in savvy ways, on the same logic built into cultural heritage that consumes African culture—a logic that some residents successfully used in arguing to stay put.
Meticulously documenting urban restoration management, in its dual commemoration and moralizing sanitization, Collins argues that both buildings and residents have transformed into unique state-owned cultural properties. As such, they appeal to tourist and especially middle-class Brazilian sensibilities about the country’s multiracial democracy. Indeed, the racialization of Pelourinho is not only central to heritage politics, but repositions the role of race in a country that is steeped in deep inequality. In providing a rich ethnographic scaling of both history and memory, Collins elegantly theorizes how questions of race are ever-evolving in Brazilian national debates. His rich and insightful ethnographic inquiry into the lives and translational practices of dynamic residents—their unexpected agency, their histories of ownership and dispossession, their encounters with IPAC officials and local strongmen, and their engaging debates over official histories and archaeological evidence, provides a highly original account of a transforming city neighborhood, state machinations, and the meaning of race and Afro-Brazilianness that come to bear on global heritage politics. Collins’s ethnography spans a 20-year period, demonstrating not only the author’s deep commitment to this particular locality, but also enabling the reader to understand how urban spaces can operate as the sites of both spatial and temporal dialectics. Collins’ remarkable book exemplifies the capacity of ethnography for revealing the complexities and contradictions of urban life, pointing once again to cities as critical sites for contemporary anthropology work.
SUNTA Senior Scholar Award
This year SUNTA was pleased to present the Inaugural Senior Scholar Award in urban, national and transnational anthropology. This award recognizes an outstanding academic with regard to their scholarly publications, teaching, mentoring, service to urban, national and transnational anthropology, and contributions to public debates. The Inaugural Senior Scholar Award was shared between Nancy Foner and Setha Low.
Nancy Foner‘s work has become a cornerstone in debates about migration and related transnational themes, and was one described by nominator at “…the cutting edge of issues of high significance in the anthropology of cities and the anthropology of migration.” Setha Low‘s work has become synonymous with debates about space and place and was described by a nominator as “one of the most impactful and distinctive senior scholars from our discipline working anywhere in the world, someone who produces cutting-edge and field-influencing research with empathy and rigor.” Both scholars were chosen using criteria of scholarship, service to urban anthropology and SUNTA in particular, broader public service, and teaching/mentoring.
Yearly Prize for the Best Published Paper in City & Society
This year was the inaugural year for Best Published Paper in City & Society. The 2016 prize was awarded to Clare Melhuish from University College London, Monica Degen from Brunel University and Gillian Rose from The Open University for their article “The Real Modernity that is Here’: Understanding the Role of Digital Visualisations in the Production of a New Imaginary at Msheireb Downtown, Doha“ City and Society, 28(2): pp. 222–245, (2016).
Graduate Student Prize
The 2016 SUNTA Graduate Student Prize was awarded to Camille Frazier from UCLA for her paper “Rising Temperatures and the Visceral Temporality of Urban Development in India’s ‘Air-Conditioned City.”
Undergraduate Paper Prize
The 2016 SUNTA Undergraduate Paper Prize was awarded to Vanessa Koh from the University of Pennsylvania for her paper “The (Im)Possibilities of Hope.” She was nominated by Adriana Petryna (University of Pennsylvania).
Andrew Newman is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Wayne State University and Secretary of SUNTA.