We are happy to announce the 2022 winners and honorable mentions for the Association for Africanist Anthropology (AfAA) Student Essay Awards. Each year, the AfAA offers two outstanding student paper awards: The Bennetta Jules-Rosette Graduate Student Essay Award and The Nancy “Penny” Schwartz Undergraduate Student Essay Award. More information can be found on the AfAA website. The 2022 AfAA Student Award Committee cochairs were Bennetta Jules-Rosette and J.R. Osborn. Congratulations to all awardees and honorable mentions!
2022 Bennetta Jules-Rosette Graduate Essay Award winner
“Dialogue with the Spectacle and the Spirits: Re/Contextualizing Yorùbá Spiritual Objects in American Art Museums” by Adéwálé Adénlé (Ohio State University)
Adéwálé Adénlé’s incredibly rich paper tackles issues of anthropological knowledge, object interpretation, cultural contextualization, and museum display. The AfAA commends the breadth of his research across anthropology, African art, and museum studies, as well as his synthesis of this research into a new model of museological display. Adénlé develops a model for “the representation, interpretation, and preservation” of classical African pieces in American museums. As Dana Carlisle Kletchka writes in her letter of nomination, Adénlé’s “frameworks go beyond traditional modes of interpretation … to recognize the materiality of making, the use of Yorùbá language, morals, and physical contexts, and the colonial legacies of African objects.” Adénlé’s model is generalizable to a number of object sets and museum examples, and it usefully informs the interpretation and display of a wide range of anthropological artifacts.
2022 Bennetta Jules-Rosette Graduate Essay Award honorable mention
“Will You Take Care? Bio-Space, Racial Assemblages and the US Youth Refugee Resettlement Welfare System” by Irene Routté (University of Michigan)
Irene Routté’s insightful essay offers sensitive coverage of the journey of a young refugee, Kamil, who fled from northern Nigeria under duress and ultimately reached Boston, MA. The paper documents Kamil’s treatment by refugee and humanitarian organizations, educational institutions, and psychiatric and medical resources, demonstrating the threats and challenges that he encountered. The essay emphasizes the construction of Blackness and how the US immigration system applies racialized categories to new immigrants. In his letter of nomination, Omolade Adunbi states that Routté shows “how processes of racialization produce a violence that complicates ideas of humanitarianism … and makes an important contribution to how we understand Blackness among new generations of Africans who are finding a home in the United States.” Routté’s essay is a moving account of the matrix of obstacles faced as an individual moves through the humanitarian relief complex.
2022 Nancy “Penny” Schwartz Undergraduate Essay Award winner
“‘Giving is our habit:’ Social Exchange and Agency among Refugees from the Congo Wars” by Matthew Wilkinson (Macalester College)
Matthew Wilkinson’s insightful paper addresses the resettlement of refugees from the Congo DRC wars with a discussion of the ideology of the conflicts and the consequences of resettlement. He begins with a historical coverage of the Kivu district of northern Congo and documents selected cases of resettlement in the United States, as well as the psychological aftershocks of the conflicts for the refugees involved. In her letter of nomination, Olga Gonzalez explains that, during the research process, “Matthew became aware of how essential local knowledge and collaboration was for [an anthropological] project, which became less ‘his’ and more ‘theirs’ as it should be.” The AfAA commends Wilkinson for his formal presentation of ethnographic methodology and the depth of his research. Wilkinson has applied for a Fulbright to conduct research in Ghana before pursuing graduate school. This paper provides a strong anthropological basis upon which he can build both endeavors.
2022 Nancy “Penny” Schwartz Undergraduate Essay Award honorable mention
“An Uncertain Path for the Nomads of the Sahel” by Andrew Ha (University of California, San Diego)
Andrew Ha’s strongly argued essay demonstrates how climate change impacts the movement of the pastoral Fulani. The paper combines anthropological data, political and historical research, and environmental analysis to chart the influences and causal pathways that impact Fulani migration. Lorna Lueker-Zukas’ letter of nomination also notes that the paper “reflects some of the concerns evident in the research of Nancy Schwartz on the Luo people of Kenya, whose religious traditions and village life altered considerably under the impact of changes in climate and resources.” Some of Ha’s findings were presented by one of his mentors at the International Conference on Climate Change in Cairo during the spring of 2022, and the paper was well received by the policy makers and stakeholders in attendance. The AfAA commends the strength of Ha’s essay, the depth of his research, and his insightful synthesis of anthropological perspectives with geopolitical concerns.